Matthew Collier
Jul 31, 2013

The view from Vietnam: Challenges on multiple fronts

As part of the Asia's Top 1000 Brands report, we asked experts from around the region to share in-country expertise on the factors driving branding in their markets. Matthew Collier, CEO Y&R Vietnam, shares the view from Vietnam.

The view from Vietnam: Challenges on multiple fronts

The Vietnam economy has slowed. The misnomer that Vietnam is a ‘little China’ is just that. It is a unique market with its own challenges and, if anything, it is spoilt for brand choices. An incredibly strong domestic product market runs in parallel with an emerging imported brands portfolio, although import taxes significantly affect pricing.

Looking forward, there will be an opportunity for 'mid-range’ brands like Gap and Levi’s to gain a mass-market foothold as Vietnam's youth become salary earning professionals with a desire to set themselves apart from their forbears and peers.

Vietnam has the largest digital penetration of any developing market in Southeast Asia, with a recent Nielsen poll putting the figure at 58 per cent. Netizens spend an average of more than 16 hours per week online, while 15-25 year olds spend more than 31 hours per week just on social. A further 79 per cent of net-savvy Vietnamese is happy to follow or engage with a brand online.

Vietnam is Facebook’s highest growth rate market in the world over the last 12 months, and its emergence means that means everyone is clamouring for social presence. But social is only as good as the content generated for it and it's often left to juniors within marketing teams to handle actual engagement.

ASIA's TOP 1000 BRANDS 2013

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Challenges come on multiple fronts for brands in Vietnam: the slowing economy, challenging credit restrictions, consumers being increasingly spoilt for choice across domestic and foreign brands and historical issues of media inflation, running at approximately 20 per cent annually with little justification. Add on top of that the new challenge of migration from traditional channels to digital. Digital now accounts for 32 per cent of time spent on media yet only accounts for an estimated 0.8 per cent of adspend. Clients are all seeking a 'digital strategy' but often underestimate the investment needed and are therefore unwilling to take the leap. This is counter-intuitive as first-movers can make a significant impact upon a media channel for a higher ROI vs latecomers trying to claw back share of voice after the fact.

There's not much world class work coming out of Vietnam. This is partly due to a small creative talent pool, with advertising being a relatively young industry, but mainly to do with risk-averse clients. Brands aren't really willing to put their head above the parapet and try anything ground breaking. Considering how the world of advertising has come along during the last decade, 360-brand engagement across multiple media/touchpoints for individual campaigns is relatively new here in Vietnam. Coca-Cola did a great job with Vietnam's first music festival Soundfest last year and Heineken have a great annual activation around Live Access. Both these examples are multi-touchpoint activations around a core platform/event and are heavily supported.

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