Archive for the ‘Branding posts in English’ Category

551023_10151793729014910_876477601_nBrand philosophy is the most powerful brand differentiation tool because everything can be imitated but brand philosophy.

What is brand philosophy?

Philosophy is a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behavior (Oxford Dictionary)

Brand philosophy is the rule of action to achieve the brand’s defined goals.

Different like Apple

Apple’s brand philosophy comes from their own slohan “Think different”.

In the opinion of Steve Jobs, computers are not just … computers (like IBM). It should also be beautiful. Jobs was obssessed by the beauty. In Walter Isaacson’s autobiography, he described that Jobs even requested engineers to design beautiful inside chip kit despite that few people look into these inner parts.

With the philosophy of “differentiation by the beauty”, Apple’s late-born brands have surpassed giants: iMac vs. IBM, iPod vs. Sony Walkman and iPhone vs. Nokia and Blackberry.

Apple has been put under pressure by the competitor Samsung. The Korean competitor has “copied and pasted” Apple’s recipe of success: focus on eye-catching designs and marketing. However, there is one thing Samsung can only “copy” but cannot to “paste”: Apple’s brand philosophy. “Differentiation by the beauty” has become Apple’s own asset and is not in any particular format for competitors to successfully “paste”.

The philosophy of IKEA

The philosophy of IKEA is “good products for everyone” which is demonstrated in the book “The testament of a furniture dealer” by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad.

The first line in this “Bible” of IKEA is “Make a better life for everyone day by day” which is also IKEA’s vision these days. Kamprad explained that “In business, many new and well-designed products do not come to most of consumers. The mission of IKEA is to change this situation.”

And the story of Viettel

The philosophy of Viettel is the action of difference dut to the difference of demands among different customer groups. They treat every customer as an individual identity. They respect, care, listen and serve in a differentiated way. Constantly innovated, collaborative with customers to create increasingly perfect products and services. The slogan “Say it your way” and the logo of the quotation mark (the respect of saying citation) both communicate the brand philosophy.

Actually, “Say in your way” is quite similar to Burger King’s “Have it your way”. But luckily, Burger King’s slogan is not common in Vietnam; other wise, the philosophy of “every customer is an individual entity” would find it difficult to communicate to customers.

In the book “Built to last” written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras about 18 most successful companies in the worrld in the past 100 years. These great brands share on thing in common: they never change their philosophy during their life cycles.

Either strategy or vision/mission can be changed or modified but brand philosophy.

In a flat world, most of things can be imitated except for the brand philosophy. No matter it is good or bad, every brand should have its own philosophy to be different.


Brand Strategy – Richard Moore Associates

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1003763_10151804113799910_977985181_nBrands love to be the number one in the marketplace due to several certain benefits. Customers are sometimes willing to pay the high price to get No.1 things. Because the number one means the best and the most trendy (even it may be not sometimes). All activities of the number one can be considered as a benchmark for others to follow. In short, it’s desirable to be the number one.  

English football has been witnessing such a number one. His name is Red Devil – a very desirable name to the rest of England except for a half citizen of Manchester industrial city. Premier League is 20 years old but he has already won 12 championship. The largest and most beautiful stadium is also his. He also possesses 7 out of 11 positions in the typical team of Premier League. Every of his moves will hit the headlines. Competitors all hate MU but they really like to versus him simply because if they can defeat MU, they will be complimented for the whole week. A free PR way that fuels any club to manage to win MU with the hope that they will be on the first page of traditional press such as BBC, The Guardian or even tabloids like The Mirror or Telegraph. In another words, even in years when they failed to be the champion, MU still got benefits from the gift of perceived to be the invincible number one.    

Unfortunately, the situation has being changed so fast. The 2013-2014 season of Premier League has only gone to one third of the journey; however, Man United, for the first time of their glorious life, feels lack of oxygen in summit of being number one. Yes, the troop of David Moyes is truly the number one (the champion of 2012-2013 season, 21 years of championship in English football). But, also for the first time, the number one feel tired of this title.

