The Mindset List

The following are my thoughts on the article from the American Marketing Association called The Mindset List is Taking Marketers Inside the Minds of Future Generations

Before I begin, let me explain what the Mindset List is. The Mindset List is a way to describe in context the worldview that college students have grown up in. The list is a compilation of historical events and chronological bookends occurring around the time college freshmen were born. First released in 1998, the list has been updated every year since and has captured the attention of professionals from all lines of work, marketers included. And though it purports to be an authoritative roadmap of modern youth identity, its intended target has always been adults.This list gives us an inside look at marketers’ jobs on a daily basis. Marketers, in order to be successful, have to keep up on the trends within the marketplace and how these changes can affect people’s thinking every generation. Marketers watch these changes to adapt and prosper.


Mindset List Creators: Tom McBride, Charles Westerberg , and Ron Nief

The current crop of incoming post-secondary students has grown up in a world where eBay, Cadillac Escalade and  HBO’s show Little People was once hailed as revolutionary, are now considered dated or even passé. Underclassmen might note the existence of these items in passing—relics of the period of mass foolishness when their parents were considered cool—but they are certainly not wowed by them. Five years from now, incoming freshmen might not even be aware they existed.


Millennials are this generations baby boomer. On average, they are more selective about the brands they support but the brands they do support are built on relationships.

Tom McBride, one of the creators of the Mindset List said:

“Millennials live in a world of brands [such as] Instagram, BuzzFeed, Facebook, Twitter. I don’t think young people lived on General Motors. I don’t think young people lived on Sears. They bought things from General Motors, they bought things from Sears, but General Motors and Sears were, relative to today, ancillary to their daily lifestyles. This is not true of the big high-tech companies and websites. … It’s the difference between buying a product and living on a product.”

The immersion is creating both heightened expectations and apathy from millennial consumers. “Many people understand that millennials really like authenticity. They don’t like phonies. But trying to figure out what is authentic is very hard,” he says.

I believe that millennials are attached to specific brands just like the baby boomers were back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The perfect example would be a company like Apple. Apple is a company that we have grown up with. The majority of us have at least one Apple product.


“There’s an extent to which the Mindset List, in the name of trying to have a wide outreach, might be a little too general and a little too ethnically vanilla if you will. That’s certainly one limitation,” says McBride.

The Mindset List is a great tool for marketers and businessman but like a lot of things, it has it flaws. In the past, the authors have helped put together specific Mindset Lists for African-Americans, Mumbaikars, New Zealanders, and Jamaicans. These culturally curated versions, reminiscent of city- or college campus-based editions of Monopoly, suggest the greatest touch points in many populations exist outside the predominant culture.

These variations and the almost fanatic belief in the Mindset List bypasses the original intention of the list. When the Mindset List was created, it was meant for only a conversation starter. My belief is that the Mindset List is good for basic information about the incoming generation of millennials for marketers and businessman. It is only a conversation starter. The significance of the societal change and the impact of lost touch points was something they were pointing out, not divining grand meaning from.

“Everyone is trying to figure out or orient themselves around the list, and given the breadth of speaking engagements and interest groups, anyone who is conscious of these generational shifts has a take on the lists, whether for good or for ill. But that’s the evolution: understanding this starting point and how it’s morphed over time,” says Mindset List newcomer Westerberg. “People are going to react to it differently, and one of the things that I enjoy watching is when someone says, ‘I really like this item,’ and someone says, ‘Why? That one seems stupid to me.’ Then what we hope happens is happening because they’ve taken the bait.”

Every marketer has a different style of writing and style. Marketers should use this list as a starting point for their research and news regarding new trends in buying patterns. Marketers use their expertise to influence buying patterns in order to increase customers buying habits.


Mindset List is the research behind the company brand. Once you learn what the generation wants, you then can create ideas and strategy to attain new customers. How will the tectonic cultural shifts and accelerating fragmentation of American culture affect brands’ ability to target and connect with the next generation of consumers? By their own admission, the authors of the Mindset List don’t know. They’re just asking questions. It’s up to marketers to answer them.

Thank you for reading!

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