Word has gotten out to Gallup, Harris, Roper, Marlin and every other company on the planet that conducts polls and surveys; I am a willing participant. Whether it is by mail, email or telephone, survey companies find me and I answer them, no matter what the question, regardless of the cause. While the normal response for most is “I’m not interested” or a simple hang up, I actually take the time not because I have it, not because I am all that interested in spending 10 minutes on the phone talking about my shopping habits, or what I listen to on the radio. I take the time because someone in generation X has to, otherwise we won’t have any say in the world.
My decision to begin answering all telemarketers revolves around simple statistics. Generation X, to which I solidly belong to the tail end of, is the smallest generation in the United States. Roughly defined as those born between 1965 and 1977 (although some go as early as 1958 and as late as 1981), Generation Xers are those sandwiched between the Baby Boomers of 1946 - 1964 and Generation Y, also known as the Millennials of 1978 - 1994. Everyone knows the tremendous number of people in the Baby Boomer generation, hence the name. With size comes attention and every company devotes time, energy and money to determining how to gain the interest and wallets of the Baby Boomers. What many do not know is Generation Y is more then 3 times the size of Generation X, almost the same size as the Baby Boomers, making them the next market that companies will target, bypassing Gen Xers all together and muffling our voice on everything from entertainment to clothing to cars. A larger market is more appealing to companies and marketers have already begun to sidestep the needs of Generation X to reach for the Millenials, willing to give up the 30 to 42 year olds, historically a major focus of advertisers, to begin tapping into the next generation.
Other factors go into companies overlooking Generation X. Looking at the patterns over the past 40 years, Gen Xers have lived through some major recessions, the dot-com bust and could remember their parents dealing with the gas shortage and double digit home interest rates. Marketers see this generation as being skeptical to mass marketing and more frugal with their spending due to fear of losing their incomes and other economic worries. Generation X was marked as such because no one knew how to define them; the “latch-key kids” embraced their independence and rapid changes in technology and culture made differences between the early part of the generation and the latter part vast; factors that make it difficult to place a solid classification on the entire demographic. Advertisers and product developers are also dealing with a major shift in the demographic that was unforeseen when members were in their 20s. Dubbed “the slacker” generation for years, no one saw the sudden rise of power and salaries Generation X experienced due the abundance of technical jobs, or the effect low interest rates and other societal factors like September 11 had on the generation “settling down.” Essentially, Generation X went from grunge to 3 car garages overnight and no one in Hollywood or Madison Avenue had time to react to the change. Rather then focus on figuring out what happened and how to re-market, the decision has almost universally been made to just skip to the next set of shoppers, those who embrace consumerism, have been shielded from their parents’ money issues and are more likely to follow what their friends are doing.
Although there is plenty more things to do with my time, I will continue to answer surveys to ensure someone is speaking up for what is set up to be the forgotten generation. We might be a small generation, but if we raise our voices and opinions like fellow Gen Xer Alanis Morissette, we will still be heard.