• Alan Shoebridge

Three reasons why healthcare can’t neglect Gen X


It might be a cliché, but as a member of Generation X I find myself reacting to something with cynicism and a bit of frustration. That “thing” is being passed over for potential consideration as the core consumer of healthcare for the next 30 years.

As a healthcare marketer, I hear a lot of passionate talk about reaching Baby Boomers and Millennials, but almost nothing about engaging my own generation. Here are three reasons why I think overlooking Generation X is a mistake.

1. We’re aging into the healthcare system now. Most Baby Boomers are already getting care and likely found our services – such as primary care – several decades ago. That’s not to say that there isn’t growth available with Boomers, but it’s going to be more specialized. Gen Xers are now in the exciting life journey of mammograms, colonoscopies, regular checkups, unexplained aches and pains, and other fun health milestones. Does anyone believe we won’t consume even more healthcare as we reach 50, 60, 70 and beyond?

As much as we tend to focus on them, most people age 18-30 are still years away from being the primary consumers of healthcare. Yes, there will be periodic emergency room and urgent care visits, but most people in this age range will be relatively healthy for the next 10 to 20 years.

2. There are actually quite a few of us in the United States. Sure, there are “only” 64 million of us compared to 75 million Millennials and 79 million Boomers. However, did you know that Gen X is predicted to surpass the Baby Boomers in less than 15 years? As the Pew Research Center points out:

“For a few more years, Gen Xers are projected to remain the ‘middle child’ of generations – caught between two larger generations of the Millennials and the Boomers. They are smaller than Millennials because the generational span of Gen X (16 years) is shorter than the Millennials (17 years). Also, the Gen Xers were born during a period when Americans were having fewer children than later decades.

Though the oldest Gen Xer is now 50 (in 2015), the Gen X population will still grow for a few more years. The Gen X population is projected to outnumber the Boomers in 2028 when there will be 64.6 million Gen Xers and 63.7 million Boomers. The Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018.”

Take another look at that last number: 65.8 million in the United States. That’s a lot of healthcare that will be consumed during the next 20 to 30 years!

3. We respond to a variety of media types. This fact represents both a challenge and an opportunity for healthcare marketers. Every time I hear someone say “nobody reads print anymore,” I always get defensive. I read newspapers, magazines and even - brace yourself for this one - the occasional piece of direct mail. I also use social media, check my email compulsively, watch television and listen to the radio. According to an article from AdWeek, this is typical for Gen Xers:

“In fact, a marketer trying to strategize how to best target an Xer is faced with a complicated decision. According to Forrester Research, traditional media is still important to Gen X (48 percent listen to the radio, 62 percent still read newspapers and 85 percent have favorite TV shows). But at the same time, Gen X is plenty savvy when it comes to digital media. A survey by Millward Brown Digital found that 60 percent of Xers use a smartphone daily and 75 percent are routinely on social networks. Gen Xers are quite active online as well when it comes to banking, shopping and researching products they want to buy.”

If your strategy as a marketer focuses only on digital tactics because that is what Millennials are doing, I think you might be missing the boat. Obviously, those tactics are highly trackable and cost effective, but I have to question whether they are always reaching the right target audience for healthcare in 2016. At the very least, you need to ask yourself that question when building a marketing plan targeting people ages 35-50. Diversifying your tactics might be a much better approach.

I will now resume my brooding over being part of the “neglected middle child of generations;” however, I’ll be pushing marketers, including myself, to think twice about how to best reach us.



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