in 2002, All Rise – the marketing professional and his daughter Laura Ries wrote the book “The fall of advertising and the rise of PR”. This book became the best-seller at that time with the notion that publicity play a primary role in creating a brand and the role of advertising is just to maintain brands once they have established through publicity. In this book, the authors mentioned a number of international brands that have been built without advertising at all – they are Starbuck, Wal-mart, Red Bulls, Body Shop and Palm.
This is one of most controversial marketing book with a lot of both critiques and supports from scholars and marketers. Excluding developed markets where professional marketing communication had hundreds years of growth, this article discusses whether this new concept works in Vietnam – a developing market with the dynamics in marketing and branding activities.
Let begin with a sound findings of a market research report by TNS. In 2009, ads spending in Vietnam reached 450 million US dollars – an increase of 26 per cent in comparison with 2008. In 2009, Tan Hiep Phat company – the local giant in the FMCG segment spent millions of dollars in above-the-line advertising for their newly-launched bottled ice-tea brand Dr.Thanh alone..
The burning question is: did marketers like Tan Hiep Phat waste their money in heavy advertising? it seems that they did not. “Dr. Thanh” brand was launched at the end 2008 and TVCs about this brand was aired with the highest frequency than any other brands over a course of next year on most expensive spots on the TV channels. Result? Dr. Thanh brand becomes one of the most well-known softdrink brand in Vietnam. In this case, I think advertising has exercised the role of creating brand rather than PR as argued by Al Ries in his book.
There is no doubt that consumers are increasingly declined to advertising today. And Riese is right saying that PR has a weapon in building brand that advertising does not have – credibility. However, advertising with its advantage of wide coverage works in creating brand awareness (one of important element of brand equity). In addition, in a country of immature marketing industry like Vietnam, consumers are still likely to be influenced by advertising. Dont’ you believe? According to Nielsen’s report, 91% consumers in Hanoi are guided by advertising in their purchasing decision and this figure is 45% in HCMC. Of course, reality with figures speaks lounder than any theory.
That has been nearly a decade since Ries wrote his book in 2002. Then had he anticipated the reality of advertising and PR practices in a developing country like Vietnam, would he change his mind? we are not sure about this, actually. But one thing we can sure is that companies still keep on spendings huge money on advertising today.
And how about you? do you think that advertising is falling these day?
Nguyen Duc Son – Brand Strategy Director of Richard Moore Associates