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Parking's New Target Market: Xennials

May 22, 2018


Let me just start by saying that I have never related on a level so profound to anyone as I do to Marleen Stollen and Gisela Wolf, the authors of this article on xennials. Now that we’ve gotten that awkward moment out of the way…


What is a Xennial?


Xennials are a micro-generation that exists for those folks born between 1977-1985 (me - in case you hadn't already guessed), bridging the gap between millennials (we embrace technology, have positive outlooks, and care about the greater good) and Gen-Xers (we had dial up internet and didn’t get cell phones until our 20’s). Xennials grew up with an analog childhood, and matured into a digital adulthood. The best line I’ve read describing xennials so far is “As we were growing up, technology matured along side us. We had time to get used to it and were still young enough to feel right at home with it.”[i] Best of all, the existence of this peer group gives us the ultimate “I told you so” moment in emphasizing we are NOT millennials (Pro Tip #1: don’t talk to us like we are, as we really hate that).


What’s the Deal with Xennials and Vehicle Ownership?


You may have read articles about or heard rumors that millennials and their lack of car buying were going to be the end of car culture[v]. Well as it turns out, millennials just didn’t have any money to buy cars (yet). But, xennials (who have jobs and are more financially established) sure do – and they are. Just like in generations past, xennials are heading to car dealerships to purchase vehicles “in big numbers”[vi]. Somewhere between 28-39% of all vehicle purchases in the US are xennials taking home a new whip (see table below[vii]), and over 96% of Americans (78% of Canadians) own a vehicle[viii].


One interesting component to xennial vehicle ownership is that we want connected cars. It’s no longer a nice-to-have feature – it’s a must in any new vehicle purchase (which leads us to Pro Tip #2: emphasize the connectivity features and benefits if you want us to buy your vehicle). And speaking of that purchase… it starts online. People are consulting social media and reliable 3rd party websites (like cars.com) more than ever before making a vehicle purchase, and in fact see them as a more important source of information than dealership websites[ix].



Where Do Xennials Stand on Social Media?


The vast majority of xennials are on multiple social media channels – or at least they have an account (unlike gen-x). Unlike other age groups who use these platforms to post updates (millennials) or comment on others’ posts (baby boomers), xennials are often the strong, silent type. We go on there to look and see what’s happening with our old schoolmates, follow along with distant family and celebrities, conduct research, and keep up to date with news and products. But of course, many of us like to do in a silent way (or as we like to call it, creeping)[x].


The two charts below show user data for your visual feasting. In summary, 28% of xennials use Instagram[xi], 85% use YouTube, and 79% are on Facebook[xii] (although the data is skewed a bit on the low side here as the only age bracket I could find is 30-49 year olds)。




One of the main complaints that xennials have about social media is how time consuming it is. They would often be more active if it wasn’t such a time suck to participate (and do a good job of it). Another common theme is to use the sites as inspiration (for dinner, outfits, and everything else), leading to Pro Tip #3: make sure you have something visual to get their attention - quickly. Applying this learning to marketing our parking services, get out there and take some pictures of how clean your lot is, make your post aesthetically appealing, and get the message across as simply and word-free as possible.


What About Cell Phones?


According to Pew Research Center, 98% of Americans[xiii] (and logically a very similar percentage of Canadians) own a cell phone. Well of course xennials have phones. I mean, how else are we going to look for jobs, access the internet, use a dating service, or read a book?! And although the functions just listed are among the top uses, there are nearly 4 million apps on the Google Play store[xiv] to choose from. Since people only have an average of 35 apps installed on their phones at any given time[xv], we’re picky about what we download and even more picky about which ones we use. Pro Tip #4: Keep that in mind when you’re designing your parking app – it better be multi-functional and highly engaging or we aren’t coming back for more.


What Marketing Tactics will work on Xennials?


First, if you want an app to appeal to us, it has got to be more than a web portal or point of purchase. Like millennials, xennials have too many apps and too much clutter on our phones (as previously noted in the cell phone section). But we are nostalgic, so if you incorporate analog elements or references, you’re likely to win us over.


Another way you can appeal to xennials is by offering an element of risk taking and trying new things. It gives just enough of a rush to be desireable, and the feeling of empowerment that comes along with it is extremely appealing to xennials[xvi]. We’re a confident bunch and we want a way to challenge ourselves. That can also apply to new technologies – so if you have something like augmented or virtual reality you can bring to us, it could easily win you a lot of fans.


Based on my research (first hand interviews with xennials), the most common way for this micro-generation to do product research is through reviews. Got it. So you need mostly positive (but not all positive as it would seem fake) reviews of your product. How will you get these coveted trusted reviews? Here are 2 suggestions:


  1. Run an influencer campaign: give your product or service to someone in the target market who has an established social media presence. Contact them in advance to see if they are open to trying whatever it is out, and publishing an honest (positive, negative, or anywhere in between – and be clear it’s HONEST or not at all) review on the platforms they use. The most popular options are via YouTube, Instagram, or 3rd party review website/blog. (Pro Tip #5: Make sure you and the influencer are transparent the circumstances around your agreement are.) 

  2. Gamification: Reward someone for providing feedback in the form of a discount on future services, points they can earn (or cash, of course), or giving them elevated status. If you need a refresher on what gamification is, you can always check out this post.


What other marketing techniques have merit with our favorite micro generation?


  1. Guerilla marketing campaigns: Make a memorable experience for a xennial by using ‘old-school’ tactics they feel nostalgic about, like a spin the wheel and win or Plinko style offering (like some of the classic Price is Right games we love). Hand out coupons or samples because although price isn’t the biggest motivator, it certainly is on the list of considerations when making a purchase. These techniques are great for getting people to try out your product or service.