For the first time, MU has been helpless to see how “little kids” like Norwich or Southampton made jokes over them in their own playground. They felt hurt but could do nothing. For the first time, the number one could not afford to prevent their familiar losers like Everton or Newcastle from earning scores on their Old Trafford stage.

There are always ups and down in one’s life. MU has experienced many failures; however, they have never felt so lonely and weak in the recent failures. The first time, competitors are not afraid of facing them but scorn them. In past, anyone felt scared of MU but now MU seems to be scared of anyone. And the most painful thing was to see groups of fans standing up to go home while the match had not come to the end.

These days, the Red Devil wishes that everyone did not keep track of them and judge them upon the current champion title. Just give them some time to stay calm, to recover and to continue the fierce rally in the coming Christmas and New Year.

Dreams are just dreams. In his heart, Moyes knows that the more glory they have, the more criticism they will receive. The bigger hope, the bigger disappointment. Once they wear the crown, they must accept the fierce judge of the game. The time has changed.  

In the past, Sir Alex had 2-3 first years of failures because MU’s position at that time is not the number one. Today, Moyes inherits a huge heritage of the most valuable global brand; therefore, he is not allowed to have such a huge time budget. In fact, he has already exceeded the acceptable quota. He has broken many records created by Sir Alex. Moyes seems not to be forced to maintain the champion crown in his first and maybe even second season.  

However, there is one thing Moyes must never lose: the credibility of the number one. Unfortunately, this seems to be an impossible mission to this miserable-like Scottish man. Perhaps, it results from the mind of “Top 8” that he is too familiar after 11 years as the coach of Everton. And, he seems also not to be lonely in this aspect.

In an announcement before the match MU lost Everton by 1-0 in their own stadium in Premier Laegue, the deputy chairman Ed Woodward said that “There are still lots of relationship and interest for the club. In fact, you are unable to win all the time. Let’s have a look at Liverpool. They can sell a surprising number of football shirts and hold the second position in Premier League. They still have big partners though they have not win any Premier League trophy since 1990.”

This is surely not the way that the number ones always have in their mind. If MU “looks down” to console the weakness (even temporary), one day their wish would come true: no title in many consecutive years.  

Certainly, the number one may not win all the time. But even in failures, the number one should not be in the shape of a loser – weak and scared. Dear Sir Ed Woodward, did you watch all MU’s matches this season? Did you know that “the king of reversal” now becomes “the king of being reversed”? Why do your room smother with pile of sponsorship contracts in 2013? That is due to the prestige of No.1 MU built by Sir Alex in the past 25 years. Frankly, if MU keeps Sir Ed Woodward’s mindset, MU should prepare to say goodbye to substantial sponsorship contracts. In this competitive context, today’s number one can disappear tomorrow. If you want to be in the middle of the ranking chart from year to year, it’s fine. But remember that it is not the mindset of the number one like MU.     

In 1999, Nottingham Forest (an unfamiliar name in Vietnam) was downgraded. At the end of the final match, 5-year-old Jimmy Clark asked his father, a loyal fan of Nottingham, who bursted into tears while waving the players: Daddy, why don’t you support MU so that you don’t have to cry? They had so may trophies and play beautifully. Mr. Clark silently smiled to his son: No, my dear. For us, Nottingham is always the sexiest team. 

The number of MU’s fans in the world is over 600 million people (as Kantar Media’s statistics in 2012), which means one in every 10 people is MU’s fan (of course, there are various definitions of a true fan). Assume that one day MU is downgraded like Nottingham Forest, how many people will stay by their side, shed tears and proudly say that: For me, MU is always the only and best love? MU should bear in their minds that once they are familiar with victory, it is difficult for them to live with failures. The loyalty, therefore, will be fainter, especially for predictable failures before the end. How “unfair” it is to the number one brand! But, they have no way but get along with this reality.

No one calls the number one brand “the plight of number one”. When achieving such a desirable position, people often call “the status of number one”.

MU has had a very long history in which they are always acknowledge as the number one. This is really convincing and undoubtful in both match records and brand power. Unfortunately, they are in the verge of shifting from the “status” into “plight”. Old Trafford will continue being “The theatre of dreams” but these dreams are maybe the dreams of visitors like the way Norwich, Everton or Newcastle have experienced recently. 

