The European Football Championship is currently going on in Ukraine and Poland. In Vietnam, surprisingly, people are not very excited and eager for this high-level sport event they used to be in the past. This is not due to any quality decline of the tournament but these days football fans are overloaded with many “special foods” like English Premier League, Spanish La Liga or Champion League. Football fans are suffering from football indigestion, which reasonably results in excitement loss and fastidiousness.
Today, consumers always have many choices when they want to buy anything. Let’s say, 5-10 years ago, only individuals of high income can afford a cell phone. Now, cell phone is just a normal communication device, even for blue collar workers. Nokia or Sony Ericsson used to dominate Smart Phone segment. These days, even the famous iPhone is becoming popularized while Nokia is down and Sony Ericsson has disappeared.
Consumers has more choices and become more demanding, which in turn makes competition more intense. In the context that a segment is crowded with too many products, competition shift from the factory (how production is to make the best quality of my product) to the market place (how the message is to persuade consumers to believe that my product is the best brand).
In the race to draw consumers’ attention, there is a clear trend in FMCG market: to be successful, pour as much money as possible on advertising and marketing; and communications message should sound bombshell, or even shocking. The marketing cost of Tan Hiep Phat Group is not much lower than giants Coca or Pepsi. It is not sure whether their Dr. Thanh herbal tea can really prevent hotness inside or not, but many people choose to drink Dr. Thanh for this advertising message. There are many controversial debates over Kangaroo’s “The leading water filter in Vietnam” TVC. In fact, this brand is growing well and many people buy Kangaroo water filters thought their TVC makes them disturbed. Recently, the TVC of “Red Bear” instant noodle brand raised a backlash and forced Asia Food (the brand owner) to organize several press conferences for excuse. However, among various instant noodle brands, now that most housewives have been aware that the Red Bear is available in shelves.
So, except for means of huge advertising budget and bombshell message direction, is there any other choice for brand communications? In fact, there is few brands having financial ability enough to afford a 360 marketing campaign like Tan Hiep Phat, Masan or Asia Food. And not all bombshell advertisements can be under the headline like Kangaroo or Red Bear. In addition, there are always potential risks and counter-effects when applying this communications tactic.
A typical brand that goes against the huge advertising trend is The Body Shop. Instead of spending a lot money on advertising, this famous cosmetics English brand spends a lot for community benefit (15–25% profit is for building education, vocational and cultural centers). As a well-known cosmetic brand, The Body Shop, however, has not invited celebrities to endorse their products. In stead, they only use the image of simple, normal women to convey the message “Act Natural. Enjoy Your Age”.
The story of Viettel in Mozambique is also a good example to show that branding does not necessarily relies on advertising. In May 2012, many people queued quietly to buy Movitel sim (Viettel’s mobile network in this country) although Viettel didn’t make any noisy advertisement while Mcel, an familiar network in Mozambique, lay in the opposite street and Vodacom’s logo appeared everywhere. The reason is that Viettel has built a sustainable telecommunication infrastructure system for Mozambique, which turned Mozambique from a country of no fiber-optic cable system to one of three countries having the largest optical cable infrastructure in Africa (partnered with South Africa and Nigeria). Movitel accounts for 80% of fiber-optic cable infrastructure and 60% mobile infrastructure in Mozambique. From now on, Mozambique people is familiar with Viettel brand.
Rousing and bombarding in media or quietly win the hearts of consumers? There is no right and wrong story for these options. That is only the issue of an appropriate and sophisticated implementation in communication message. Because today’s consumers have simply become a fastidious and savvy judge.
Nguyễn Đức Sơn
Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates