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Anyone in the marketing industry will tell you the big buzz these days is all about reaching millennials. Those born between 1977 and 2000 account for 25 percent of the U.S. population and have over a trillion dollars in direct spending power. Millennials are insanely active on social media, have all the latest technology, are fitness-minded —they’re the perfect target audience for exercise industry businesses that want to stay on the cutting edge.
However, experts say don’t leave out Generation X. Sometimes called the “forgotten generation,” this age group enjoyed only a brief day in the sun as marketing’s target demographic, first derided as slackers and then quickly pushed aside for the burgeoning young hipster millennial audience. A relatively small generation — aged around 34 to 50 years old — Gen X’ers have spending power that’s disproportionate to their numbers, holding some 31 percent of U.S. total income. This demographic group is 55 million strong, and 6 million of those are considered “upscale” members of Generation X; they generally have a much higher level of disposable income than baby boomers or millennials, and they can easily afford and strive to have the latest Apple Watch or fitness wearable.
Gen X’ers are also much more health-conscious than baby boomers. As they approach middle age, members of this demographic have a strong desire to take good care of themselves, and they’re looking for durable, quality fitness/athleisure apparel, highly effective fitness classes, and innovative, uncomplicated weight loss solutions.
Your Gen X club members (and potential members) favor fitness plans that consist of actually experiencing and doing things, not just exercising for the sake of exercise. They embrace group fitness trends such as rock climbing, martial arts and ballroom dancing. Gen X’ers influenced the fitness industry by spicing up those basic step classes from the 80s, helping boring, old-fashioned aerobics classes morph into today’s high-intensity offerings. X’ers also helped the yoga craze — first by taking free yoga classes in college in the 90s, and then contributing to the rising popularity of Bikram and vinyasa flow, turning yoga into the $27 billion dollar industry it is today.
So how do today’s fitness organizations find and capture the elusive Generation X? Your potential customers in this age range want to work smarter, not harder. They’re still extremely active in the fitness world, but not always eager to invest in fads or trends. This MTV generation wants to achieve work-life balance (another industry buzzphrase), and wants to mix technical training with leisure — think “brew and spin” classes, “kitten yoga,” or “networking and parkour” classes.
While it’s easy to reach X’ers via typical millennial marketing means — social media, gamification, smartphone apps — they are also still accessible via more traditional marketing methods; they actually read their emails! Word of mouth and special secret “friend’s discounts” are also immensely popular with this particular age range. With their particular brand of fiscal conservatism, Gen X’ers are also always susceptible to trial offers, free months and enter-to-win packages.
Members of Generation X form strong social bonds during group fitness classes, and also suffer from a typically millennial affliction known (tongue in cheek, of course) as FOMO — fear of missing out. Your club should have a fierce social media presence that emphasizes your strongest, most influential group fitness class instructors, and offers new and fresh content that attractively showcases your offerings. Studies show FOMO is for real — so don’t be afraid to emphasize the social, anything-can-happen aspect of your innovative group fitness classes and boost attendance rates.
One thing to keep in mind when marketing fitness to Generation X — while fun-loving and adventurous with plenty of disposable income, Gen X’ers are undeniably getting older, and will sometimes avoid workouts that are overly intense or too stressful on the body. Focus more on fun, optimization, strength-building and flexibility to attract those elusive Generation X dollars. Gen X is also way more into saving money and getting a good deal than their millennial counterparts, so be sure to emphasize value when appealing to this demographic.
Inclusive marketing strategies like these can help you strengthen your customer base and attract a variety of demographics. Studies show that Gen X’ers value health and love over wealth and careers, and they want their preferred brands to make their lives simpler and more convenient. A content-based strategy focusing on delivering value to their lives will attract those Gen X leads, then seal the deal by earning their trust and offering real substance — ensuring long-term success for your fitness industry business. I’ll be back soon with more revolutionary ideas for your organization — don’t miss out!
Lindsey Rainwater, also known as Lindsey RainH2O, is a sought-after business advisor, founder, writer and keynote speaker to the fitness and wellness industry. For more information about Rainwater, follow her on Twitter @LindseyRainH2O.