The Great Brand Malaise?

Advertising budgets have swung away from mass media, towards short term direct online communications, at the expense of long-term brand building.

Not that long ago (well back in 2001) I could share a throw-away barb around the latest Nescafe advertisement with you and expect a smile because you could relate to the same shared experience.  Today it is highly unlikely that you have shared the same brand advertising experience as I, in a very long time. 

brand building

Brands are shared stories

Not that long ago I could harp on at my surprise at the latest developments in a popular TV crime thriller series, knowing that my colleagues had watched the same show last night. I could recognise that annoying tune a stranger was humming in the elevator as it was played too often on the radio. I could pass judgement be it laughter, slander or interest at the latest advertisement for Cadbury, Carlsberg or Nescafe.

Shared brand experiences are no more

What was once woven into our shared community experience may no longer be preceded with the word “shared”.  The advertisements I see are very different from those which my friends see.  When I listen to a concert on YouTube the advertisements that I am served differ from others, my Spotify playlist is radically different than the stranger in the elevator, after all, she has never heard of INXS.  My office colleagues might enjoy Sherlock, but it is just not thrilling enough for me. Even the news headlines my best friend sees in his Guardian news app, differ to mine (I did vote for Brexit after all); never mind the variation on advertisements served at him by Google and Facebook.

A brand once communicated shared trust

One of the core tenants of brand building is to generate a shared trust towards a brand. Such that the brand is considered acceptable, popular even, perhaps aspirational, to others just like you.  The brand simplifies our choices, a heuristic, for us to say; “that will do, it is a brand I recognise, it is common, it is popular, I trust it or even merely that this brand will do me no harm”.

Shared advertising experiences are rapidly disappearing, as fast as media is being personalised by the ability to amass data on us (to farm us) and serve personalised content and advertising.  Be this programme recommendations (Netflix), music recommendations (Spotify), stories and ads (Facebook), ads intermingled with search (Google) and news (news app).    

Media once shared, is now enjoyed in isolation

The decline in shared advertising experiences is augmented by the lack of shared screens, we have moved from a shared TV or radio to individual smartphones screens and headphones.  TV stations once sold TV-watching households, magazines harped on about subscribers and sold pass on readership and radio stations sold drive time audiences.   

You and I are now the product, unwitting data points

Today we are farmed for improved individual targeting. We are sold to brands as individuals, no longer are advertising sales anchored to a shared audience organised around a popular TV crime series, a magazine’s sports content or radio’s’ drive time slots. 

Our media content today is largely free, provided we can be sold to advertisers to fund this free information, entertainment and increasingly communications. All that convenience and content delivered to us on our smartphone comes as a price, we are the product and we are sold, resold, repackaged and resold over and over.  Explore some of the data shared with Facebook to help them target you more precisely. When I downloaded Facebook’s data on myself, it amounted to 228 megabytes, a dull 228 megabytes, but an excessive amount of information.

Take the time to read those opaque terms and conditions we agree to in order to use that air quality, ride-hailing or payment app. Read how journalist tracked the movements of US politicians.  If Cambridge Analytica were to be believed, we are farmed down to the ability to stop us voting or nudge us to vote for the desired candidate. 

The money involved has grown exponentially, online will account for 50% of all advertising expenditure in 2020. The concentration of advertising expenditure reached one in four dollars being spent on Facebook or Google in 2018 and is accelerating.

Facebook, Google and numerous data brokerages have in excess of a million data points on each of us, way beyond our political leanings to enable targeted advertisements to nudge our behaviour in desired directions.  The only common mediums that still enable a shared social context are cinema, radio and outdoor display. Today if you and I don’t use the same elevator bank, then it is highly unlikely that we have seen the same advertising in a very long time. 

Brands now follow our data footprint

Brands buy our data footprint, not the shared audience for a TV crime series.  Brands naturally follow us as they seek to nudge our behaviour, they follow us to where we enjoy all forms of media content. They will use product placement in our favourite Netflix shows, target us on Facebook, push us an offer on our health apps, bug use when we are searching online and pay for e-commerce recommendations to us.  Less and less are they paying for TV-watching households, drive time audiences and pass-on readership.

Less and less shared brand advertising experiences, in turn, lead to less shared trust and value (equity) in brands. The narrower the audience, the fewer inroads a brand will make into, our shared familiarity, popularity and trust.

In turn, the less resilient is the brand to a disruption (retailers on the British High Street), a product recall (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Note 7), a public relations mistake (e.g. Gillette #metoo advertisement).

