What’s on the Students’ Minds?

Different generations have radically different experiences and context for their lives. And, these experiences can have significant implications for marketing professionals. Example: do today’s college students know what ‘card punch’ equipment was? How about listening to music using vinyl ‘albums’ instead of digital files?

To help highlight and understand the differences between generations, every year since 1998, Beloit College (Wisconsin) has assembled a list of cultural items and topics that have shaped the lives of new college freshmen. Beloit’s Mindset List was originally created to help its faculty become aware of dated references that might confuse students (or make faculty seem like they are totally out of date).

For example, the class of 2016 (born in 1994) does not take pictures on ‘film’ nor do they watch movies on ‘tape’. These students have always been in ‘cyberspace’ and they have never seen an actual paper airline ticket. Women have always been airline pilots and flown space shuttles. Students watch TV anytime, but very rarely do they watch shows on an actual television set at its scheduled time. They get their news not from news shows, but from YouTube. They do not know that Bill Clinton was President of the United States, but they do know that Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. They read e-books, but find bound copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica as useless. History has its own television channel, and the Twilight Zone is about vampires, not Rod Sterling.

Check out Beloit’s list and see which of the list’s items might hold implications for companies in product innovation and marketing.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

1.      Review the Beloit Mindset list: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2016/2.      Divide students into groups. Have them list the most popular items in areas such as: movies, music, art, television, sports, etc.
3.      Then have the teams research what the leading products in these areas were 20 and 30 years ago.
4.      What are the implications for marketing products to the different generations? How do companies adapt products and marketing to reach across generations?
5.      How might a company take an older product (such as vinyl albums) and update it for relevance to today’s college student market?

Source:  Beloit College, various news sources, 8/2012

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