Last week I attended the inaugural Marcomms 360 conference put on by Campaign Middle East in Dubai – an excellent event that was fascinating, insightful and relevant. However there was one thing that left me rather depressed at the end of it.
No one wants to talk to me.
By me, of course I mean us. And by us, I mean of course, my generation. Well you know what…
Why don’t you all f-fade away (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And that’s coming from someone who was born in 1968.
And that’s coming from a song (by The Who) that was released in 1965.
And that’s coming from a generation that was cool before anyone knew, what cool was.
Borrowing from another Baby Boomer, Paul Simon, ‘every generation throws a hero up the pop charts’ but our heroes were the real thing, because they were the pioneers, they took on the system, they shook things up, they beat the man, man.
Continuing with Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble: ‘These are the days of miracle and wonder, and don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry’.
In fact the only people that should be crying are all the Marketing and PR gurus who are falling over themselves, scrambling frantically and emptying out their kitties in a desperate attempt to reach out to, engage with, and drop their pants and bend over for, the two generations that are ‘LMAO’-ing all the way to the banks on their Hoverboards.
Except that those aren’t Hoverboards. And we should know. Because who are we?
We are the generation that came after the Baby Boomers. We’re the smallest generation in numbers, but the biggest in terms of social and cultural impact and influence. And I mean real influence.
The boomers set the stage and we are the generation that bridged societal norms, spurred on new-age technology, and revelled in the anarchy of modern art.
We know a Hoverboard when we see one, because we did see one. We saw it in it the Back to the Future trilogy, when we were in our 20s.
We are Generation X – and we’ve had the biggest influence on the past, present and, in fact, still to come… the future!
But it seems the marketing moguls have dismissed us as a has-been generation.
Oh, and don’t be so smug you Generation Y-ers – the ones that came after us – because those marketing maniacs, weren’t particularly enamoured with you either.
Turns out you’re a thrifty lot, who hate to waste or to spend money, and aren’t particularly materialistic.
So they’ve leap-frogged you already and are all targetting Generation Z instead – the under 20-year olds. My kids for example.
Now here’s the thing about Gen Z – they’re an entitled lot who expect quick, but easy results. And that’s reflected in their purchase and ownership patterns too – because there aren’t any.
Partly because they’re too young, they don’t have any money yet – which begs the question why are you trying to sell to them in the first place? Just because you manipulated your crystal ball crunching of trend-research data to show you a future that you so desperately want to believe in?
Here’s an even more pertinent question, why are you trying to sell to them, when they don’t even WANT to buy from you?
This is a generation that doesn’t believe in owning things; they’ll happily lease, rent, borrow or share stuff. They’re happy to use it and lose it.
This is a generation that’s happy to continue living in their bedrooms at home. Moving out is for losers.
They like quirky, they adore eccentricity, they like off the beaten path – extra kudos for you if you tread where most don’t. They like you not playing safe. They like you taking the piss out of yourself. And actually, so do I.
They don’t like categorisation, they casually straddle genres happily going from nerd to hipster in an Instastory, and yet their sub-cultures are sub-cultures of sub-cultures.
When they do get a bit older, sprout families and start grudgingly picking up some responsibilities, they’ll turn to their parents for advice, not to you my dear marketers. Because the one good thing about them, is that they value authenticity and honesty.
And who will be more honest than parents. I don’t mean like our parents were honest with us – yeah right. I mean for real, dudes.
Because, a) modern parenting guides have told us how to be more open and genuine with our children, hence forging real relationships with them, and b) because ultimately we’re on the same communication wavelength as them.
We’re watching the same movies and TV, surfing the same stuff on the net, listening to the same music, gorging on Snapchat filters and are constantly chatting with them on WhatsApp (even if they’re in the next room) till way after what used to be the kid’s bedtime – what’s a watershed between friends anyway? And we are friends now.
Hey? What’s that you ask? How do we know about Snapchat? How do we know how to do all this? Are you telling me you thought we were tech blind? Are you crazy?
Dude! We invented this shit!
