You know the guy. Your college professor whose hair was whiter than Siberia in February, his suit went out of style sometime during the Nixon administration, and his cultural references were before your grandparents’ time. You couldn’t relate to any of his analogies, because most of those dated to an era before television and the horseless carriage. He couldn’t relate to you. You couldn’t relate to him. You took the “C” with gladness and used other classes to restore your slightly damaged GPA. We all had him in college.
And he’s exactly who Tom McBride, Charles Westerberg and Ron Nief were targeting when they created the Mindset List. The Mindset List is a snapshot of the incoming freshman class of any given college school year. It’s a profile of 18-19-year-olds, explaining who they are, as well as who they aren’t.
For instance, the college freshman of 2020 grew up in a world in which you never have to be home at a certain time just because that’s when your show comes on. There have always been DVRs, so if you get home 15 minutes after the beginning of The Walking Dead, there’s no reason to panic (as long as you stay off social media — dadgum spoilers). They do not know a world without an eBay, cloning, Bluetooth, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Not only are Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and “coming out of the closet” not new, they aren’t even worth mentioning anymore.
In case you’re beginning to feel a bit out of touch, take heart. There are some excellent things about the Mindset List, if you happen to be a marketer.
The Strengths of the Mindset List
The Mindset List was developed to help college professors like our white-haired gent connect with their students. If used correctly, professors won’t make references that kids don’t understand (like referring to the Reagan administration or the Marlboro Man).
But the list has some powerful benefits to marketers, as well. The ability to understand the up and coming generation helps marketers reach them with targeted messages, while avoiding things that don’t resonate with this group and steering clear of references that might have different connotations entirely than with previous generations. For example, the 60’s generation to them aren’t the wild and crazy hippies who blazed new trails with drug experimentation, musical innovation, and daringly radical pacifist ideas about war. They’re grandparents and great-grandparents who take fists full of pills at breakfast and get lots of snail mail from Medicare.
The Mindset List can help marketers connect with young audiences and avoid losing touch with the next generation of shoppers. For example, MTV reached out to the Mindset List with help landing Ford as an advertiser. Millennials just haven’t embraced vehicle ownership like their parents and grandparents did. Getting their first Taurus isn’t their rite of passage — backpacking across Europe is. MTV’s ad team reached out to the creators of the Mindset List to help Ford connect with today’s generation of potential car buyers.
The Weaknesses of the Mindset List
As with most innovative tools, the Mindset List is not without its critics. Most notably, a couple of WordPress bloggers claiming to be college professors issued a rather blazing rebuke, ranting, among other things, that the list is, “a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations, insulting to both students and their professors, and based on nothing more than the uninformed speculation of its authors. It inspires lazy, inaccurate journalism and is an embarrassment to academia.”
Is it? Hardly. The creators make no claims about what it is or isn’t. It’s a list designed to help people understand who today’s incoming college freshmen (18- to 19-year-olds) are and who they aren’t. They are engaged with brands. Google, Apple, and Instagram aren’t just products they use. Their lives revolve around those brands. They’re digital natives, never having lived in a world without CD ROM drives, text messaging, and the first three Star Wars movies (no, the OTHER first three Star Wars movies).
If the Mindset List can help you help your newest audiences, we say go for it. ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.