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Generation X: The Power of Generational Marketing

May 22, 2017
generational marketing

Each generation has their own set of unique experiences and expectations that impact their values and lifestyle. Factoring in these different characteristics, behaviors and mindsets can provide you with a solid foundation to build long-term, trusting relationships with your target audiences.

This is the last in a series of articles that will outline how you can tailor your hospital marketing towards key generational groups. This article is focused on how you can gain a competitive advantage by learning how your hospital can attract the coveted 18-49 year olds or the Generation Xers.

Generation Xers – An Introduction

Individuals born during 1965 – 1980 are part of the Generation X group. They are commonly referred to as the “Latchkey”, or the “Why Me” Generation. They are also known as the “MTV” Generation. Gen Xers are called this because they were the first generation that grew up in a home where there was reduced supervision compared to previous generations. There were many factors that contributed to them being home alone, including the fact that more women were entering the workforce, and increases in divorce rates.  Limited childcare options also contributed to children being home alone for long periods of time. Consequently, their fending for themselves approach to life has shaped this generation’s passion for entrepreneurial opportunities vs. traditional work environments that their parents preferred. Generation X tends to shun company loyalty and are more likely to be self-employed professionals.

The “Plugged In” Generation

The label “MTV” Generation stems from the rise of the cable video television channel during their adolescence. Having more children at home allowed for cable stations such as MTV to create programming that resonated with the teens and their emotions. This generation saw the birth of grunge and hip hop music. They also saw the invention of technologies such as cellphones and the internet. Generation X produced the impetus for the growth of personal computers and were a large percentage of the entrepreneurs. This generation thinks globally and integrates various cultures and practices into their lifestyles.

Generation Xers Dread Comparison to Boomers

Generation Xers tend to value education and tend to question authority and “norms.” They are generally pessimistic and view the previous generation, the Boomers, with disdain. They believe the “selfish, materialistic” nature of the “Me” Generation are the reason for the difficult economic times they have experienced.

Due to the fact that a great many Generation Xers had to take care of themselves as “Latchkey” kids, many have put family first. Currently they make up the largest share of parents in the US. A key tenant of Generation Xers beliefs is to maintain a proper work-life balance. They do not believe that getting ahead in their careers is worth sacrificing anything that is sacred to them like family or subsequent happiness. This is very different than the Boomer generation.

Brand Loyalty Depends on One Thing

Gen Xers have garnered the reputation of being stingy with their money and always searching for the best deal, but they can be loyal to a brand. That brand, your brand, needs to do one thing – deliver on your promise. For them, your word is golden and if you don’t deliver on your promise, their trust in you and your brand is broken. They will find someone else that will deliver on that promise and meet their needs. Hospitals need to be cognizant of this as they tout positive patient experience claims such as Emergency Room wait times and response times to their questions or calls. They will be extremely disappointed if they are expecting to see a physician but end up seeing a physician assistant or nurse instead. Generation Xers’ expect that if you are claiming something, you better back it up, consistently.

3 Keys to Connecting with Generation X

As mentioned earlier, Generation Xers are rife with skepticism. They are perhaps the most comfortable of all generations, searching for the lowest price and seeking out what they consider “value-oriented” vendors and partners. That “value” is providing products that are designed specifically for the type of day-to-day life they have.

Keep in mind that many of them were new home buyers caught in the housing bubble – they are still feeling the after effects and are now a little more protective of how and where they spend their money. But it is possible to gain their initial interest and subsequent healthcare utilization. It requires implementing the following approaches into your marketing: Reassurance, Constant Communication and Talking “Tech” To Them.


Gen Xers grew up in uncertain times and doubt themselves and their decisions. They are looking for someone to reassure them that their decisions are valid and viable. Generation Xers’ mentality is to look for the holy grail– an offer that projects a satisfaction guaranteed type of sentiment. This will give them justification for their expenditure and provides an “out.” They want assurance that if they don’t get what they paid for with their hard-earned money, it will be returned. They gravitate toward useful, practical products and services and respond to being spoken to in an informal, communicative voice.

This generation is very suspicious of marketing in general. Steer clear of over the top or overly effusive marketing sentiments or claims. They will see right through them and know it’s ultimately a sales job. Speak to them in words that show your sincerity. Let them know why your product or services are necessary for them. Don’t just tout that you now have the latest piece of technology. Remember to speak to them as someone who is always seeking out the next best thing. Use words that communicate with them in terms of breaking the norm or something that can assist them in their quest for work-life balance.

Keep in mind Generation Xers are looking for proof points. Be direct in your communication of facts and make it clear that you aren’t hiding anything from them. Avoid small type disclaimers and don’t mislead them. For example, if a group of people are not candidates for a procedure, make that clear, don’t make them call and see a doctor only to find out they are not eligible for the procedure.

Talking “Tech” To Them

Generation Xers place a high value on organizations that are perceived to be active in the technology space. They seek out companies that are providing access to information about their products and services through electronic means. Gen Xers’ primary form of communication is through email so make sure there is a robust email strategy in your marketing plans.

However, keep in mind that they are researchers. They gather as much information as they can from other sources. Be sure that there is a consistency of messages throughout your digital presence. Think in terms of your website, e-mail communications, multi-media tools, and social media opportunities. Have your traditional marketing drive to a landing page or website.  In addition, offer various communication tools that provide opportunities for you to ask for their opinion or feedback. Give them a lot of opportunities to interact with you without demanding immediate or long-term action. This is also a way for you to implement the last key to reaching Generation Xers…

Constant Communication

If ever there was an opportunity to build a funnel for potential patients, it is with Generation Xers. But you must be willing to understand that it is a long–term relationship building strategy that may not immediately generate patients. It is important to remember that your campaign will only be successful if you can deliver on the promises you make them.

A good portion of your success will be in the timing of your messages. They need to be top of mind when they are making a health care decision. Keep reaching out to them. Make them want to research you and your services.

Despite having an affinity towards technology, Generation X is one of the top generations to respond to direct mail. Your messaging to them will be critical. They like to be included in the big picture and feel like they are a part of something from the beginning. Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. Ask them to have a voice in the services your new Women’s Hospital will offer. Provide them opportunities to learn more about not only your services but health care in general. Think in terms of opportunities for them to come together as a group – they like to hear what others think and often make decisions based on word-of-mouth. Provide them opportunities to expand their knowledge and to share how your patient experience is designed with them in mind. Think in terms of providing interactive games to educate them on why you are the logical choice to be their health care provider.

The bottom line is if you treat Generation Xers like they are family in all your interactions with them, it will go a long way in their eyes.

Putting Generational Marketing into Practice

Incorporating the different motivations and needs of each generation that have been highlighted in this series (Traditionalists – March, Baby Boomers – April and Generation X – May) into your overall hospital marketing plans can help you move closer to ultimately achieving your annual volume goals.  

While it is tempting to focus only on those generations that currently have the highest utilization rates right away (Traditionalist, Baby Boomers), leaving out Generation Xers for those quick wins could be detrimental to your long-term success. Think about using the Gen Xers as a large, ongoing focus group to help shape your products, services and messaging to appease the group that may be using you intermittently today but will faithfully in the future. Your sensitivity to the individual generations today will allow your organization to truly become consumer focused in the days ahead.


  1. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business Marketing to the Generations, Kaylene C. Williams, California State University, Stanislaus and Robert A. Page, Southern Connecticut State University 

Jason Brown

Jason is CEO & Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis (BPD), an internationally-recognized advertising agency that is on a mission to make health systems and hospitals the most beloved brands in the world. A pioneer in hospital marketing, BPD works with clients to unlock the power of their Purpose inside and outside their organizations, resulting in highly engaged employees and physicians and dramatically higher brand preference and service-line volumes.

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