What a risk, from perspective of match records and brand power.

We can temporarily call this “a risk” instead of a fact because MU has another two third of the journey to change its destination. Whether they can do or not depends on who they can buy in the next transfer season in January. But at first, the upper infrastructure (managers & coach) must think in the number one manner.

Like the former generations did excellently in the past 25 years.

Nguyen Duc Son

Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates


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936582_10152096178979910_1253960804_n30 years ago, the American brand strategists Al Ries & Jack Trout, introduced “brand positioning” term which is still the lodestar for marketing and the bedside book for global marketers. He summed up the principle of brand positioning in the book “Brand positioning: the battle for your mind”: a readily acceptable message is the one that talks about what is already in the customer’s mind.

This rule has become the Northern star for any brand positioning activities. However, just like any rule for any category, all theories are relative and there is always exception for success.  The innovative brands are born to break the rule. Instead of being merely follow the demand, they create the demand and navigate the market trend.

The story of Sony Walkman

Anyone knows the one-time famous Sony Walkman product. It is one of breakthrough invention that changed the human’s style of music enjoyment. And, few people knows that Sony Walkman was born without any market research.

Mr. Morita, the chairman of Sony group, predicted that Sony would create a cultural style of music enjoyment in the world. “Be careful when observing the way people live, feel what they want and what can be associate with them. Don’t research the market,” he said.

After its launch, Walkman quickly became a new trend and style of music enjoyment (it was only replaced by Apple’s iPod later on). Since then, the company has continued following its guts to create advanced products like compact disc and Play Station.

Apple’s “Think different” story

Regarding creative breakthrough, there has been hardly a brand that was on a par to compete with Apple. Apple’s products are absolutely always on a line with  the brand philosophy of “Think different”.

Steve Jobs shared their philosophy as follows: “We think that Mac will gain the market share. We do not create Mac for anyone, but ourselves who evaluate whether this design good or bad. We will not research the market. We only want to create the best we can.” (Playboy, 01st February, 1985)

This philosophy seems to contrast the rule of customer-focused product development?

The common path of many brands in the world is maximising the inherent demands of customers. Before launching a new product, the success rate will be higher if the brand meets the core value of certain categories. To find the answer for this basic issue, market research is essential.

However, it is not necessary for brands to follow the majority, especially breakthrough ideas are needed. Henry Ford has a great saying that “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said about a faster horse”

In reality, series of Apple’s creative products from iPod, iMac to iPhone are oriented technology products in stead of following market demand. In stead of asking what clients want, Steve Jobs and his creative team always asked themselves what they want to make creative products, which is inherently in their minds. Apple understands that even asking clients, they are hard to describe such hidden demands.

The rule of frame of reference change

In branding, frame of reference is customer’s associations when a certain product comes to their mind. If the brand is successful in changing the frame of reference, it is possible to become the leader in a certain segment.

Henry Ford is not the inventor of but the one who changed the automobile industry with the invention of Ford Model T in 1908. Before this 950-USD car was introduced, no American can imagine that ordinary people can also have a car instead of the classic horse carriage (Car is for the rich). That’s the reason why Ford had a famous quote “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said about a faster horse”

Before the introduction of Walkman, no one can imagine how they can listen to music anytime and anywhere with the headphones. Similarly, the launch of Apple’s iPhone and iPad has changed the habit of using cellphones in modern world. These days, we can surf the Internet, process documents or share videos, photos with friends from anywhere instead of sitting in front of the PC.

Even in Vietnam, the introduction of Pho 24 also changed the opinion and habit of “eating pho” of a part of urban residents. In the majority’s opinion, the traditional Pho restaurant is on the pavement or in the crowded, even dirty alley as long as Pho is good. In contrast, Pho 24 changed the frame of reference for Pho with clean and luxury restaurants for those who care about amenity and food hygiene. In addition to the existing traditional Pho restaurants, Pho 24 certainly becomes a leader in an entirely new segment.

The successful stories of Ford T Model, Sony Walkman, iPhone or Pho 24 simply proved a rule of branding: All rules are relative. To become a leader, a brand needs to make breakthrough instead of meeting the customer’s certain demands.