Further, less able is a brand to evolve its logo, its pack design nor extend its range with a new variety.  The less able is a brand to rejuvenate, to leverage its brand assets, re-launch to remain relevant to the next generation, nor launch new products and services.

Brand building has lost the shared brand story

As brands invest less in shared experiences, in shared media and fewer bricks and mortar retail outlets, they have rapidly exited our shared consciousness. Using corporate lifespans as a gauge, the prognosis is a little bleak as their lifespans falter at an ever-increasing rate

corporate lifespans falter Cimigo brand building

Advertising when individually targeted buys you and I as isolated data points. It is better-targeted mass marketing using data-driven media buying. It harks back to an era of direct and catalogue marketing (circa 1965-1985), in that it is measured in direct conversion responses; click, lead generation, sign up, sale, cross-sell, upsell, recommendations and referrals.   It encourages affiliate marketing, clickbait and sensationalised headlines.

Influencers and their false metrics, massive online fraud, smartphone click farms, bot factories, a broken transparency promise, personal data breaches and incongruent and disparate data sources with false metrics mask and confuse the true return on investments in this era of online data-driven direct marketing. Not that understanding the return on investment was any better when buying TV, print nor radio advertising. 

Recent studies have proven that only half of the online advertising spend today reaches publishers, with a myriad of middlemen taking their cut within the buying ecosystem.  

Marketing professionals’ pursuit of these misleading metrics leads to two extremes of advertising formats. Neither of which build a brand into a shared experience which tells a brand story and helps to grow the brand’s value over time nor protect the brand in times of distress. They can propel short term sales, lead generation or reviews.

The first format of advertising in an online banner or post that is tactical at best, functionally skewed, promotion driven and rarely capable of hitting the basic creative tenants of great advertising (see Advertising that works below). 

You and I can create an online display advertisement with a call to action and get an industry average of 0.35% click-through rate on Google and 0.89% for Facebook. But creating an online advertisement, where the combined image and headline, stop us in our tracks, grab attention, make us think and help anchor the brand positively in our memory is a true and rare creative talent.

The second format is the surrogate for TV advertising; video. YouTube announced advertising revenues of US$15.5 billion in 2019 more than US TV networks ABC, NBC and Fox combined. Increasingly Video has become a long play, where the story requires the audience to watch for not a mere 30 seconds, but 2 to 6 minutes.  Off course YouTube and Facebook reinforce this approach, reassuring us that all is well because 30 seconds of play count as a view on YouTube and a mere 3 seconds of play count as a view in Facebook (hence why the autoplay function is the default setting).  As if that is not enough fraudulent “views” can be bought

Even if you and I can create a brand story that meets the tenants of great advertising, only the best creative minds can meet the challenge of delivering that story in a 30-second advertisement spot.   

Advertising that works

From Cimigo’s empirical research from testing over 400 videos highlights adverting that works, we have learnt these eight tenants:

  1. Creative hook – which is integral to brand or message.
  2. Brand integrated into the story – not merely by association.
  3. Think campaign! – think of a campaign idea. Not a single video.
  4. Own brand cues and styles – dramatically improve efficiency.
  5. Keep it simple – really simple! – say less and communicate more.
  6. Break category advertising expectations – stop advertising the category.
  7. Resonate by tapping into emotions – social responsibility, pride, family values, culture, humour is a powerful tool as is a feel-good factor.
  8. Credibly convincing – new news is not always essential but helps convince. Dramatise with purpose or humour.

We have ignored the empirical evidence

Since the first banner advertisement in Wired’s (hotwired) online magazine back in 1994, the promise of a new era of digital marketing with transparent returns on media and advertising investments has never materialised.  Advertising and media agencies have followed the money and caved in the face of being labelled “traditional” and “out of touch”.  

The most empirical work to date conducted by Les Binet and Peter Field, Media in Focus: Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era, IPA has proven that the optimal ratio of expenditure between brand-building communications and sales activation is 60:40. 

Brand building versus sales activation brand building

Yet for many brands, the imagined budgetary pendulum has swung far more to activation spend (mostly online) and away from brand-building communications. Below is their summary, if you read only one of the hyperlinks in this article, this is the one to read;

  1. Budget is one of the most important determinants of campaign effectiveness (second only to the creative work in importance).
  2. Share of voice is an important metric. The rate at which a brand gains market share tends to be proportional to its “extra” share of voice defined as the difference between the share of voice and market share.
  3. The balance between brand and activation also matters. A 60:40 ratio of brand to activation spend is typically optimal.
  4. Sales activation works best when focused on people who are likely to buy now or very soon. Tightly targeted media work best for activation.
  5. Brand building takes more time, and requires repeated exposures, often over months or years. The target audience may not be buying for some time, and are not necessarily interested in the category right now.
  6. Brand effects are enhanced by social amplification and herd behaviour. ‘Fame’ strategies that get everyone talking about a brand are extremely powerful and efficient, despite the seeming ‘wastage’ involved.
  7. The long-term, social nature of brand building favours broad-reach media, rather than tight targeting.
  8. For sales activation, rational messages tend to work best, so information-rich media are useful (ideally with a direct response mechanism).
  9. For brand building, emotional priming works better. Audio-visual channels excel here (and music can play a surprisingly big role).
  10. Online channels make offline media more effective, and vice versa.

Big brands are not built online

Most experienced marketing professionals would not advocate for online communications alone, however, there are far more inexperienced people propagating an online-only solution. Consider for a moment these two questions;

  1. Think of an example of a great brand that has been built online?
  2. Think of an example of a great online advertising campaign, that alone was game-changing (i.e. shifted sales or market share significantly) for the brand?

I am normally met with silence from online advertising advocates or given the same example of the Old Spice campaign.

Big brands are rarely built online. Local neighbourhood brands can be built online, a local store or restaurant, books can reach a very targeted audience online and create momentum. I can seek referrals and reviews online to help build trust.  The online world has a very long tail of niche interest groups that can create shared spaces for passionate interest groups to meet, share and for brands to reach them.

But again big brands are rarely built online. Those that I can think off include online platforms, e-commerce, online media, mobile applications, software as a service, brands run by celebrity CEOs (e.g. Elon Musk’s Tesla) or celebrity (licensed) beauty brands such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty

Big brands cannot be maintained online alone

Online advertising alone cannot provide shared brand experiences and infiltrate society in a way that creates our shared familiarity, popularity and trust. If big brands can rarely be built online then why would we expect them to be maintained online? To repeat one of Les Binet’s and Peter Field’s conclusions; the long-term, social nature of brand building favours broad-reach media, rather than tight targeting.  Interestingly Google, Facebook and Amazon will be advertising at the Superbowl 2020, seeking broad media reach.

So why then have the big brands not gone away?

I have sought empirical evidence that big brands are faltering and heading for demise, but I have yet to find it.  I can see anecdotal evidence that those aged under 30 have less trust towards big brands than those aged over 40. I can see anecdotal evidence of brands in some categories losing relevance to consumers.  However, the evidence is not definitive beyond expected brand life cycles.   

Perhaps the demise of big brands is not imminent, however, I do believe that too many large brands are resting on their heritage and their investments in the brand over previous decades (and for many brands over centuries). At 50 years of age, it works for me, my trust was built long ago and reinforced through my brand behaviour. For my 18-year-old daughter, most big consumer good brands hold very little relevance. At some point, perhaps a demographic tipping point, will this malaise lead to an outright demise?

Before this becomes a history lesson, I do urge all of us all to regularly recalibrate our marketing channels and play a brand-building game that goes beyond our own job tenure and that will leave our successors with a strong brand.  We must invest more in long term brand building than we do in supporting sales with short term activations. We must use all channels which are fit for purpose, both online and offline, with an understanding of the metrics and their limitations.   If we do not, I fear our successors will accuse of as having followed the pied piper down the abyss of advertising’s worst hyperbole.   

Vietnam consumer market trends 2016

Market research company Cimigo reports on the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016. The report was presented at the Vietnam Market Research Trends 2016 organised by M2 – Marketing & Media Network. The report can be downloaded here. The transformation of Vietnam between 2005 and 2015 demonstrates the rapidly changing consumer marketing environment. The report highlights the ten Vietnam consumer market trends in 2016, impacting the purchase priorities of consumers in Vietnam.

10 Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 impacting purchase priorities

1. High income households double in 10 years in Vietnam.
2. Life stages in Vietnam are maturing. Kids are less influential in determining purchase priorities.
3. The rise of new retail chasing share before profits in Vietnam.
4. The rise beer clubs, cafes and casual fast service restaurant chains grow in Vietnam.
5. Health consciousness in Vietnam translates into action and spend.
6. Conspicuous consumption has always been mobile in Vietnam.
7. Keeping up with the Nguyen’s with consumer finance in Vietnam.
8. Self expression immediacy in Vietnam.
9. Mobile drives internet penetration and habits in Vietnam.
10. Consumers in Vietnam shift from brand ownership to new experiences.

