Back in 2013, we hit on a new and important crosstab in Techsurvey9 – generations. Now you may not think this is especially novel, but just a few short years ago, most researchers in the radio not space were not thinking about those broad generation categories – they were thinking of Arbitron demos, like 18-24 or 25-54, while not seeing the sweeping characteristics common to key identity groups.
And like most researchers, we became enamored with findings common to the two biggest and most influential generations – Millennials and Baby Boomers. These are two massive groups, often philosophically at odds with each other over key issues – including careers, commitment, religion, families, work ethic, sexual identify, and privilege.
In radio, similar debates rage on. Classic Rock, AC, and News/Talk stations are coping with increasing number of Boomers, while the industry grapples with what it takes to appeal to and connect with Millennials in this digital smörgåsbord.
And what of the new, emerging group of young consumers – Gen Z – teens that are very different from their Millennial siblings, redefining media, content, distribution, and personalization.
So, who's missing?
Gen Xers, of course.
It seems like those born between 1961 and 1981 have been lost in the entire conversation about generations. Numerically, they're the smallest of the generations – now mostly in their forties and fifties, making strong marks in every phase of our world and our culture. But you'd never know it by reading marketing abstracts and analyses of consumer behavior.
Perhaps it came to a head this weekend when writer, podcaster, and radio star (host of public radio's great weekend show, “Dinner Party Download”) Rico Gagliano, screen-capped this graphic from a CBSN news story – about Millennials – this past weekend:
— Rico Gagliano (@RicoGagliano) January 20, 2019
Isn't it ironic? A major news network somehow managed to dis an entire generation. And that came as no surprise to the legions of Gen Xers used to being snubbed by demographers, analysts, and marketers. Their reactions are loaded with cleverness, frustration, and a sense of resigned snark.
An Xer himself, Gagliano reminds us that to many of the creative forces in our society – J.K. Rowling, J.J. Abrams, Louis C.K., D.L. Hughley, and the Notorious B.I.G.- are all Gen Xers. And apparently, this is a generation that relies heavily on initials in their names, but that's a topic for a blog post on another day.
But we shouldn't be surprised, because with all the coverage of Boomers, Millennials, and now Zs, Xers are rarely featured, analyzed, or taken into account. They're not perplexing to marketers because few seem to be especially valuable in light of the larger generations on either side.
But they very much matter. And to prove it, our research whiz, Jason Hollins (yes, an Xer), re-examined our most recent Techsurveys – both public and commercial – to search for Gen X headlines.
Or at least, that was the goal. Suffice it to say, these aren't ground-breaking statistics, but they are interesting and curious factoids that track a generation trapped between two elephants, always fighting each other for societal attention.
And here's what he found:
- This will come as no surprise to many of you, but Xers are the most likely of the generations to play video games on a daily basis. In fact, more than one-third (35%) of them fall into this category.
- They're the generation leading the bandwagon on voice. Nearly one-fifth (23%) of them frequently use voice commands on the devices they own. They're also among the highest purchasers of smart speakers.
- Xers are the group most into tablets. More so than other generations, seven in ten (70%) own an iPad-like device.
- And on the public radio side of the conversation, Xers are the generation most likely to be burned out on the news. In fact, nearly four in ten (39%) Xers say the current news cycles depresses them, causing the need for a break from “breaking news.”
Oddly enough, the most famous of films made in during the 80s is a tale of alienation, cynicism, and frustration – “The Breakfast Club.” It was released in 1985, and became the signature film of a generation often overlooked, misrepresented, and ignored.
If “The Graduate” and “Easy Rider” typified Boomers, “Toy Story” and “The Lion King” were signature Millennial movies, then “The Breakfast Club” stands out as the quintessential Xer story on the big screen (or VHS videocassettes).
At the end of the film as the gang of 5 wraps up their day of detention, they sum up their generational and personal woes with a missive to Mr. Vernon, the tightly wrapped vice principal of Shermer High School. In their essay, the Breakfast Club writes this essay to him:
Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
Andrew Clark: …and an athlete…
Allison Reynolds: …and a basket case…
Claire Standish: …a princess…
John Bender: …and a criminal…
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.
We see Gen X as we want to see it – just as we do with every generational stereotype.
At least, I've finally written a blog post about them.
Yo, Gen X.
And for a good generational laugh (including a great Gen X punchline), here's “Millennial Millions” from last weekend's “SNL.” Thanks, Josh Miely.
Thanks to Lori Lewis, a proud Gen Xer.