by Nick Withycombe
Millennials, yes fine. We get it. All of us have referenced the Chinese Millennial so often that the syllables may have lost all meaning by now, becoming some sort of ritualesque mantra chanted out on a weekly basis at the latest ‘can’t miss’ China expert panel discussion.
But what about Gen X? They matter too! They may be a little older, they may not be quite as sleek-sounding and the ‘Gen X mindset’ doesn’t seem quite as sexy (more like slippers and a good book), but logically speaking they are a crucial segment of consumer demographic.
Gen X means those born between the late 60s and the mid-80s – i.e. the generation just before Millennials. Chinese Gen X, of course, love luxury too. Being born a few years before a game-changing Millennial-mindsetter doesn’t change that – and, they may be even more of an important demographic than the Millennial. Yes, I said it.
I’ll just insert a disclaimer here: I haven’t sourced data – big or small – or opted to include stats. This is because (1) Chinese stats are always huge, massive, hundreds of millions. This is China. And (2) who, including even the most wisened China expert would really believe that Millennials spend big, but if you were born between 1970 and 1984 then you have ‘less wealth’ than A. Millennial?
In some senses, Gen X are the bread and butter of luxury brand – something of an oxymoron, I grant you. But with Gen X, you experience all of the benefits of the affluent or HNWI Chinese consumer: someone with a love and discernment of luxury, sophisticated, well-travelled and at the peak of their financial topography, with none of the drawbacks of the Millennial: over-stimulated, brand-disloyal and probably too busy instagramming their new Fijian-language tattoo to pay any attention to your own scintillating brand story.
Talking to luxury Chinese Gen X-ers is more straight-forward than trying to snake-charm a Millennial into clicking-through to your engaging 10-minute mini-movie, in which you’ve pin-pointed the precise Chinese KOL which will hypnotise them into clicking-through again to buy WeChat gift vouchers to send to their own ‘network of followers’. As they live-stream it.
No – Gen X aren’t into KOLs, because they have been there and done the celeb thing already. HNWI Gen X Chinese own the company that owns the KOL. They now have their own business empires to run, lives to lead and the only time they live-stream is when they Facetime their older kids who are studying at Oxford. (It’s worth noting that the celebrities that Gen X grew up with are now the richest, A-list household names such as fellow Gen X-ers Sun Li, Zhao Wei pictured above, Lin ChiLing, Andy Lau, Eason Chan; so they aren’t bothered trying to follow a thousand new ‘KOLs’)
Gen X want to know what and why. Who and how aren’t so uplifting for them. Have a beauty product? What’s in it and why should I use it. Opened a new resort in the Maldives? What can I do there and why is it better than the seven I’ve been to already. OK, I’ll take 10 boxes of ampoules and sign me up for the three-bedroom villa.
A lot of truth is said in jest – but as a Gen X-er myself who has married into the Chinese family for a decade and a half (making no claims to be a ‘China expert’, you understand), I see a marked difference between the various age ranges of affluent, first-tier urbanites. While Millennials have made the headlines – and deservedly so – spare a thought (and a smart campaign) which is about Chinese Gen X. Precision and efficiency are needed to capture their immense spend.
Gen X might not make the headlines, but they are a pragmatically-driven, ultra-knowledgeable powerhouse of luxury spending.