Nguyen Duc Son

Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates

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In movies, there are always typical “heroic” protagonists such as 007’s James Bond, Mission Impossible’s Hunt or The Three Kingdoms’ Zhuge Liang who are magnets of blockbusters.  

On the other hand, there are antagonists who are “supporting roles” for heros. Zhou Yu turned his head up to the sky and said that “The Creator bears Yu, why did you bear Liang?”. While viewers of the great Romance of The Three Kingdoms share one thing in common: Would have Zuge Liang sublimated his super-ordinary intelligence, if there had not had a talented Zhou Yu for him to battle with?

Viewers often experience mixed feelings for antagonists. They are hated, scared of or even admired sometimes. The common thing in media between protagonists and antagonists in successful movies is that they are always remembered. The antagonists, sometimes, even make a stronger impression.

The story of movie is quite similar to the story of branding.

In any category, leading brands often orientate the marketplace and be loved by consumers. Let’s name iPhone in smartphone category, Manchester United in soccer or Viettel in telecommunication.

They seem to be “protagonists” or “heros”, which makes us think of competing brands – Samsung, Manchester City and VNPT. 

The protagonists and antagonists or the main and supporting character all need each other to leverage and shine themselves. Similarly, the leading brands and challengers also need each other to be motivated. 

In Vietnam’s telecommunication market, despite its late coming, Viettel has made great progress and acquired the top position (nearly 50% market share) against 2 giants VinaFone and MobiFone of VNPT. The management of Viettel, however, shared that they are afraid of VNPT being stays far behind. Viettel needs a healthy VNPT as a counterpoise which creates the motivation.

But in many cases, challengers need more from “leaders”, not the opposite, especially in media.

People talk much about Manchester United. The absolute domination of the Red Devils results in the “fame” of its competitors. In two recent football match, the best “me-too” is Manchester City, the same-city football club. Since being heavily invested by the Arab billionaire, Man City has suddenly changed its life and become the main “counterpoise” of Manchester United. Certainly, despite of the full pocket, Man City would not in the spotlight of the media unless they are a “noisy” neighbourhood.   

In movies, heroes always win. Let’s say James Bond. Be ragged in “Skyfall”, be grabbed girlfriend in “Quantum of Solace”, and be stripped off and stolen all money in “Casino Royale”, he still has a happy ending in the end.

In the market, the “main role” brands do not have such luxury privilege. The winners must be the better. Unlike, in movies, the victory or failure is decided by … directors. In the competition, it depends on customer’s decision, which is tougher but fairer. 

The communication battle between Apple (iPhone 5) and Samsung (Galaxy S4) is a typical example.

136 million of Apple. Apple’s market share also dropped to 23% while Samsung achieved 36%. The slip of Apple VIP actor can be explained by the surprising excellence of “supporting role” Samsung, especially in marketing. 

After the introduction of Samsung’s Galaxy S4, Apple launched “Why iPhone” campaign on its website. The message targets to consumers instead of products like before. Apple’s previous advertising message only promotes the strength of iPhone: super sharp Retina screen, uniquely elegant design, etc.

The strategic change of the “main role” Apple is derived from the excellence of “supporting role” Samsung. Samsung defeated Apple in advertising, admitted by Ken Segal, the man behind the great “Think different” campaign. “While Samsung’s ads are young and close to every class, Apple is too much focused on its product’s unique luxury,” added Ken. 

In movies, the scenarios arrange the fate of every character. Heroes are eroes forever. “Antagonists”, despite how impressive their acting is, will only be “background” for the heroes. There will be no change sometimes and it makes audience feel “sad”.

The battle of brands are more changeable and exciting. “The main character” yesterday can be switched to “the supporting role” today. It’s not romantic, but very fast and ruthless game for brands. But customers, the deicider of the games, are very excited to watch and benefit from this fierce competition.

Kodak actor, an one-time camera film dominator, is now absolutely disappearred in the market. Nokia, a VIP actor of the handphone market in many decades, is now degraded to a “supporting role” and gave up its stage to Samsung and Apple. 

