For decades, advertisers have pitched their ads toward Baby Boomers, the great demographic bubble of affluent individuals born between 1946 and 1964. As Boomers became advertising and media executives themselves, this trend was reinforced. But this emphasis on Baby Boomers to the exclusion of all others marginalized a group whos purchasing dollar is becoming more powerful every year-- Generation X. Advertisers and marketers can no longer afford to ignore this group, nor to appeal to Xers with warmed-over Boomer campaigns.
Sixty-five million adult "Xers" came of age in a world radically different from the one that Boomers inherited. The decline of the economy and upsurge of divorce have made Xers more sober and cynical, yet more flexible and less ideological, about the definition of "family." Although jaded by the materialistic '80's, they are on the whole much more comfortable with interactivity and other sophisticated technology than Boomers. Although disillusioned by the Boomer swing from activism in the '60's to status in the '80's, they are more tolerant of diversity and experiment than their forebears.
Karen Ritchie, a pioneer in marketing to Xers, has produced the first serious introduction to Generation X for the advertiser. Ritchie begins by showing the significant statistical and demographic differences between Xers and Boomers in income, education, occupation, and rates of marriage and divorce. Next, she shows how the unprecedented ethnic diversity of Generation X shapes the attitudes and expectations of the group as a whole. Ritchie then takes us on a guided tour of the cultural influences that have brought Xers into adulthood, from MTV and infotainment to E-mail. Finally, Ritchie examines the buying tastes and habits of Generation X, noting that they are above all savvy, cost-conscious, and skeptical of "hype".
Advertisers should embrace Generation X-- indeed they must, if they hope to survive into the next century. But in so doing, Ritchie suggests, they must modify existing advertising strategies to move away from Boomer fantasies and from the intrusive stereotypes that dominate current attempts to reach Generation X. They need to develop more realistic strategies that recognize both that generation's economic clout and its impact on marketing today.