Each year, brand executives from all over the globe pore over a simple collection of facts compiled by a trio of researchers at a small Midwestern liberal arts college. Their work, known as the Mindset List, has been incorporated into sales presentations and customer relations policies.
It’s a map for marketers, which can capture the precise moment the recent past becomes the distant past, and suggest a path toward the future.
Roughly two decades ago, Cadillac bowed to changing market preferences and unveiled a full-size luxury SUV called the Escalade, while a French-born Iranian-American working in California launched a digital swap meet website called eBay and HBO debuted a new sitcom that unabashedly explored the sex lives of four single women living in New York. It was also around this time that the college class of 2020 was born.
The current crop of freshmen have grown up in a world where the aforementioned products, once hailed as revolutionary, are now considered part of the establishment, or even passé. Underclassmen might note the existence of these items in passing—relics of the period of mass folly 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.