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How Generation X is a perfect gauge for understanding consumers in general

taste-thisIt’s something of an understatement that Generation X has gotten lost in the clamor of the Millennial marketing machine. It’s hard to ignore 83 million Millennials, or 77 million Boomers for that matter. By contrast, the 65 million men and women of Generation X, that sandwich group between the barbells who are now aged 35 to 49, represent just a fifth of the population. 

But there’s good reason to pay more attention to Generation X than its plentiful counterparts. Unless you aim to capitalize on the swelling ranks of a particular age group with products targeted specifically for them, you could mistakenly ascribe the rule of sheer numbers to a broad shift in outlook. 

Rather than obsessing over particular generations at all, marketers would become savvier by watching the sweep of cultural change that affects them all – and Generation X is the best reflector of this broader shift. 

Take the issue of marijuana legalization. Like most social issues, it’s one in which Millennials lean liberal and other generations tend to be more conservative. But those data alone deceive, because all the generations increasingly support marijuana legalization along roughly the same-shaped curve, according to the Pew Research Center. And that’s true for many social issues. 

It’s also great news for marketers. Rather than choosing an age group to target, they can spend more time understanding broad cultural shifts and which direction they’re headed – information that for most companies is far more valuable than knowing what’s hot to Millennials at the moment. 

If marketers want to single out one generation, then we recommend Generation X as a strong barometer for understanding cultural change. Begin with Millennials, and you miss historical context. Start with Boomers, and you’ll be less grounded in current ideological shifts. 

Generation X is where you want to launch this journey, but remember it is not about generational ideology, it’s about cultural ideology. Target Generation X not because of who they are, but because they are a window into the soul of an ideological transformation. 

And besides, wouldn’t it be great if you could learn something more about this often-overlooked generation along the way?


Consumer Demographics Consumer Package Goods Culture Retail/Shopper Insights


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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