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It’s Time to Remember the Forgotten Generation

Tue, Nov. 08, 2016 | By: Tremor Video

All the hype about Millennials has caused marketers to lose sight of a smaller, but mighty, force: Gen X. Marketers and brands quickly overlooked these “latchkey kids”, born anywhere between 1965 and 1980, and obsessed over Millennials as they spent and shared their lives online. In the process, a new generational boundary was formed: how content is consumed. Now, marketers need to determine not only what to say to each generation, buy which medium to use.

It is clear that the 83 million[1] tech natives (i.e., Millennials), born 1981­–1995, demand digital connections. It is also obvious that traditional media is necessary to keep the 77 million[2] Baby Boomers buying. But Gen Xers, a much smaller consumer segment at just 65 million[3], squeezed between America’s largest generations, were not perceived as unique. Brands are challenged with finding the right media mix of old and new to engage the “middle child.”

Marketers are adjusting and readjusting their marketing strategies in response to the unmistakable trend that Millennials are abandoning traditional TV in droves. But what is being done to understand the viewing habits of Gen Xers? Tremor Video has discovered some overarching similarities and a few noteworthy differences between Gen Xers and their younger, generational siblings.

Who’s Paying Attention?
There is no such thing as “undivided attention,” but Gen Xers are definitely paying more attention than their younger counterparts. While watching traditional TV:

  • 50% of Millennials turn to social media regardless of whether it’s a commercial break or not. Whereas Gen Xers are 44% less likely to post, like, tweet, or chat when ads run.
  • 31% of Gen Xers use social media while watching a TV show.
  • ~25% of Millennials watch video on a connected device while watching traditional TV, but Gen Xers are 2x less likely to split their attention.

The Generation Gap
The generation gap between Gen Xers and Millennials is sometimes nonexistent.

  • 1 in 3 watch the full show after seeing a clip.
  • 1 in 4 are motivated by video ads to watch a live TV show.
  • Both share the same top 3 streaming services: 1) Netflix; 2) Amazon Prime; 3) Hulu.

What comes next?
While the attributes of the next generation have not yet been defined, the viewing habits of their predecessors may indicate what comes next.

  • 33% percent of Millennials plan to continue watching TV only through subscription TV services compared to 20% of Gen Xers.
  • 25% of Millennials plan to continue watching TV only using cable subscription compared to 50% of Gen Xers.
  • 17% of Gen Xers plan to reduce their cable subscription in the next 6 months, and 10% of Millennials will too.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves (again). Before we start marketing to generation Z, let’s remember that many Gen Xers are approaching the apex of their careers, have more spending power than Millennials, and will soon be taking the helm both politically and professionally[4]. Marketing strategies should not overlook the “forgotten generation” nor the disproportionate amount of influence and financial clout they wield.


[1] Pew Research Center
[2] Pew Research Center
[3] Pew Research Center
[4] Shulman Pulse Study

Topics: Consumer Insights

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