Apple is now the main character in the stage light, but they always bear in mind that some are waiting behind the curtain to take the stage at any time. 

Nguyễn Đức Sơn

Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates

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In the military science, Flanker Strategy is normally used to support main attack and disturbing the enemy’s structure. In the well-known Battle of Waterloo (the Coalition of United Kingdom and Germany fought with the Imperial French in Waterloo village, Belgium), the Duke of Wellington successfully applied flanker strategy to defeat the powerful forces of brilliant military genius Napoleon.

In marketing & branding, strategists have borrowed lots of military tricks including flanker strategy.

This strategy is applied for an established brand which launches a new sub-brand of the same category aiming at consuming market extension. Due to this nature, flanker strategy relates to a very common issue among brands: multi-branding management.

The main objective of this strategy is to expand the market and increase sales, especially for sub-brand operating in a more inferior segment compared to the established brand. A recent typical example is Apple’s low price iPhone 5C (in comparison to previous series) which contributes to iPhone’s sales volume. According to Forbes, 5S & 5C sold 9 million products after 3 weeks of launch, which is a record number since Apple’s first iPhone launch in 2007.

In military, the ultimate mission of flanker strategy is to break the enemy’s structure. Its success rule comes from the speed and surprise nature to defeat the enemy. When the United Kingdom’s allied forces attacked the French army, Napoleon’s well-trained army quickly became disturbed and lost their concentration (a very rare situation that French army had ever encountered at that time).

In brand management, the ultimate mission of sub-brand launch is to directly attack the competitors which have a close segment with its “siblings” brand (a kind of further defence). For example, Honda launched SH Mode to compete with Piaggio in the “fashionable motorbike” segment.

Honda is long famous for its “invincible” quality with the core value of durability. Honda’s users don’t have the demand of self-expression. In contrast, Piaggio is not just a motorbike. In many eyes, Piaggio is a “fashion product” symbolised for  Italian romance and elegance. Piaggio users experience an higher “status” than any others. Honda’s new SH Mode has run the same positioning. In the launching event, Honda’s general director even appeared in Italian costume and style in order to promote its positioning strategy. With the aim to “farther attack” Piaggio by SH Made brand, Honda seemed to deliberately apply the flanker strategy. However, the barrier for this strategy comes from its own advantage: quality. Quality is a function while fashion is an emotion. They are not in conflict but hard to simultaneously become TOM associations at the same time. SH’s existence relies on Honda. And it’s difficult for SH to tell the story of “carp becomes dragon” because of Honda. SH Mode, if succeeded, can only be a disturbing games in Piaggio’s arena. It’s difficult for this brand to defeat Piaggio in the fashion motorbike segment. The Battle of Waterloo in Vietnam’s motorbike market; therefore, hardly happens in the near future.

The no.1 principal of flanker strategy is that the presence of the sub-brand should not have negative influence on the image and prestige of the established “siblings” brand, which is the trade-off between sales increase (short run) and rand image (long run). A talented “general” (CEO & CMO) must balance (even optimise) both objectives in flanker strategy. It’s not easy at all, even for global famous brands like Apple.

At present, the marketers’ debate on the role and influence of iPhone 5C has not come to an end. First, not necessarily keep talking about the “cheap” notion of iPhone 5C. Actually, 5C version is not too cheap in comparison to 5S. It is not cheaper than other smartphones like Samsung or HTC. But, importantly, it’s cheaper than 5S and former iPhone version. And in the customer’s minds, it is the cheap line of iPhone. Media (prestigious publications like Forbes, CNN Money or Bloomberg call 5C lower-price phone while 5S flagship). According to Forbes’ latest statistics, even Apple has not met its objective of sales increase (primary objective of marketing flanker strategy): every 3 sold out, 2 5S and 1 5C. Apple also dropped its capacity from 300,000 products per day to 100,000 products per day (CNN Money). In the view of brand image (at least in developing country), the word “cheap” of iPhone 5C is silently eroding the premium image of Apple in general and iPhone in particular. Tim Cook seems to realize this situation so at the recent launching event of iPad Air he said that “There’s always potentials in the popular segment. However, we’re not in that segment.”