High income households double in 10 years in Vietnam

High income households double in 10 years in Vietnam

The first of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the rise in purchase power. Over the past 10 years Vietnam has experienced rapid economic development. The number of high income households earning over US$500 per month per household, has risen from 1.8 million to over 4 million.

The Vietnam economy tripled in size over 10 years

Over the same period the size of the Vietnam economy has nearly tripled to USD175 billion. With population growth at just under 10% Vietnam’s population is now just over 91 million. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is now at US$1,923 per person.

Vietnam advertising expenditure grew nearly 600% in 10 years

Advertising expenditure in Vietnam grew 579% from US$280 million in 2005 to a US$1.93 billion in 2015. TV is still king dominating spend at over 75% of all spend. Digital advertising expenditure whilst the fastest growing is only at estimated US$62 million. Advertising has grown far faster then the economy, this is only in minor part owing media inflation, the vast majority of the increase, represents increasing numbers of brands scrambling for a voice and the rise of domestic companies (especially in foods, beverages and healthcare) embracing the consumer economy in Vietnam.

Life stages in Vietnam are maturing

Life stages in Vietnam are maturing

The second of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016, is the maturing of life stages. Vietnam’s population by life stage has under gone a major transformation in between 2005 and 2015.  Young singles, young married couples with no children and young married couples with a child less than 10 years of age have all declined in absolute numbers. Vietnam’s population and household structures are changing by life stage, with children’s pester power having a declining influence on household purchase priorities.

The life stage with the strongest growth is old and single having growth of 74% over 2005 to just over 10 million people.  Empty nester’s, where the children have grown up and left home, have increased 63% and those married with the youngest child aged more than 9 and less than 20 have increased by 36%.   These changes in Vietnam’s population life stages have a strong impact on purchase priorities, children receive a disproportionate focus in household spend as parents seek to leverage opportunities for their children, that they feel they themselves missed out on.  This has an impact on baby care, infant milk formula, children’s beverages and snacks and off course larger ticket items including education, insurance and tourism.

Vietnam’s population by life stage will have changed radically by 2025 with fewer than 30 million people being in the empty nester and old single life stages.  This demographic shift in Vietnam will see a population with 33 million young singles, nearly 14 million empty nester’s and just over 16 million old singles.

Kids are less influential in determining purchase priorities

Ponder the fact that in 2005 one third of households had no dependent children. In 2015 44% of households had no children and by 2025 nearly 60% of households will have no dependent children.  The shopping basket (or perhaps delivery box) will look vastly different than today with major implications for consumer goods and a huge potential opportunity for services in Vietnam.

The rise of new retail chasing share before profits in Vietnam

The rise of new retail chasing share before profits in Vietnam

The third of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the rise in modern and convenient retail.

Supermarkets and shopping mall expansion in Vietnam

The number of supermarkets in Vietnam has risen form 47 in 2005 to 975 today.

Following on the tails of early entrants Diamond Plaza (opened in 1999) and Parkson (opened first mall in 2005 and has 8 as of December 2015), shopping malls are on the rise, lead by the exponential expansion of Vincom shopping centres, with 19 centres in 2015 and many more in the pipeline. Private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which has invested a total of $300 million in Vincom Retail of Vingroup to for their mall, mini mart and e-commerce expansion. Foreign entrants LotteRobinsAeon and Emart all opened new malls in 2015.

Modern self service convenience accelerates in Vietnam

In 2005 there were 135 modern self service stores, mostly independently owned and managed. Today there are over 1,800 modern self service stores, mostly part of chains after an intense year of merger and acquisitions in Vietnam retail industry.  To the casual observer the rise is modern self service stores in Vietnam is anecdotal evidence of the rise in Vietnam’s middle class.  In reality the vast majority of this new modern convenient retail is excess investments funding a race to capture future exit (or listing) valuations, a long play and for many, a high stakes gamble. Local operators include VinMart+ and  B’s Mart and foreign operators such as Circle K, Shop&GoFamilyMart and Aeon Citimart. Yet there are still more to come in 2016, with the imminent entry of both Seven Eleven and AuchanSuper.

These numbers refer to modern (well lit, with aisles and air conditioning) and self service (shoppers may browse, select and pay at the counter) and include mini marts and convenience stores. However the most are not operating at a profit and are investing in a future that is less than certain, with a race to dominate retail space and are currently buying market share.

