Generation X Women


Generation X Women

The women of Gen X, as you'll see from their key characteristics and the societal transitions that affected them, are harder to label than Gen Y. We won't even try. We'll just give a few guidelines to help you define their perspectives and figure out how their buying minds might view your brand.

There are approximately 30.8 million women between the ages of 24 and 38. The 10.5 million women in the thirty- to thirty-four-year-old age bracket are the largest segment of the young adult Gen X population, accounting for 34 percent of this group .

Perhaps because they emerged as such an unusual or unknown generation, early press coverage routinely described Gen Xers as cynical , distrustful whiners or slackers. The media were wrong and this may have shaped Gen X's mistrust of advertising. Gen X was also smaller in number and didn't get the attention garnered by the larger Baby Boomer and Gen Y populations. However, as they matured and their behavior was further researched and documented, the reputation of these younger adults changed to a more positive, empowered one ”more reflective of their true nature ”in place of the media spin. In particular, the women of Gen X are now identified as "entrepreneurial, risk-taking, practical, and adaptable." [9] And, that's a long way from whining and slacking off.

GEN X BUYING FILTERS

How can a generation be described as anything from slacker to entrepreneurial and practical? What is unique about this group of young adults whose defining events included Watergate, the 1970s oil crises , the Vietnam War, Roe v. Wade, rising divorce rates, the release of the movie Star Wars , the PC revolution and AIDS, among other things? How do their experiences now drive their consumer behavior? Some of the most significant influencers that filter Gen X's views of life include:

Non-traditional upbringing. As the first generation of children whose parents divorced in large numbers , so Gen X was the first era of the latchkey kid. Gen Xers respond to a sense of family and belonging , but not in the traditional nuclear sense. In many cases, their friends have become or replaced their families.

Gender-neutral. Raised by mothers who fought for equality in the workplace, Gen Xers, in general, tend to interact with their peers from a gender-neutral perspective. In particular, Gen X women, as consumers or within the workplace, expect and possibly prefer gender-neutral corporate environments as opposed to overtly female -friendly ones.

Learners. Gen Xers are open to change and growth because that's what they know. They have a true commitment to lifelong education and career development, and they are the first generation where at least 50 percent have high school diplomas. And, being so naturally inclined to learn means they'll lead more entrepreneurial, risk-taking, practical and adaptable lives.

Technology savvy. Because the evolution of home computing paralleled their childhoods and teens, Gen Xers of either gender tend to be extremely comfortable learning technological skills. As part of the front end of the first true Internet generation, these women spent just as much time using computers in childhood or adolescence as did their male peers.

All about "me." Again, because they grew up in a fairly nontraditional culture, Gen Xers didn't, and won't, automatically live their parents' lives. This trend may be especially evident in the way young adult women are enjoying their "me" years . By postponing marriage , enjoying the affluence that comes from high-paying jobs, indulging their whims and buying impulsively, they have broken through the previous generation's mores.

Motherhood on hold. As further evidence of the above, a growing number of women in their early thirties are either postponing or choosing not to have children. Between 1976 and 1998, the percentage of childless thirty- to thirty-four-year-old women increased from 15.6 percent to 27.4 percent. [10]

Professional careers. Given all the other characteristics mentioned in this list, it follows that Gen X women are a significant force in the corporate world. Young adult women are nearly as likely as their male counterparts to hold executive and managerial positions, and they are more likely to be employed in professional positions . Gen Xers, in general, may be less hindered by rules and policies than their parents were, which means they'll find it easier to quit one job and find another, if need be. Finally, even as they delay motherhood and think of themselves as career women, Gen Xers are interested in maintaining a family-work balance when the time does come. They will expect and demand the job flexibility their own mothers couldn't have fathomed.

Financial challenges. Money management is an especially crucial issue for Gen X women. A longer life expectancy and lower lifelong earnings than men make debt one of the biggest sources of stress in the lives of these women in particular. They frequently move in and out of the workforce, reducing their Social Security contributions while increasing their family responsibilities and adding to their personal debt. In general, Gen Xers don't expect to do as well as their parents. These factors suggest that the women of this generation should be extra diligent about saving early, investing aggressively and spending less. (So much for the indulgent "me" years.)

REFLECTING GEN X WOMEN IN YOUR BRAND

Syrupy ad pitches are not the way to reach this resilient and somewhat cynical generation. But hip humor and high-design ad campaigns , like those for the Volkswagen Beetle and Nike's "Just do it" series, have proved quite successful. In fact, many from this generation are likely to be in the ranks of the marketers reading this book. However, if you aren't that of which you seek, it is important to keep a few guidelines in mind when developing a plan to connect young adult Gen X women with your product or service: [11]

Truth in advertising. These women seek real value and will judge companies by how well they honor their promises.

Highly visual. Because of their early exposure to television, Gen X women will likely best respond to visual cues. They prefer less text in advertising and are attuned to Internet-style communication, including e-mail, Web sites and technology-driven media.

