Brands must constantly renew strategies to match the evolving Vietnamese culture and way of life, writes Ashish Kanchan, managing director for TNS Vietnam.
With increasing disposable incomes, rapid urbanisation and rising living standards, Vietnam is one of the most dynamic emerging economies in the South East Asia region. What’s more, these changes have brought about a significant social change – the rise of leisure time.
According to Consumer Pulse, an ongoing TNS study carried out over the past 20 years, consumer confidence in Vietnam is at its highest to date. And with optimism about the future increasing, retailers and brands have been drawn in by the opportunity that these optimistic and financially stable consumers bring.
The study, which looks at people’s outlook for the future, shows that the Vietnamese are feeling positive and confident about their current and future employment prospects. This in turn means that consumer spending is on the rise. Monthly expenditure compared to 2015 has increased, with the average Vietnamese person planning on saving 17% of their earnings and spending 83%. People are changing their habits and spending more money in their expanding free time, providing an opening for brands looking to connect with this growing consumer base.
With more time on their hands and money in their pocket, one of the biggest opportunities for brands in Vietnam is within the food and drink sector. The study revealed that 15% of people plan to spend more over the next 12 months. More leisure time has created more opportunities to socialise, and the activities associated with this have risen across the board, from street side ‘Bia Hoi’ drinking stalls to beer clubs.
Changing gender roles
Attitudes to beer have also changed, with a growing acceptance and appreciation of international beer brands.
In addition, changing gender roles have also affected the drinking culture. In comparison to 20 years ago where women still held traditional roles within the household, women are now an integral part of the workforce. In a country where going out for drinks is part of business life, this has begun to destigmatise women going out to enjoy drinks with colleges or friends and provided drinks brands with a new consumer base.
“More hectic work lives coupled with more time for play means that time is becoming increasingly valuable in Vietnam”
Domestic beer brands, such as Bia Saigon, Bia Hanoi and La Rue (popular in central Vietnam), currently lead the pack in Vietnam, however foreign brands such as Heineken, Tiger, Sapporo and most recently Budweiser have identified this growing opportunity and are making an impact in the local market, taking share from domestic brands. The emergence of craft beer breweries across major cities showcases how international brands are capitalising on global fashions and successfully introducing them to a Vietnamese audience.
More hectic work lives coupled with more time for play means that time is becoming increasingly valuable in Vietnam. People are now eating 17% more fast food in comparison to 20 years ago as they try to squeeze more into their day, creating opportunities for products and brands focused around convenience.
McDonald’s is one brand which has successfully adapted to the uniqueness of the Vietnamese market.
In Vietnam, the motorbike culture is all-pervasive, with over 45 million bikes in the country. Combining that with the Vietnamese love of self-expression. McDonald’s came up with the ‘VIP sticker’ for motorbikes and helmets, offering customers free soda every time they use the Drive Thru. As the Vietnamese become accustomed to many of the global brands that have had a presence in the country for years, businesses need to seek more emotive and creative hooks to build personal attachment to the brand.
Coca Cola is another example of an international brand which has won the hearts of the Vietnamese by understanding their way of life and adapting campaigns to it. Coke’s emoji ad, marketed through an LED billboard, targeted commuters at red lights and connected with them in those precious few seconds through humour.
It’s not just outside the home where things are changing. Widespread internet access is also transforming the way Vietnamese relax at home, providing new touchpoints for brands looking to connect.
Online replacing TV
Online activities have increased, replacing TV as the most common activity for urban Vietnamese relaxing at home. However, people are still watching the same amount of content as they did in the past.
In 1999, people reported watching 2.3 hours of TV daily; this is now 2.5 hours of content, but more time is spent watching online videos than TV, 1.3 hours to 1.2 hours respectively in urban areas. TV advertising is still effective, but brands aiming to gain an advantage over their competitors should be looking at how their audiences are consuming video content, and target their approach accordingly.
“Vietnam has experienced significant social and economic changes that have created the time, inclination and money for consumers to enjoy a whole new range of brands”
Sports advertising in particular presents a strong opportunity for brands wanting to target this developing consumer segment. The amount of people frequently watching sports has increased by 22% over the past two decades. With global channels regularly shown, consumer awareness of international brands is rising, and changing their tastes and expectations.
Vietnam has experienced significant social and economic changes that have created the time, inclination and money for consumers to enjoy a whole new range of brands, both local and international. However, to expand and embed themselves into the market, brands need to ensure that they constantly develop their strategies to match the evolving Vietnamese culture and way of life.