Are Gen Xers in media ignoring themselves as an audience?

Are Gen Xers in media ignoring themselves as an audience?

Despite 92% of Gen X going on social media every day, just 5% of brands spend on influencer campaigns is targeted at the cohort.

That is according to a recent study conducted by researchers at WPP agency Wavemaker that examined why and how Gen X is overlooked in media, especially when it comes to marketing decisions on social.

The research found that Gen X comprises 28% of TikTok users and is the fastest-growing generation on the popular short-form video platform.

This is despite the fact that just 13% of Gen X said they feel represented in advertising, far lower than young generations (though higher than Boomers at 9%).

‘Struggling to give this audience the attention and scrutinty it deserves’

The study, Finding the Gen X Factor, noted that Gen X is an understudied age bracket. Despite making up 31% of the global population, just 4% of industry research into different generations is targeted at the cohort.

“I’m not sure why an industry so heavily managed by Gen X should struggle so much to give this audience the attention and the scrutiny that it so plainly deserves,” reflected Wavemaker global chief strategy and product officer Stuart Bowden. “Perhaps it is a refusal to acknowledge our own aging or simply that we see ourselves at the centre and different generations as ‘the other’, to be studied and understood.”

Wavemaker’s research revealed a number of social behaviours common to Gen X’s use of social media that make them distinct from younger users. Namely, Gen X tends to use social platforms in less performative ways than millennials and Gen Z, and has a greater value for platforms that provide a sense of nostalgia and connection with older friends.

“Gen X limit that connection to their close circle where younger generations are keen to engage with people farther removed from them,” the study reads.

Wavemaker also found that Gen X’s social media usage is less about staving off boredom in quick spurts and more scheduled and deliberate. For instance, people this age typically access social platforms in early mornings and late evenings.

‘Listen, regardless of the channel’

The study finds Gen X to be “less promiscuous” than younger consumers when it comes to their purchasing habits, noting that they consider 27% fewer brands than younger audiences, and their purchases are +29% more driven by need. As such, like many older cohorts, they may be a harder audience to persuade, but become valuable long-term due to their increased brand loyalty.

The study suggests that employing Gen X creators on social media is key to attracting trust and interest. Adding to the importance of diverse media representation, Gen X was found to respond “significantly better” to content which featured influencers of their own age than that of younger influencers. That includes +73% higher relevance scores and +43% likelihood of site visits to test or learn more about the brand.

Gen X creators, on average, write posts that are at least 75% longer than posts from Gen Z or millennial creators, and use language that is less direct and “salesy” and more in-depth and informative in order to appeal to their audience.

L’Oréal vice-president of global content and influencer marketing Alexandra Bolten explained that using Gen X spokespeople is key to its brand success among aging generations.

“We strive to understand our consumers’ needs, to select the best fit creators for our brands and audiences and can go even further in the representation of the generation,” Bolten said. “My best piece of advice? Listen, regardless of the channel, and be part of the conversations; that’s the key to community building and relevant content creation.”

Wavemaker also recommends attaining brand exposure outside of social media through multi-channel campaigns, as “because Gen X are less likely to buy on a whim, social media alone is unlikely to drive purchase.”

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