Is the youth market lucrative and profitable to financial brands?

In 2006 at the Creativity World Forum held in the gorgeous medieval trading town of Ghent in Belgium, I met Maarten Leyts, CEO and founder of the amazing “Trendwolves” company that specializes in researching European youth needs, desires and trends, and publishes an annual report called on the key insights and statistics.  Maarten will be speaking at Youthwatching 09, and you can watch current insights in this 60 sec clip. 

http://youthwatching.com/2008/12/02/european-youth-trends-in-60-seconds/ 

One of the biggest trends supported by this research is how young people are formally “befriending” brands and adding them like their regular friends to their social networks in Twitter , Facebook and MySpace.  Zappos would have to be an outstanding example of this as represented by the very socially-active CEO, Tony Hsieh who tweets under the profile of @zappos on Twitter. ( I also met Tony at Business Innovation Factory 4 in Providence earlier this year and he works very hard at building a friend brand, and is deserving of these accolades) 

Having grown up in another era where I’d rather be dead than be seen in a branded anything ( and to this day, I am a lone salmon who hates the trends of the masses, enjoying being counter-culture instead), I find this phenomenon very interesting and can see huge business value in it. For one, having people befriend you vs your main competitor would be enormously useful for consumer insights and behaviours, loyalty and so on. I am really interested to learn more about this subject, particularly to see how financial services companies are benefitting from it.  

Many financial services institutions don’t actively target the youth market because its supposedly not highly profitable, but I have a hunch its a long-term play and a “capture the hearts and minds” strategy, and when these people accumulate wealth, you will retain them – or will you?   Would love to hear any perspectives you might have based on real world results as opposed to hunches?  

Who in Australia does this well…or does it at all? Who is our equivalent of Youthwatching…or are we simply too small a market?

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