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Generation X Marks a Sweet Spot

Wired and research-savvy

December 3, 2008

Generation Xers—Americans between the ages of 32 and 43—are plugged in and glued to their PCs. They can be a dream target for digital marketers, as long as those marketers understand Gen Xers’ quirks.

According to a December 2008 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 88% of these 83.4 million people use the Internet. In August 2008, Forrester Research reported that Gen Xers spent at least 8 hours of personal time online per week.

Unlike millennials (the generation that followed them), who surf the Web more for entertainment, Gen Xers primarily go online seeking information.

They are both cost-conscious and interested in niche products sold in a “real” and straightforward way, making online comparison shopping a popular pastime. The BlogHer and Compass Partners “2008 Social Media Study” found that 74% of Gen X female Internet users buy products online, while 80% use the Internet to research products and services.

But, researchers say, this demographic is skeptical of traditional advertising.

How can online marketers be heard? “For Gen X, the Internet is a resource,” said Lisa E. Phillips, senior analyst at eMarketer, who focuses on demographics. “Effective marketing is marketing that helps them research. It’s relevant and has a value proposition up front.

“In these economic times, coupons are a big draw,” Ms. Phillips added.

It should come as no surprise that research-oriented Gen X likes to get the word via blogs and social networks. Gen Xers are big readers and writers of blogs that speak to their online interests: shopping, parenting and news. A February 2008 BIGresearch study found, in fact, that the average age of bloggers is 37.6.

Select Online Social Activities of US Internet Users, by Generation, October 2007 (% of respondents*)

According to October 2007 research from Deloitte Development and Harrison Group, 60% of Gen Xers maintain a social network profile. Dating, job and parenting sites are their favorites. Gen Xers are also well-represented on heavyweights MySpace and Facebook.

Social networking sites and blogs are ideal spaces for brands to perform highly targeted marketing. In 2007, research from Synovate and MarketingDaily showed that 43.6% of Internet users ages 25 to 34 clicked on blog ads that were relevant or interesting to them.

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