The latest version of the Beloit Mindset List has been released and it looks like it’s once again a “compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations.” My faint hope that sociologist Charles Westerberg would bring evidence to bear on the list has not been realized.
Last fall Professor Angry and I were contacted by Zach Brooke from the American Marketing Association, who wanted us to unmask ourselves to comment on the Mindset List for an online piece he was writing. We declined. The piece was published in November as “The Mindset List is Taking Marketers Inside the Minds of Future Generations.”
Here is the first two paragraphs:
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.
I can believe the part about the BML being incorporated into sales presentations because its brand of fact-free hokum seems like a good match for the advertising industry. But does anyone in marketing take the BML seriously? Don’t they the skills needed to look up when things happened in relation to when people were born? Brooke provides no evidence that anyone in marketing finds the list useful so perhaps this introduction is just more marketing puffery.
The article repeats many of the familiar canards about the BML. One of the things I didn’t know (or had forgotten) is that “In the past, the authors have helped put together specific Mindset Lists for African-Americans, Mumbaikars, New Zealanders and Jamaicans.” I have yet to find those online, but if anyone has a copy of any of these, please send them our way.
Beloit Mindlessness is described by Brooke as coming “via WordPress” as though our use of a popular content management system bears on our arguments. I don’t know what to make of that. Is there a more authoritative software package we should adopt?
McBride’s response to criticism, as we’re heard before, is that “the list was never intended to be anything beyond a conversation starter,” which essentially undercuts all the highfalutin claims earlier in the article about its precision.
In anticipation of the new Mindset List being unveiled Tuesday, I thought I’d look over some of the stuff the Mindset gang has put out since last August. While Ron Nief and Charles Westerberg apparently have other things going on, Tom McBride seems committed to sharing all of his half-baked thoughts with the world. A quick round-up of items by McBride:
- Mindset lists for Baby Boomers and Generation X, both of which have the same low quality and lack of insight as the annual lists.
- A bizarre screed titled “Is The Mindset List a White Colonial Plot Against Yoko Ono?” It has to be read to be believed. Apparently, a student in a class on “Critical Identity Studies” at a “liberal arts college” (Beloit?) made a poster critiquing this BML item: “A significant other who is a bit ‘too Yoko Ono’ has always created tension.” McBride accuses the poor student of “McCarthysim” and “guilt-by-association,” and calls the poster “defective, anti-intellectual work—an effort of sophomoric propaganda.”
- A history of sex titled The Great American Lay. Clearly McBride is up on the latest slang.
- Weird, fact-free video rants (each posted at least twice on the BML Facebook page). In the strangest, titled “American society is meaningless. Thank God!”, McBride claims that in “modern societies” “we are largely disease-free and pain-free”(!) and, thus, “meaningless.” “Meaningless societies are generally successful societies,” he declares.
I’m sure the Internet is filled with low-quality social analysis along these lines, but it’s sad that McBride couldn’t have used ownership of the Mindset List to produce something more worthwhile.