Research comes before purchase. Many women in this generation conduct extensive research before making major purchases (they grew up on computers and have been online for a while, after all). That research includes the word-of-mouth they hear from friends and family and what they read online, whether in your marketing materials or in discussion groups.

Ever-changing and upgrading. Unlike older generations, young adult women tend to switch brands often and do what they can to keep up with new styles. The "freshness" factor is key when you are trying to reach this market with new product designs or marketing campaigns.

The environment matters. Generation X has taken what they've discovered about recycling and environmentally safe products and applied it throughout their lives and to their buying behavior. In fact, Simmons Market Research Bureau found that, starting at the age of 18, all women are more likely to buy products in recycledpaper packaging. [12] Gen Xers are also quick to notice whether the products they buy have been animal tested .

Gender-neutral modus operandi. Opting for inclusive rather than exclusive treatment makes the most sense for this group. Just as with Gen Y women, overtly female-focused marketing efforts for nongender-specific products or services will fall flat.

GEN X INDUSTRY STUDY: BUYING, DECORATING, AND TRADING SPACES

Members of Gen X are moving into their peak earning and spending years, and are rapidly settling into new living spaces. Long- term relationships, marriage and decisions to start a family have all combined with lower interest rates to make home, loft or apartment ownership more logical and attainable.

This generation is being inspired and courted by a growing roster of established retailers, manufacturers, television and cable shows, and magazines whose executives have realized that late twenty- and early thirty-somethings want to create homes that don't look or feel anything like their parent's home.

start sidebar
gen x home decor case study: crate & barrel's offshoot, cb2

With children of Boomers their core consumers, the CB2 store managers strive for a hip and casual style, using lots of alternative materials and edgier designs. There is much more color and much more attention to home office needs and much less emphasis on gourmet cooking. (Generation X remains big on eating out.)

The CB2 store's whole presentation is thus heavily skewed toward the Gen X customer ”from its location in a rapidly gentrifying urban neighborhood near Chicago's Wrigley Field to the pulsing techno grooves playing in the background.

The CB2 shopper is a youngish urban professional (age 25 “40) who is highly mobile and, thus, very interested in tech gadgets. These hip people are trendy , yes, but they still shy away from gimmicks.

Crate & Barrel anticipated the needs of Gen X and began to develop the CB2 concept in the mid-1990s. Having been in business with loyal customers for some forty years, Crate & Barrel knew it had to tap into the next generational wave in order to stay on trend and attract the sons and daughters of their established customers. [13]

end sidebar

 

Retail stores like CB2 (see sidebar); Pottery Barn's West Elm, a catalogue -only operation aimed at attracting customers ages 24 to 39; and EQ3, the offshoot of Manitoba, Canada “based Palliser Furniture, are all tapping into this Gen X-rooted boom in hip and cost-effective home styling. This generation has also fueled the success of cable and television shows like The Learning Channel's Trading Spaces. Not only has Trading Spaces started a whole clan of new spin-offs, but other channels have also jumped on the fun and stylish fixer -upper bandwagon with shows like TBS's House Rules , a remodeling reality competition, and Home & Garden Television's planned show called What Have I Done?!

CONNECTING WITH GEN X WOMEN: LESSONS FROM THE HOME DECORATION INDUSTRY

First, Gen X customers want good value with style, not low-quality household merchandise. They like to take the fun, funky and celebrity home styles they see on television and in movies and magazines and translate them into things they can afford.

They have higher expectations and are looking for a more stimulating, ever-changing and entertaining shopping experience. For this generation, decorating their space often falls into the entertainment and fashion category; so their budgets for home furnishing and design could well compete with trips to Starbucks, personal accessories, movie tickets and other entertainment. For this group of shoppers, an olive green shag ottoman might be as expressive, fun and emotionally satisfying to purchase as a hip techno-gadget like the iPod.

Finally, lifestyles are different for urban Gen X women. Many of them are career professionals who have chosen to settle into an urban loft, apartment or townhouse, rather than into a sprawling spread in the suburbs from which to commute to work. Thus, these urban women will have very different storage, furniture and decorating needs and preferences than their suburban counterparts.

[9] Lisa Finn, editor, Marketing to Women newsletter (New York: EPM Communications, Inc.), September 2000, http://www.epmcom.com.

[10] U.S. Census Bureau, September 2000, http://www.census.gov/prod/2000pubs/p20-526.pdf.

[11] See Lisa Finn, editor, All About Women Consumers (New York: EPM Communications, Inc., 2002), http://www.epmcom.com.

[12] Fall Full Year National Consumer Study (New York: Simmons Market Research Bureau, 2000), http://www.smrb.com.

[13] Jura Koncius, "Coming soon ( maybe ): A store for Gen Xers," The Washington Post , February 20, 2003.