The Secret Life of a “Generation X” Consumer … My Story.

Should I start with the facts? Ok.

“Generation X” is comprised of all people born between 1963 and 1978. Today, these people are in their late 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s.
According to NAR (National Association of Realtors)…

– 38% of recent home-buyers were under 35 years old
– Half of first time home buyers were between 25 and 34 years old
– First time home buyers accounted for half of all homes purchased in 2005
– I am a real estate agent -I market to consumers.
– I am a consumer
– I am a “Generation X’er”

Who are real estate agents? According to NAR, “The median of age REALTORS® is 52 years old. For sales agents, the median age is 49, and the median age of brokers is 53.” So what?

My generation is a large part of the consumer market– including the housing market. While Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are settled in their last home or “down sizing” – X’ers are buying their 1st, 2nd and 3rd homes. We (X’ers) are a very large demographic of people who real estate agents market to.

I am offering a peek into my world- what I care about, what I like, what I appreciate and what irritates me – in hopes that it may assist YOU, the real estate agent/ sales person/ whatever … (Boomer or even X’er) market to my generation more effectively. Please see this as my shoot-from-the-hip, try-not-to-be-offended, but this-is-how-it-is look into the future of marketing (oh no! It’s already knocking on the door! … Knock! Knock!).

(Many of you already have somewhat of a grasp of this, but there is something in here … I would bet … that may help you.) Here it is … No Frills. No Gloss. No Candy-Coated. No Fine Print.

First, let’s talk about how I grew up. You’ll never know where a person is going, if you don’t know where they came from, right?

I, like many in my generation, grew up in a dual income family that was changed dramatically by divorce. I went to daycare, and learned to be independent. Independence was also learned by watching the strength of my Mom – raise a family, work full time and manage a household, all by herself. I helped raise my little brother, while my “single Mom” worked full time. Seeing my Mom (and all my friend’s Mom’s) as an active part of the work force, I never questioned gender equality. In fact, I threw a fit, and started crying when I learned that in royal England, if a girl is born first, her little brother still becomes King. (Grrr…) I did very well in school, and continued to do well in college. I have seen drugs, alcohol and abuse destroy families, first hand and from a young age. I have also seen neglect- neglect of family and family values in pursuit of status symbols and material possessions. (I wore my “Die Yuppie Scum” shirt proudly on my first day of my Senior year in high school … yeah, I was “that” kid.) I accompanied my Mom on many shopping trips and eventually did family grocery shopping on my own. I almost always had a TV, and watched the first airing of MTV with great fascination (as Friday Night Videos were my only source of music television, previously). I was excited that cable offered an alternative to “boring” shows like 30-something, Moonlighting and Cheers. I grew up in a rather peaceful era- with no wars (to fight for or run from) to unite my generation. My trust resides with the friends I choose… and myself.

What about now? What kind of consumer did all these experiences make me (and most others in my generation)?

According to a great generation article on http://www.allbusiness.com, “During the 1970’s and 1980’s over one million children were affected annually” by divorce. Experiencing divorce as a child- well, it’s tough. I am not here to judge reasons for or against divorce, just explain the “tip of the iceberg” of ramifications. (Heck! I begged my mom to get a divorce…) Some kids grow up and choose to be non-committal for as long as possible, thus avoiding a divorce. Some, like me, are bound and determined to make a marriage work, no matter what, to avoid a divorce. Consumer terms: A major commitment (like buying a house) may take a longer decision making period, as we don’t want ANY regrets. But once we decide what we want, we go after it whole heartedly.

I bit Bobby on the back when I was 3 and had to sit on the little black chair in the corner until my Mom came to pick me up from daycare. I remember that, specifically. He was bothering me. The teacher was busy. I had to make my own decision on how to react to this boy. So, I bit him. Although I have stopped biting people, I haven’t stopped making my own decisions. Consumer terms: Don’t tell me what I need to know. Don’t tell me what I need to be doing, or not doing. I know what I need to be doing. I am smart. I know value, and I pride myself in my ability to find value on my own. Show me what you offer and let me make my own decisions.

I like to call myself an “Equalist” …? What is that? Well, I’m glad you asked. I spent a large chunk of my childhood in Brooklyn, NY. I really do not have a concept of racism or “genderism”. (Did you know that we are the most ethnically diverse generation than any that came before us?) There are too many blurred lines in my life to be an “-ist” about anything but equality. Chauvinism and racism are very sensitive issues to me- as I see them as barbaric and a waste of time. Consumer terms: I am more apt to support a business or business person that shares my point of view.

Did you know that Generation X is the most educated generation in the history of the United States, according to Karen Ritchie in her book, Marketing to Generation X? But we don’t value education for education-sake, we see it as an avenue to get a good job, or enter a better career. There has been a dramatic drop in entry-level positions since the X’ers have entered the work force, and more education is the only way to overcome that. We know this. Consumer terms: We are educated and like to make educated decisions. We may be more pragmatic than those before us, but we like facts – clear, precise, to-the-point, no-frills facts. We see frilly froo-froo beat-around-the-bush marketing tactics as an insult to our intelligence.

I have seen family values mocked and destroyed for decades. I cringe at the thought of over-indulgence, and value my family and friends immensely. Things do not impress me. Consumer terms: If you drive up to my house in a shiny new Beamer and wear your Armani suit with gold cuff links and sport a Caribbean tan, in hopes to list my house with your weak marketing plan, I will probably turn you down in favor of the fact-driven results-oriented marketing plan offered by the guy in the older model Toyota, sporting a pressed polo and khakis (and maybe a wedding band). Sorry, glitz and glamour don’t blind me.

Shopping! I have done my share of shopping. I have seen my share of commercials. I have had my share of advertising blaring in my face and ears. Actually, it has been around me my whole life. Maybe that is why I do not watch television much at all, anymore. I have seen it all. I like to watch and look at what I choose to. I mastered the almighty remote at a very young age. I want to be in control of what people are trying to sell me. And I can change the channel (or click the mouse) the minute I decide it is not worth my time. I am not brand-loyal. Not at all. Give me the same quality with a better price, and I will switch in a second and remain loyal to my decision. Give me crap? I will switch right back. Consumer terms: This one’s a doozy …
– I will pick apart all advertising that anyone sends my way. I don’t mind advertising and marketing efforts. I just don’t like charades. Why do you think my generation loves the “making of” and “behind the scenes” stuff so much? We are sick of what’s being offered- it’s all the same. Call me cynical, but I would rather know WHY it is being offered, made, etc. Give me the “meat” of what you are offering- no flowers, no sleek marketing ploys, no fine print (I will read it…). Give me what I want and I will respect that more than fancy-pantsy Hello Kitty lip gloss flavored postcards and webpages.
– Give me what I want in small digestible segments. Remember … I have the attention span of … oh, look! A butterfly! My attention follows the ol’ 9/3 rule: 9 minutes of cartoons – 3 minutes of commercials/ downtime. If you cannot “grab” me right away, I will “click” -find a new cartoon to watch. Maybe it is my lack of patience? Or is it my ability to get through the “decision making” parts of my life as quickly as possible to enjoy the quality of life (which I value way over status) with my friends and family? Could very well be both. But it is what it is.
– We are not brand loyal, but we appreciate value. Good news for smaller brokerages and bad news for discount brokers. The “ReMax” (sorry guys!) sign is not very persuasive to us. We will choose and agent based on the agent, not the company. We are more likely to browse agent sites online, than call the local office and ask to be connected with “an agent” –it goes back to our pride in our decision making abilities. We also understand the value of good service and discount brokers are not about good service- we understand this. We are not willing to settle for crap. We may brag to all our friends that we just bought a whole outfit for under $20 at Kohl’s, but we will also be the first to tear up a broker agreement if we feel that the value is not there. Show me the value, and I’m all yours. This is where we run into the problem of my generation asking for “rebates” and “discount” listings. Unless we know- without a doubt, that you are worth what you charge or what you get, we will assume that we did/will do more than you did/will do, and will want a reward for our efforts. So, if an agent IS worth their commission, they need to tell us why. If they don’t, someone else will, and we will give them our business, and “click” – we’ll watch a different cartoon.

For as much as these principles are true to most of my generation, for the most part we are very individualistic. We hate to be lumped together- not only with other generations, but even among our own generation. Ironically, we hate the term “Generation X” as it implies that we don’t know what we are. Maybe “we” don’t know who “we” are, but “I” know who “I” am, and “she” knows who “she” is and “he” knows who “he” is and that is all that matters to us. Consumer terms: Thin ice here. “Just because I drive a Jetta, doesn’t mean I know Yoga” (now there is a company that knows how to market to our generation…) Just because the last “younger” couple that an agent took out wanted a tri-level for it’s functionality, doesn’t mean that “we” do. I know what I want and there is no persuading me otherwise. (This is a sensitive issue here … Baby Boomers are the same age as many of our parents, and we don’t need people acting like parents to us, no matter how heart-felt it is…) Assuming anything about what we want, or trying to sell us something that we do not want, is more than a minor faux pas- we are easily offended and may very easily “click” – watch a different cartoon.

The internet … ahh! The internet. I watched computers infiltrate my schools. I went from DOS screens to laptops from 2ndgrade thru high school. My generation “grew up” with the personal computer – we’re like siblings. We trust ourselves and our friends, and we trust our siblings. Consumer terms: We would much rather find out what we need to know from friends and family than from a stranger- much less a salesperson! We will go online for everything first. Your job is not to capture us and only give us your information. We know that there is more out there, and we do not mind looking for it ourselves. We will find some great information and we will find some lousy information. If the agent acknowledges this and offers “recommended” or “trusted” sites to browse through to find more information (Chamber of Commerce, NAR, City statistic sites…) I will respect that, and remain loyal to this agent who “assisted” in my quest for knowledge.

Here’s a great quote …
“All you have to do is find a straight forward, no frills, un-selfconscious way to tell (Generation X) consumers … about your super-functional, totally practical yet mildly indulgent and greatly affordable product (service) in a way that acknowledges their savvy understanding of advertising. Oh, and also make sure the message is not offensive.” – Jennifer Steinhauer, “How Do You Turn On The Twenty-Something Market?”

Alright… You have muddled though my attempt at unfolding our enigma of a generation, and tried to offer “tips” on marketing to us. I thank you!! (See! This is what happens when I don’t really blog for a few days…oh, help me…)

I understand that some of these points are shared by other generations, and I also know that many of you already “get” most of this. It all boils down to respect … right?

I can only wonder what marketing enigmas we will face when Generation “Why” enters the scene… !
Posted By: Springs Realty Scoop – Colorado Springs Real Estate

Advertisements

About Mariana

I am a Mom, Wife, Real Estate Agent Trainer and Mortgage Lender. Find me at http://www.marianawagner.com
This entry was posted in Business, Fun Stuff, Real Estate Consumer Info.. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Secret Life of a “Generation X” Consumer … My Story.

  1. Tony says:

    A good read and rather relevant. I spent some time in the marketing industry. I helped everybody from Microsoft and Cisco Systems to The Red Cross and The Oregon Cattleman’s Association develop marketing strategies and strong brand identities. Your on the right track.

  2. RealtyScoop says:

    Hey Tony- Thanks for stopping by. It is amazing how intricate the marketing world really is!

  3. The Happy Agnostic says:

    Wow, great read. But uhh… you really are sharing our secrets with the enemy though,don’t ya think? Wait… maybe you’ve joined the empire and are no longer part of the resistance! I am telling Luke and Han immedietly… you are SO kicked out of the millenium falcon!

    – E

  4. RealtyScoop says:

    Empire?!? No way! Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s