In humans life, we always remember and get impressed by everything that is FIRST: First love, first day of school life, first oversea travel, etc. Naturally, we are stick to the First and we easily forget the next.
In business, first brand in a product category enjoys a great chance to be the leader for a long time. Xerox is the first plain-paper copier; Gillette is the first safety razor; Heineken was the first imported beer to America market. In Vietnam, Lavie is the first bottled water; PS is the first toothpaste and Hanoi beer is the first beer in the North. All these brands were born for years ago and they are still market leaders today.
By all means, being the FIRST is absolutely advantageous and desirable for every brand.
Nevertheless, being the FIRST not does not necessarily ensure existence much less success. Failure go hand in hand with opportunity. Some first concepts fall short of market and they go nowhere.
In 2004, Tan Hiep Phat group invested 20 millions USD in producing premium bottled draught namely Laser beer. Nearly 3 millions USD alone has been spent on advertising for this “first bottled draught in Viet Nam”. Result? After a year since launching, Laser disappeared in market. Indeed, this failure is very evident: that was quite premature to introduce premium “bottled draught-beer” concept to the marketplace where draught-beer is typically perceived by most beer drinkers as a low-price beer in mass eateries. Additionally, Laser beer was very highly priced even in premium beer segment where international premium beer brands (bottle and can) like Heineken or Tiger are totally dominant.
In recent years, there have been several newly-launched brands of instant canned coffee in Vietnam market. They are Birdy (launched by Ajinomoto in 2008), Cafe Vip (Introduced by Tan Hiep Phat in 2009) and Nestle canned coffee (2009). Since then, while these brands are fortunate to be in existence in the market, they are struggling in the face of challenge by conventional coffee drinking culture.
What is the most common of these FIRST brands’ failure?
That is a matter of battle in the mind of customers not a product itself in the factory. Yes, customers are curious in novelty. But the issue is how the novelty is. In today’s clutter of information, the mind accepts only new concept of products that fits its current state of mind. There is no room for new product that does not come up with customer expectation. Customers are well-disposed to “familiar” products and cautious about new ones, but they can also fall in love with a product that is quite new if is truly beneficial and fits within their sphere of acceptance.
Branding is a long and tricky journey especially for a new brand. That is great opportunity if you have a new product concept. However, before embark on that please make sure that it has potentially occupied a “hole” in customer mind. Otherwise, your brand is planned to failure.
Nguyen Duc Son
Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates