By Cam Marston

Generation X is, in many ways, the forgotten generation. Its numbers lag well behind Baby Boomers and millennials. It has not yet reached the concentration of wealth amassed, as a group, by the Baby Boomers. And it no longer gets to decide what’s cool, as it has passed that torch to the millennials.

But Generation X is still a valuable and sought-after market. And they apparently like to drive SUVs.

Companies like Ford, whose Explorer Sport is a top-seller among Gen-Xers, are aggressively targeting the latchkey kid generation, Forbes automotive contributor Dale Buss found, and they have solid reasons for doing so.

Gen-Xers value performance. They are not typically wowed by name brands. They have a sense of adventure. And despite their lower numbers, they have considerable buying power.

“The reason they’re so important is that these households now are at their peak earning power, the ones that will be able to make the biggest decisions,” Omar Odeh, a marketing manager for Ford, told Buss. “And as they progress to where Boomers are now, it’s important for us to maintain that loyalty and not lose them to some other brand.”

Odeh credited the higher education levels, percentage-wise, of Gen-Xers as a reason they are less impressed with premium brands. They appreciate the value of getting similar performance for a lesser price.

I will offer another possible explanation: Gen-Xers have a sharp understanding and a healthy skepticism of marketing strategies – not just because of their education, but from the constant exposure. They’ve heard all these sales pitches before.

They don’t accept that Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz, to throw out two arbitrary examples, are better cars simply because of their names. Show them the numbers: Horsepower. Gas mileage. Price.

If these things are true for Gen-Xers, they are even more valid for millennials. So what might this mean for the future of marketing automobiles? Of marketing anything?

That name brand isn’t going to carry you anymore. Show why your product is better. Produce the numbers that prove it. Show your customers how your product will fit in their lives and make their lives better or easier. And the correct answer isn’t: Because it’ll impress your friends.

To use a sports analogy, don’t expect to simply roll the ball out on the court and win because of who you are. You’d better bring it.


Category: Editorial