Stuck in the middle: when it comes to Gen X, is beauty hitting the spot?

Stuck in the middle: when it comes to Gen X, is beauty hitting the spot?

As a paid-up member of Gen X, I can confirm that we’re neither here, nor there. Not for us, the disposable income those baby boomers enjoy, not for us the care-free spending exhibited by millennials. We don’t (yet) need the super-charged anti-aging boost but neither do (most of us) have a tiny clue about how to use Snapchat (even if 81 percent of us are on Facebook), and we’re not gonna be embracing unicorn hair any time soon. Or, maybe that’s just me. For that reason, the beauty industry appears to have forgotten we exist of late – no wonder we were dubbed ‘the forgotten tribe’ by Gen X lifestyle platform Midult, which launched last summer.

I wrote on here just a few weeks back about Boomers versus millennials and, while Gen Y may have the entire beauty industry eating out the palm of its hand, at least the Boomers have some serious guns in their arsenal – namely that they carry considerable heft in the population stakes (50 percent). That’s not something that Gen X can boast – we represent just 25 percent of the population.

And as if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, we’re also the most cynical and disillusioned consumers out there – as Racked author Cheryl Wischhover so beautifully puts it, “It’s hard to market a so-called miracle product to someone who came of age listening to Nirvana”.

But hang on a mo, apparently we Gen X-ers somehow manage to control 31 percent of spending power – despite exorbitant housing costs, raising children and caring for the elderly – and we’re also among the most prolific buyers of beauty. “In the 35- to 54-year-old group, more women are using five or more make-up products, which is more than the 18- to 24-year-olds and as many as the 25- to 34-year olds. We’re seeing increases in that age group actually using more make-up products,” Karen Grant, Global Beauty Industry Analyst at NPD Group told Racked. 

So what are we buying? You only have to look at the sales figures for Gen X staple brands such as Olay, Clinique and Elizabeth Arden to see that the three-step is no longer doing it for us.

Here’s three steps that will lead to success with Gen X – or, in other words, what do we want? Well first, as the generation that piles money into our homes, our products need to look damn good. That’s the reasoning behind Stila’s recent rebrand and also why you’ll see us splurge on Aesop hand soap. Yes, we’re well aware we can get soap at the dollar store but just look at the packaging. Just look at it. Pinterest perfection.

Second, we’re busy. We’re mothers, employees (or employers) and partners, and we’re still lumped with most of the chores to boot, so we want products that are quick and easy to use and multi-task. Racked points to Nudestix as the perfect example.

And last, we like to keep it simple – see my earlier comment on cynical. Don’t tell us that this product will change our lives, just make sure it does what it says on the tin. Our recent Streettalk survey of Gen X consumers was revealing in the simplicity of our desires – we want our moisturizers to hydrate, nothing more, nothing less. And you can bring that philosophy to almost any beauty segment.

A closing thought for you – we may be small in size but Gen X’s influence is mighty – we are, after all, shaping the next generation of consumers. Win our hearts, and you could be onto a winner for the long-haul.