Don’t you get it? You’re dissing a generation that started off with traditional media – banging away at typewriters or writing long hand, or reading the papers, using snail mail, faxes, telexes and telegraphs (remember those?).
And then all this new stuff arrived, everything that defines how we live today. This was all born in our era! We embraced it, made it stick and developed it. Most entrepreneurs and start-up bosses are from our generation – do I have to name the obvious?
We were the early adopter generation. And we’re still happily early adopting-away!
In fact research says that 61% of us are early adopters – we’re the first to buy and try cool new stuff and services – we’ll be spuriously sentimental, dramatically nostalgic, pretend to be resistant to change, but frankly we can’t wait to try the latest new widget-ma-call-it, because we already know it’ll be better than the crap we had to put up with before
I mean we totally recall film cameras with only 36 shots and a week to wait for the results, VCRs that would chew your tape, dial-up modem internet that took forever and then crash, analogue TV with aerials that picked up nothing but bloody shipping forecasts (bet you can’t even spell aerial now), having to do all our research for hours in the library messing around with bloody microfiche, and pulling the choke on the car to crank it up on a cold morning.
Who remembers all this? We do. And you know what? Take off your rose-tints because it all really sucked! Let’s be honest.
So the mobile phone and internet was created for us. We had email accounts before you were born. Online buying? We started it. Pocket computers and smart phones? We had them first!
Social media? Oh yes. That was us too. Remember bulletin boards, forums, chat rooms and Friends Reunited?
And we’re still on social media. In massive numbers! And we’re highly influential.
Stats prove that we Gen X-ers use social media more than Millennials do. We spend an average of nearly seven hours on Facebook per week.
And in my case more, a whole lot more, a ton and half more!
Nearly all of us love Facebook and we love to share posts too.
Plus we’re brand-conscious and brand-loyal (rated at 84%). Pretty much half of us follow our favourite brands on social media.
91% of us research stuff online all the time!
Way more than two-thirds – 79% of us – watch video online. We invented binge-watching before that was even a phrase – except we did it with box sets of video tapes!
Now 58% of us use YouTube to find out useful info and to learn how to do things.
We’re happy to learn. We accept this is new shit. We don’t expect to be born knowing it. And when the Z-ers get frustrated at not instantly knowing something, they come to us because we’ll take the time to find out.
Marketers note – Gen X is not only right there ready and waiting for you to communicate with them through social media, but the X-ers also boast the second largest disposable income (after the Boomers). And they like to spend, and to buy stuff – particularly luxury services and products. Oh we like our creature comforts.
And nostalgia too. Lots of nostalgia. We love buying into crap that reminds us of our younger days. Hence all the movie reboots and remakes – along with all the merchandising. That’s for us, not the Y-ers and Z-ers! We’re the ones buying all this junk at exorbitant prices and displaying it in our IKEA glass cabinets. Oh yeah!
And the young are embracing our reminiscing too. Hence Star Wars and Star Trek, Doctor Who and West World, hence comic book super heroes, hence retro-cars like the Mustang and Mini, and hence… at last… the re-emerging fascination with space exploration.
We also influence upwards too. Gen X has not only been found to be supporting their kids more, but also caring for their elders – and hence exerting an influence on their spending patterns too. And they’ve got even more money!
So it’s weird isn’t it? That 86% of marketers are using Influencer marketing, but they’re chasing penniless and clueless kids and then are surprised by the lack of ROI. On the other hand there’s a whole segment of X-ers now dubbed the ‘Affluent Influencers’.
These are the people that friends, family and peers rely on for advice and opinion on brands, products and services for the home, as well as parenting guidance, consumer electronics purchases and of course, car-buying help.
That’s us! That’s generation X. That’s what we do. We are the original, and still the best, influencers. We are the real deal.
So the question is, why aren’t these very clever marketing types trying to reach out to us, especially as it’s really through us, that they have any hope of reaching anyone else.
The answer of course, is that they’re all idiots. And that’s such a Gen X thing to say isn’t it?