HONG KONG: The 225m 16-26 year olds growing up under the leadership of China's President Xi Jinping account for 17% of the country's population and amount to a nation-sized market that has been described as "the fifth world power".

"Our point of view is the Xi era is going to start a new cultural phase for China, and youths exposed to this period for the next five to eight years are shaping a different cultural identity which will become the mainstream later," Jane Lin-Baden, CEO of digital marketing agency Isobar China, told a recent event organised by Renren, the social networking service, and reported by Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Today's youth certainly have a different attitude to money from previous generations, which tended to focus on saving. But Generation Xi doesn't really understand how to budget, according to Joseph Chen, Renren CEO, who related the findings of field-trips the social media site had undertaken to universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou.

A typical allowance of RMB 1500 a month was regularly exceeded, with parents facing requests for more money and a jokey threat from their offspring to sell a kidney if their demands were not met.

While the spending power of this generation is proving attractive to brands and marketers, the practicalities of reaching it effectively are rather more problematic. Zafka Shang, chief strategy officer at insights provider China Youthology, warned that many brands made the mistake of attempting to follow trends.

One of the ways Generation Xi is changing is that they talk to their elders as equals. The forms of respect once accorded an older generation simply because of their seniority are now only given to those that they trust, and Zhang said the same concept applied in youth marketing.

Thus marketers ought to be thinking less about having a youth-oriented brand than having a trustworthy brand. One consequence of that, he suggested, was that there was little point in having a celebrity brand ambassador urging people to "achieve their dreams" unless the talk was accompanied by action that could help youth fulfil those dreams.

Data sourced from campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff