As a demographic, baby boomers are said to hold the most wealth while millennials are now the largest generation in America. Sandwiched in between is a relatively smaller — but likely more important — group to boating best known as Generation X.
With millennials unquestionably the ticket to the long term future of boating and with the boomers steadily diminishing as a primary sales target, Gen X should be elevated to our priority focus. As a primary sales target, their smaller numbers are offset by the fact that the leading edge of this generation has entered its peak earnings years, they’re becoming empty nesters and they are ripe for the adventures and lifestyle boating offers.
But it’s valuable to recognize just what makes up Gen X. Most demographers agree they’re individuals born between 1965 and 1980. It puts them squarely in the 35 to 51 age group. Here’s a parallel: during the boating boom of the 1980s and ’90s, our top target demographic was ages 35 to 54.
Interestingly, the naming of Gen X is believed by many to have been solidified following the 1991 novel by Douglas Coupland entitled “Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture.” Depending on your age, you might remember this group previously had many names such as: post-boomers, baby busters and a Lost Generation, among others.
Gen Xer’s were growing up during a time of major shifts in societal values. It was prior to the widespread availability of childcare options outside the home. Thus, they were often referred to as “Latchkey Kids” due primarily to reduced adult supervision compared to previous generations. It was a time of dramatic increases in maternal participation in the workforce. In addition, divorce rates increased and, as adolescents and young adults, they were often dubbed the “MTV Generation,” plopped down in front of the TV after school.
As young adults, they were said to have grown up to be slackers, cynical and disaffected. Perhaps. But fast forward to today and research identifies Gen X as mid-life adults who are active, happy and as achieving a desirable work-life balance. Moreover, this cohort is being credited with strong and successful entrepreneurial propensity. Can you say good boating prospects?
So how do we get our boating lifestyle message to Gen X? A new report outlined in eMarketer Daily (www.eMarketer.com) identifies that it’s their digital usage and their TV viewing that makes them eminently reachable.
According to eMarketer’s latest report, “Where US Gen X Stands: A Hard-Luck Cohort that Is Too Important to Neglect,” an estimated 91.3 percent of Gen Xers used the Internet regularly in 2016.
Regardless of their method for accessing the Internet, Gen Xers do it big time. A September 2016 polling by Limelight Networks revealed four in 10 Internet users ages 34 to 50 said they spend at least 11 hours per week online outside of work. (Other studies have confirmed employees access the Internet for non-work reasons during working hours, too.) Moreover, the Internet’s platform for video is boosting the time Gen Xers spend online. EMarketer estimates that 77.7 percent of Xers were digital video viewers last year — a number expected to be 78.2 percent this year.
It’s notable that Gen Xers also make YouTube a regular part of their media mix. It feeds their appetite for how-to information, according to a September 2016 Think with Google survey. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Internet users ages 35 to 54 said they watch YouTube videos “to learn how to do something.” Given this information, the importance and potential impact of video on dealer websites and the wide variety of video available from the industry’s portal, DiscoverBoating.com, is even more pronounced.
Finally, lest you think Gen Xers no longer value the TV set, think again. “They’re very much still in front of the television,” said Derek Smith, principal for US advisory entertainment and media at PricewaterhouseCoopers. They examined generational viewing patterns in a December 2016 report. “For the most part, they’re the core audience who are still paying for pay TV,” Smith said. “As such, traditional advertising over TV is reaching these folks.”
Regrettably, TV is an important medium to reach Gen Xers that our industry efforts via Discover Boating are failing to cover. Clearly, more funding is needed and the evidence suggests it could be a big boost to reach the Gen Xers with our Discover Boating message on TV.