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Cultural fluency is key to Vietnam

News, 21 March 2016

HO CHI MINH CITY: Opportunities abound in Vietnam, one of Asia's fastest-developing markets, but brands must find their place amid strong cultural traditions, according to the CEO of J. Walter Thompson Vietnam.

Saby Mishra believes that although Vietnamese consumers have moved beyond the initial excitement phase of new products, they are more outward looking and digitally connected to the world than ever before.

In an exclusive article for Warc, Mishra offers advice for brands looking to navigate Vietnam's rapidly growing, but complicated, marketing landscape.

Vietnam's consumer boom is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the late 2000s, Vietnam went from an isolated market of virtually no non-Vietnamese brands to a wealth of international branded products, pushing total retail sales to US$138bn in 2014, according to government statistics.

For global giants like Unilever, PepsiCo, P&G and Heineken, Vietnam has become a key building block in their South East Asia strategies.

Rising connectivity, particularly among young people, has built demand for international brands. But as the market matures, spending in many sectors has slowed and brands now have no choice but to dig deeper and drive growth through breakthrough insights, skill-sets and market development.

With such firm traditions, domestic cultural fluency can be make or break. Brands must realise that even in mono-lingual Vietnam, one size does not fit all.

Despite speaking the same language, Vietnamese consumers have very different behaviours depending on geographic location, not to mention different levels of purchase power.

Mishra argues that brands must adapt to the local culture to grow, particularly in the highly competitive food and beverage sector where centuries' old local traditions see multinationals such as Starbucks firmly defined as challenger brands.

For more on what brands need to understand to grow in Vietnam, click here and to learn more about what trends will shape Asia's emerging markets in 2016, click here.

Data sourced from Warc