The historic Battle of Waterloo put an end to the empire of Napoleon and marked a turning point for the Duke of Wellington. With flanker strategy, brands continue using this powerful tool for market expansion or “initiative attack” competitors. However, we’re still waiting for a once-in-a-lifetime battle of Waterloo in modern marketing world. If that day comes, it must be very sensational. Marketing is the  battle of mind, thought it is going without guns or swords, it is so tense and fierce.

Nguyen Duc Son – Brand Strategy Director

Richard Moore Associates

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The neurologist Donald Calne once said “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

An action is worth more than thousands of words. And thousands of words ultimately aim to call for an action. It’s true for both life and media. All creative concepts and words in media are worth nothing if they fail to encourage consumers to take action – buy the products.  

Before calling for any action (e.g. purchasing behavior), brands should first emotionally associate with their consumers. 

In 1999, Man United made a triple (Champion League, Premier League & FA Cup) with its golden generation of David Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Keen, Stam, etc. Those talents created a sexy style called “MU style”. At the same year, Nottingham Forest (a club that was nearly unknown for majority) was downgraded. When the final game of the season ended, 5-year-old Jimmy Clark asked his crying father, a loyal Nottingham Forest fan: why didn’t you be a fan of MU so that you hadn’t cried? They have so many trophies and that always show a great football style. “No, my dear. For us, Nottingham Forest is the best,” smiled Mr. Clark.

Nottingham Forest does not care what the rest of Premier League thought about them. The only thing they need is the sympathy from their loyal fans (or target audience). For those like Mr. Clark, Nottingham Forest is the real “beauty” from the bottom of their heart.

Starbucks penetrated Vietnam. A lots of customers, driven by curiousness, queued up in the long line just to buy a big, weak coffee at the price of 100,000 VND. Many people uttered that they could not understand why such a “coffee-flavoured sugar water” like Starbucks could drive people get mad. They claimed that they would only be loyal to the strong traditional drip filtered coffee near their houses.

Starbucks doesn’t care much about these critics. “The mermaid” silently smiles because she knows that a big part of the youth is not interested in whether her coffee is strong and traditionally full-bodied (like a Vietnamese drip filtered cup of coffee). She is sure that her beholders are the group looking for a “third place” where they not just come to drink a cup of coffee. They need to gather with friends and colleagues, instead.   

Why Mr. Clark and his son chose an unfamiliar Nottingham Forest instead of the famous Man United as their own lover? Why do many drinkers come to street café of roasted coffee selling a cup of coffee at the same price of Starbucks? Are you sure that strong, full-bodied cups of drip filtered coffee in Hanoi small alleys don’t consist of any contaminants? “How irrational it is!” said Mr. Logic. But “Emotion does not care of logic” “Mr. Non-logic” smiled.  

The Western people have an old saying that “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

In the book “Lovemarks”, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Saatchi & Saatchi’s CEO, claimed that successful brands are considered as human. Lovemarkscan inspire their customers in the same way of friends and family. The definition of Lovemarks is that human is actually more effected by emotion than rationale. 

AMR London, researching partner of Saatchi & Saatchi, did a survey of 4,000 brands in 50 countries to learn the proportion of Lovemarks brands. The result is that only 10% brands belongs to this list.

There are over 600 millions MU fans all over the world (data by leading English research company Kantar Media), which means one of every 10 people in this world is a MU fan. Assuming that one day United is downgraded like Nottingham Forest, how many people will cry and proudly say: for me, United is always the only and best love I’ve ever had. For such an attractive name like United, even if the assumption comes true, I bet that there are so many people with the heart of sympathy like Mr. Clark and his son to Nottingham Forest. In this terms of having “beholders”, Nottingham can be in the same level of United. Despite its little fame, Nottingham Forest can be considered as a Lovemarks to its group of loyal customers.  

Human emotion is very unpredictable. It can love this one but hates another without any logic rules. Instead of logic analysis, brands should “catch” the emotion of consumers to have a feedback in the same way. Brand loyalty is sometimes formed by many abstract, unquantified factors. It’s impossible for Nottingham Forest plays as sexy as Man United; or for the street café to be as attractive as Starbucks. But to exist (no matter how brand is small or big), brands must win the hearts of their own loyal customers.

