X Marks the Spot: How to Engage Gen X Audiences

For the past thirty years, Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) have been the primary supporters of many arts and culture organizations. While they’ve played an invaluable role in our arts communities thus far, we also need to focus on how to care for the next generations of patrons. In doing so, many nonprofits have taken strides to invest more into Millennials (those born between 1981-1996), but now it’s time to shine the spotlight on the generation between these two: Generation X!

Focusing your upcoming marketing efforts on Gen X (those born between 1965-1980) will be key to packing your venue for years to come. To best attract and engage with them, however, you have to understand what makes Gen X unique from both Baby Boomers and Millennials. Rather than recycle the methods that worked for others, it’s essential you take a fresh approach to capture the hearts of Gen X and turn them into lifelong patrons. Read on for six tips from our event experts on how to better understand and effectively market to Gen X.


1. Gen X is the first digital generation

Back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Gen Xers were not only the early adopters of computers, but also the first users of email, the Internet, and DVDs. As the generation between Boomers (who respond best to printed mail) and Millennials (who prefer social media), Gen X resonates the most with marketing channels somewhere in the middle, like email. Send curated newsletters to their inbox with targeted discounts to upcoming shows. Encourage them to follow your Facebook page and tag you in their photos from your events. You should even consider selling a recording of your performance afterwards so they have a digital copy to keep as a momento!


2. Gen X responds to authenticity

When talking to Gen X, be transparent! They were raised knowing that if something’s too good to be true, it probably is. So, the more genuine you are in your messaging, the more you’ll connect with this audience. For example, when writing your email subject lines, keep your information straightforward and avoid clickbait at all costs. If you’re promoting an exclusive ticket discount, don’t offer it to everyone! Gen X loves to be in on a secret, without being swayed into a false sense of urgency.


3. Gen X isn’t afraid to go alone

Compared to their parents, Gen X is a more independent and free-spirited generation. Since many have older children or have already entered retirement, they have plenty of free time now to try new experiences, pursue their cultural interests, and make friends in similar seasons of life. Put all these qualities together, and they’re the perfect audience for your organization! You can capitalize on their adventurous spirit by hosting interactive events like afterparties or workshops where they can make unforgettable memories and learn new skills. Want to take things a step further? Start a membership program where your most passionate patrons can regularly meet and attend exclusive events with fellow arts lovers.


4. Gen X loves classical and modern works equally

Since their parents were interested in the arts, these Gen Xers were exposed to many “classic” forms of entertainment: symphonic music, opera, classic plays, musical theater, you name it! But Gen X was also the first to embrace more contemporary forms of the same genres, like rock opera. Because of this, they’re just as comfortable with operas like La Boheme as they are with Broadway musicals like Rent, and they appreciate how one was born from the other. This means you can put on a variety of different shows and watch those attendance numbers climb! To fully embrace these diverse interests, consider scheduling two different shows – one classical and one contemporary – around a common theme that ties the past and present together. This is also the perfect opportunity to offer a discounted price when they buy tickets to both performances at the same time.


5. Most Gen Xers have an artistic background

Because arts education was still widely offered when they were in school, many Gen X adults have experience playing an instrument, singing in the choir, or performing in their annual theater productions. This artistic background gives them a greater appreciation for your organization’s work, and may even mean there’s an opportunity to dive deep into the inner workings of your day-to-day process. Make the most of their interests by inviting them to go on a behind-the-scenes tour, watch a rehearsal, or jam with your performers! The more opportunities you give for an intimate, private glimpse of your organization’s creative endeavors, the more excited they’ll be to engage with everything you do in the future.


6. Gen X are social butterflies!

While younger generations like Millenials and Gen Z are more inclined to engage online, Gen Xers largely prefer to meet people without the buffer of a computer screen. They grew up that way! Organizing small gatherings of potential patrons for a private performance is a great way for them to meet new peers who are just as passionate about the arts. You can use this time to promote your organization’s work, build community beyond the stage, and begin to cultivate personal relationships with these newcomers.


With this information in mind, keep the conversation going on how to tailor your organization’s efforts to Gen X’s tastes. Or even better, reach out to some of your most loyal patrons and ask them yourself!



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