Alan Cerutti
Jul 20, 2016

Vietnam: Rapidly climbing the creativity ladder

Digital and mobile are sweeping the still traditional Vietnam along at a pace never seen, writes Alan Cerutti of Happiness/FCB Saigon.

Vietnam: Rapidly climbing the creativity ladder

Digital and mobile are sweeping the still traditional Vietnam along at a pace never seen, writes Alan Cerutti of Happiness/FCB Saigon.

Vietnam is on the edge of a creative renaissance: the speed with which the country is moving up the ladder is distinctive.

Still affectionately called Saigon by its 8 million habitants and visitors alike, the city is a shrine of memories in a sizzling entrepreneurial hot pot. Local incomes, rent and food prices all go through the roof together. It is Asia's most dynamic boomtown, reviving the city's historic entrepreneurial spirit, where posh boutiques flourish under traditional red and yellow flags, serving well-to-do locals as well as tourists.

Vietnam is expected to be the fastest-growing of the world's emerging economies by 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10 percent per annum in real dollar terms. It’s already predicted that Vietnam's total GDP will surpass those of the Portugese, Norway and even Singapore by 2050. Former exiles and refugees are returning en masse, and introduce global trends to their home country, with young Vietnamese hot on their heels.

This year Vietnam (once one of the poorest nations of Asia) is, with its growing population of more than 90 million, outrunning China, India and Russia and is becoming the world’s No. 1 growing retail market. It is second only to the USA in laptop and mobile device access.

Considering it was only legalised in 1994, traditional marketing communications and media hardly had enough time to emerge and are declining already. It is encouraging to see how quickly and passionately young Vietnam: two thirds of the population being born after 1975, embraces the digital era.

They make the country and its marketing youthful and challenging, consumers and industry embracing the digital age with surprising haste, consumers sometimes faster than the industry can adapt to.

This Z generation harnesses digital and mobile to jump on the bandwagon of an exploding economy. Consumers embrace the freedom the digital platform gives them as this allows them to create engaging, entertaining and relevant ideas for their markets. They create e-content with astonishing eagerness, giving Vietnam an outlet of creativity and freedom of expression that was never dreamed of a decade ago. It is here that we, as marketeers, will find the next big trends.

While the economy is growing, FMCG is becoming a commodity, communication being quite literal consumer benefit focussed and mainly functional. The growth of the FMCG market in 2015 is slowing down. Services, cars and dietary supplements on the contrary find their way to marketing and advertising in a country still struggling with food poisoning from street food. In personal care increasing numbers of people are buying more sophisticated products: urban women aged 20 to 45 spend one-fifth of their income on apparel.

A second observation is how the ad industry, long dominated by FMCG communication, is changing. Vietnam is traditionally a country and part of a region where deep feelings are not easily communicated. What is new is that FMCG brands are taking the lead by showing universal situations in their ads giving permission to communicate about emotions.

Marketeers are realising that it is no longer enough to simply sell the features of the product and are now focussing on a search for strategies that will allow consumers to create emotional connections. Due to this advertising is using more and more insights to become embedded in the local culture, giving it at the same time a boost towards more connectedness.

A great example of this would be the Coca Cola “Emoticans” case in 2015 where Coke identified that due to many cultural reasons, people struggle to articulate true emotions to one another, especially close family. Taking a cue from the current trends, Coca Cola created a serie of cans featuring various different emoticons. Each of them depicted a different emotion. Users where invited to gift these cans through an emotive and moving digital film which showed Vietnamese people delivering their emotions to their most loved ones.

Another great example would be local dairy company, Vinamilk’s One Million Milk Campaign. In remote areas, where children go to school without breakfast or not even a handful of rice to get them through the day and still go to school to learn

Over the last six years, the Stand Tall Vietnam Milk Fund has journeyed to many disadvantaged regions all over Vietnam. Their aim: provide as many children as possible with the opportunity to drink milk frequently to enhance their physical and intellectual development. The Milk Fund has reached already more than 307,000 disadvantaged children and donated nearly 22 million glasses of milk: a value of about 83 billion VND.

Vinamilk decided to work with Stand Tall Vietnam Milk Fund from the program’s inception, demonstrated over the last six years their business’s social responsibility and fostered the dream that "All Vietnamese children will be able to drink milk every day”.

In 2014, despite volatile and difficult economic times, Vinamilk continued to support the Milk Fund, providing milk to the value of 8 billion VND, up 33 percent compared to 2013 and bringing the total value of the Milk Fund to 83 billion VND—equivalent to 22 billion cups of milk. A CSR campaign at heart, for which Vinamilk used an emotional digital approach to great success. 

As Vietnam continues to embrace this new communication landscape, which throws off a lot of the shackles that has hindered creative development in the country, fresh thinking, innovative ideas and mind blowing creative are to be expected of the land of the dragon.

Alan Cerutti is co-founder/CEO at Happiness/FCB Saigon


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