Marketing to Xennials – What is that?

Xennials are the graduating or graduated Up & Comers and new big spenders in the market.


Meet Xennials: a microgeneration born between 1977 and 1985, sandwiched between the more well-known generations of the Gen-X and Millennials.

Xennials are the graduating or graduated Up & Comers and new big spenders in the market.

They are past college era days and many have invested in higher education and clocked in at least two decades of work experience and some savings. There are roughly 25 million Xennials in the United States, accounting for almost 10 percent of the total population.

Unlike their adjacent cohorts, Xennials grew up with the curious conflict of an analog childhood turned digital adulthood.  In a sense, like a hybrid generation, existing in two different worlds. With this in mind, here are some key things to remember when marketing to Xennials.

They have a complicated relationship with social media.

Despite growing up in an analog age, Xennials don’t shy away from embracing social media. However, unlike younger generations, they’re more inclined to have a love/hate relationship with it.

While they appreciate the implicit power and opportunities offered by technological advances, Xennials are more wary than other generations of developing technological dependencies. Due to this wariness, they’re also less likely to be glued to their phones.

While younger generations may see their digital devices as essential extensions of themselves, Xennials do not share this belief.

Instead, Xennials view their devices and social media connections as luxuries to be used in moderation. What does this mean to marketers? Xennials respond well to messaging about the importance of unplugging from their digital devices.

Focus on Health and Balance as a differentiator and value-add.

Like Millennials, Xennials are keen to support new health and fitness trends.

However, Xennials are equipped with more disposable income than their younger counterparts. This means they’re more likely to spend larger amounts of money on luxury items in the diet and fitness industries.

Xennials’ desire to improve their well-being extends to natural and home remedies as well.

This generation sees relaxation as integral to their well-being, so they are often more likely to spend their money on vacations and leisure activities than on material goods. When marketing to Xennials, your brand should reflect these values.

Focus on Branding with Experiential and Authentic elements.

Xennials want your brand to reflect their values—but only if it’s authentic.

This generation has watched the marketing landscape change drastically in their lifetimes, and this has made them suspicious of corporate motivations and values. To combat this mistrust, brands should be consistent with their own values. Above all, Xennials appreciate transparency, simplicity, and authenticity. 

Focus on Nostalgia because it sells.

When people experience nostalgia, they see the world through rose-tinted glasses.

When people recall the “good old days” together, it inspires feelings of social connectedness. This connectedness increases one’s positive feelings about oneself, increasing self-esteem and overall feelings of optimism.

Additionally, experiencing nostalgia increases overall feelings of generosity and openness to strangers—i.e., willingness to spend and openness to brand messaging.

Given their analog childhoods, Xennials are an apt audience for nostalgic marketing. Pay phones, connecting with friends on AIM, mix tapes, and music videos on MTV are a few of many things from Xennials’ childhoods that are nearly obsolete today.

The popularity of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” is a recent example of effective nostalgic marketing. And as evidenced by the show’s diverse viewership, the effectiveness of nostalgic marketing is not limited to Xennials—it can grab the attention of any generation.

If your brand messaging can provoke feelings of nostalgia, it will forge an emotional connection between your brand and consumers. The good feelings inspired by nostalgia will be associated with your brand, so that in turn your brand will make consumers feel good too. But remember: authenticity is key.

Keep your brand messaging authentic by finding ways to bring the old and the new together.

Here are some tips to use in your marketing campaigns:

  • Share your company/brand history on your website or social media.
  • Celebrate milestones, anniversaries, new partners or services by recalling the past.
    • Not only does this inspire nostalgia, but it will also build brand trust and reinforce authenticity.
  • Bring back old products or services due to popular demand.
    • Remember the public outcry when Hostess announced it would stop selling Twinkies? Remind your consumers why they have been loyal to your brand or business through the years.
  • Utilize nostalgic hashtags on social media, such as #TBT (throwback Thursday) and #FBF (flashback Friday).
  • Share old ads and promotional items on social media to remind consumers of how far your brand/company has come.
    • Take it a step further and boost engagement by asking your followers to guess what year a certain ad ran and give out a prize to the correct or closest to correct guesser(s).
  • Take a look at retro ads and incorporate some of those fonts, colors or design elements into your next ad campaign.

Apparently, I’m a Xennial. After researching this topic, I confirm all of the above are definitely true. So now, go ahead and start marketing and selling.  If you want to know more or need a consult, contact me.

Michelle Martinez Reyes and Amber Flaskey collaborated on this article.

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