bunch of red grapes

Grapes, Soup, and Selling to Generation X

bunch of red grapesMarketing is my day job, so when I am not geeking out on generational dynamics, I keep a sharp eye on what is happening in the world of advertising. This last week was dominated by the news that Welch’s Grape Juice’s new ad campaign “Tough as Grapes” was squarely targeting Generation X men. A far cry from the happy children and sunny outdoor scenes that previously dominated their advertising, “Tough As Grapes” is dark, gritty and successful in making grape juice seem pretty badass.

At the same time, Campbell Soup Company announced that it would be shifting the focus of their soup brand marketing away from Millennials and instead concentrating on Generation X. Campbell’s earlier efforts to attract Millennials, which included redesigned packaging and trendy new flavors, failed to gain much traction.

In advertising circles, simply the radical departure from existing creative strategies might have been enough to make news. But the fact that these stalwart brands are boldly proclaiming their allegiance to Generation X—a demographic largely ignored by marketers—is getting them some serious attention.

So much marketing attention has been focused on Millennials—a youth market that dominates by virtue of its size alone, yet has very specific buying preferences that many brands find difficult to respond to—that GenX has been left out in the cold. And why wouldn’t we be? I wrote in an earlier post that to brand marketers, Generation X is small, poor and shrewd. But times are changing, and since that post, the buying power of GenX has steadily increased. Last year’s Super Bowl commercials (the Super Bowl of advertising) was dominated by messaging aimed squarely at Generation X.

What gives? What makes GenX such an attractive market? Three things:

  • Loyalty. If Generation X likes you, they really like you. GenX has a brand loyalty rate of 70%, according to a study by eMarketer, the highest of all the generations. In Welch’s case, it found that 73% of Gen X men drink juice with breakfast and that Welch’s Gen X male customers buy 17 bottles of juice a year, well above the average 10 bottles per year. And really, serving your core customers well is just good business.
  • Spending Power. True, GenX continues to carry the most debt of any generation. And many GenX-ers have the double whammy of simultaneously saving for their kids’ educations and caring for aging parents. However, as Generation X workers move into more senior positions and increase their earning power, they are making some serious gains financially, generationally speaking. In fact, Generation X is the only generation to have recovered the wealth it lost during the Great Recession and housing crash, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data. The median net household worth of those in Generation X rose 115 percent since 2010.
  • We’re not Millennials. Oh, the Millennials. Whole industries have been turned on their ears trying to figure out their buying patterns and preferences. I’ve written in an earlier post that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But GenX is a little less complicated. As a generation that values authenticity and directness, brands don’t have to try so hard to figure us out. Set in our ways? Maybe. But we’ll tell you who we are and what we want, with words and with wallets.

Bonus: we are the parents of GenZ, and they are way more like GenX than they are Millennials. By focusing on GenX, brands are not only using X-ers as influencers, but are likely to gain some valuable insights as they cultivate the next generation of customers.

As the marketing spotlight shines on GenX, other generations need not worry. You’ll continue to be wooed by healthy, organic cold-pressed beverages and locally sourced, fusion lunch cuisine. But right now, GenX is over here enjoying some badass juice and a nice bowl of old-school chicken noodle.

Mmm mmm good.

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