A brand, no matter small or big, famous or unknown, must be the “beauty” in the eyes of its “beholders”: target audience. Failing to do this, a product is just “commodity” instead of “brand”.

Brands should be the Lovemarks for its own lovers.

Đức Sơn

Richard Moore Associates




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The first always lasts long. So as the first love. First love may not be perfect as French writer Bernard Shaw said “First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity”.  And thought first love mostly ends with tears, the innocent it is always a of a great memory.  

It’s hard to forget the first. So as the first brand although it may not be better than the later. Al Ries has showed that  “Marketing is the battle in your mind”. La Vie is the first bottled mineral water brand. La Vie is nothing better than Aquafina or Thach Bich in terms of quality. Its only advantage is is the first brand in mineral water category. When a guy asks for a La Vie, he just wants to order a bottled mineral water. La Vie has become the general name for a whole product category. 

Not every first love comes to a happy wedding. So as a first brand. Many first brands  appeared in the market and silently disappeared then.

In 2004, Tan Hiep Phat Group invested in 20 billion dollar for Laser premium bottled draught beer. Nearly 2 million dollar has been spent to advertise Laser as “the first bottled draught beer in Vietnam”. After one year, Laser disappeared in the market. The failure was predictable: it was too early to introduce premium bottled draught beer in a market where most beer drinkers associated draught beer with cheap beer in street bistros. In addition, Laser was set at high price even in comparison with international premium beer brands (bottled and canned beer) such as Heineken or Tiger.

In recent years, there has been several canned coffee brands launched in Vietnam’s market. It’s Birdy (by Ajinomoto, 2008), Cafe Vip (by tan Hiep Phat, 2009) and Nestle canned coffee (2009). Although they are still alive, they have continuously struggled with market challenges from Vietnamese traditional coffee drinking.

Some new products are of a breakthrough concepts. But if they lack of “relevance” and “competitive difference” against existing products, they are about to fail. Consumers are often curious at new things but they are not willing to greet them. In such an era of blooming information, human minds only accept new product concepts which are relevant to what is going on in their mind. Customers tend to welcome “the first” but require the “familiarity” and “usefulness” instead of such new and inconvenient products.

People are passionate for first love without any bias because there is no choice for first love. First brand is not such lucky because customers will consider “the first” carefully since they actually have many other options. 

Trung Nguyen plans to penetrate American market long time ago. In the media battle field, Trung Nguyen has been quite successful as the first noisily “attack” giant Starbucks with a series of controversial statement by Dang Le Nguyen Vu. Not only in domestic press, Trung Nguyen story also appeared on American newspapers. Mr. Vu said that “Starbucks is losing its identity. Their empire is going to an end and we would be the next”. American could treat it as a war declaration than the first love confession. 

Noisy words may easily attract public attention. But only unique and creative stories are likely to win customer’s hearts. Phin Deli coffee is a good example.

“All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and Enjoying… coffee. Today, we officially introduce “Vietnamese Coffee Declaration” on Buford town owned by Vietnamese. And today, we also officially change the name of 147-year-old Buford town to PhinDeli town”.

Here’s the quotation from “Vietnamese coffee declaration in the U.S” of Phin Deli. Its ambition is quite similar to … Trung Nguyen but in a more humorous and unique way by imitating American Independence Declaration. Phin Deli has promoted a great brand story: a Vietnamese entrepreneur, Pham Dinh Nguyen, tightly won in Buford town auction. Now, he changed the town name to Phin Deli with the ambition of bringing Vietnamese coffee to American market. Reuters wrote as “Revitalize one-citizen town in Wyoming into Vietnamese coffee center”.     

Despite being a late comer, Phin Deli seemed to introduce itself as the “first lover” of the U.S.

First love is always the first while first brand will not surely become the first of customers. A great story or a sweet confession is needed to help a new brand acquire the first position in the customer’s minds. 

And unlike most first love, when gaining success, a first brand normally comes to a … wedding. When customers fall in love with a certain brand for the first time, they will stay loyal, even forever.  

Nguyen Duc Son

Richard Moore Associates


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