Despite the rise in modern self service retail outlets there are been no growth in modern trades contribution to grocery retail sales, which remains dominated by traditional trade (traditional trade still contributes over 80% of general grocery sales now as it did in 2005). Most traffic at convenience stores is dominated by students and first jobbers, using them as on premise snacking venues (with the advantage of air conditioning and wifi).

Consumer shopping behaviour in Vietnam

As in 2005, in 2015 traditional grocery stores still count for over 80% of grocery sales. Despite all the new modern trade stores, the modern trade contribution to retail sales in Vietnam has not shifted.  The convenience store operators are inhibited by ingrained consumer shopping behaviour in Vietnam where the traditional grocery trade involves four critical factors. Firstly, traditional grocery is ubiquitous and hence extremely convenient. Secondly, household purchasers maintain long term and trusting relationships with sellers who are the owner and operator (and often their own landlord) at these stores. Thirdly, the diet in Vietnam is fresh food based and therefore shopping trips for food stuffs are daily and this shopping basket in Vietnam is predominantly fresh food produce (unavailable at convenient stores and a limited choice at mini marts). Fourthly, most shoppers do not need to get off their motorbike when visiting their traditional neighbourhood grocery store, which is hard to beat for convenience!

The rise of e-commerce in Vietnam

E-commerce represents yet another false economy for many casual observers.  In 2005 e-commerce was essentially scratch cards used to extreme profitably for internet games at internet cafes.  Despite Vietnam being a cash payment economy in 2015 there are over 20 e-payment and e-cash service providers fighting for domination in Vietnam’s e-commerce market servicing over 50,000 e-commerce sites.  The race here is on for transaction volumes to attract funding; successful for some such as Momo.

Online shopping is strongest for gaming, utilities, mobile top up, fast fashion, travel, health supplements and household appliances to date. Despite the hype most of the e-commerce platforms are burning through investor’s funding whilst subsidising discounted prices as they buy market share, transaction volume growth and ultimately more investment funds.

The latest evidence is the owners of Lazada and Zalora and selling to Alibaba as the latter dives into South East Asia. In Vietnam where cash dominates payments, these platforms provide the extreme convenience of cash on delivery eliminating any shopper risk in online shopping and inhibiting any benefits from and the move to e-payments.

The only winners in this race are Vietnamese online shoppers, the few investors lucky enough to realise a return will likely find it from other investors, ultimately very few online shopping platforms will realise an operating success.

The rise beer clubs, cafes and casual fast service restaurant chains grow in Vietnam

The rise beer clubs, cafes and casual fast service restaurant chains grow in Vietnam

The fourth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the growth in coffee, beer and fast service restaurant chains.

Beer clubs proliferate, per capita consumption reaches 36.75 litres per person in 2015

Beer clubs such as Vuvuzela (14 beer clubs from Golden Gate Group), Fox Beer Club, Beer Club V and a plethora of similar venues have been in places for the past few years.

Branded cafe chains growth in Vietnam

Branded cafe chains have followed on the success of Highlands Coffee  (98 outlets in Vietnam initially built by Viet Thai International Company and now owned by Jollibee Foods Corp) and Trung Nguyen with over 1000 outlets but without a consistent chain environment nor service. International brands now include; Starbucks (19 outlets by Maxims),  Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (16 outlets), MOF (9 outlets), Angel-in-us Coffee (5 outlets by Lotte Group), NYDC (5 outlets), Cafe Benne (5 outlets) and Gloria Jean’s (3 outlets) and new entrant Holly’s Coffee (2 outlets).

The rise is not only foreign brands but local brands such as vertically integrated Phuc Long Cafe (14 outlets), Coffee House (10 outlets by Seedcom) and the Coffee Factory (3 outlets).  Other rapidly expanding chains include Urban Station (33 outlets), Passio Coffee (20 outlets) and Our  Matcha and Cafe (4 outlets).

Bubble tea is on the rise at menus in many of the aforementioned cafes, especially Phuc Long Cafe but bubble tea chains are also on the rise with the likes of Chattime (2 outlets), Tien Huong (2 outlets) and Hot & Cold (1 outlet).

Branded fast service restaurants and casual dining chains grow in Vietnam

Asian casual dining and fast service restaurants have been on the rise since the early franchiser Pho 24  (71 outlets – acquired  in 2013 by Viet Thai International Company and Jollibee Foods Corp) took the market by storm. Banh Mi Que Tam (95 outlets) quietly leads the way on store counts. Mon Hue (60 outlets), Pho Ong Hung (33 outlets), Com Tho Chay (13 outlets – previously branded Com Express) all from Huy Vietnam Group Limited  which has 112 restaurants under 4 brands and raised US$15 million in 2015 for further expansion. Kichi Kichi (22 outlets) from Golden Gate Group, which has developed 150 restaurants across 19 concepts since 2005. Wrap and Roll (10 outlets) looks set to expand further in 2016.

Western casual dining and fast service restaurants continue to proliferate since early entrant KFC (opening their first outlet in 1997, in 2015 KFC had 128 outlets by Yum! Brands Inc and Jardine Pacific).  Joining the fray are Lotteria (195 outlets by  Lotte Group), Jollibee (60 outlets by Jollibee Foods Corp), Pizza Hut (54 outlets by Yum! Brands Inc and Jardine Pacific), Domino’s Pizza (24 outlets), Popeyes (16 outlets ), Burger King (13 outlets by Imex Pan Pacific), McDonald’s (8 outlets by Good Day Hospitality), Subway (6 outlets) and Carl’s Jr (3 outlets).

Al Frescos Group has 31 outlets across 7 brands today including;  Al Frescos (11 outlets), Pepperonis (13 outlets) and Jaspas (3 outlets). L Concepts (The Longfort Group, Malaysia) plans to open the Sizzlin’ Steak chain one of many casual dining brands from the Manila based Max Group Inc.’s.  Following their acquisition  of L’Usine in 2015, yet another high end cafe and casual dining environment will be expanding sites.

Even ice cream joins the rise of branded chains with Baskin Robbins (24 outlets), Bud’s Ice Cream (20 outlets),Swensen’s (7 outlets) and Haagen-Dazs (2 outlets) with more to come as TNC Holdings are launching Cold Stone Creamery in Vietnam in 2016.  Chain bakeries have emerged with Fresh Garden (32 outlets), Dunkin Donuts (16 outlets), BreadTalk (15 outlets) and Tours les Jours (12 outlets).

The rise of modern chains has changed the shape of Vietnam’s retail environment and the rental market. They are set to continue to rise with property development and increased interest from private equity groups.

Health consciousness in Vietnam translates into action and spend

Health consciousness in Vietnam translates into action and spend

The fifth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is increased health consciousness and spend. In 2005 consumers in Vietnam ranked health as a top concern (behind their job and the economy). It remains the same in 2015. However in these health concerns had superficial misguided consumer reactions, for example consuming cleansing and detoxifying beverages such as 0 Degrees (an inner cooling and purification positioned beverage from THP) launched in 2006, which in fact contained very little green team and is mostly sugared water.

Fast forward to 2015 and as Cimigo noted in the Consumer healthcare trends in Vietnam, Asia report the use of traditional remedies and supplements as exploded.   Vietnam is seeing exponential growth in health supplements and healthcare spend, consider that outbound overseas medical tourism reached US$2 billion spend by consumers from Vietnam in 2015.

Food safety concerns have only increased over 2005 and remain very topical today, leading to new investments to address consumer fears. VinGroup’s Vineco has invested US$44 million in hygienic fresh vegetable production to supply its own Vinmart mini markets with fresh safe local produce.

Branded chains in gyms, health and beauty retail and pharmacies emerging in Vietnam

Branded chains are emerging with over 100 branded gyms now available to capture value from these healthy lifestyles. Beauty and healthcare chains are on the rise with GNC (11 outlets), Medicare (41 outlets) and Guardian (37 outlets) amongst those expanding. Pharmaceutical retail has reacted with a largely disorganised sector becoming gradually organised with the rise of chains (several of whom are vertically integrated) such as Phano (51 outlets), Pharmacity (31 outlets), My Chau (7 outlets), Indochina -Dong Duong (5 outlets) and Eco (2 outlets). Healthcare is one category growing strongly for e-commerce with sites such as Pharmacy Supermarket.

Conspicuous consumption has always been mobile in Vietnam

Conspicuous consumption has always been mobile in Vietnam

The sixth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is in status driven conspicuous consumption. In 2005 conspicuous consumption was most obvious and mobile in the motorbike that one drove. In 2005 The Gioi Di Dong (Mobile World) opened their fourth store, today they have 600 stores.  Other mobile phone retail chains include FPT (290 outlets), Viettel (285 outlets) and Viet Thong A (193 outlets).  The replacement cycle has shortened dramatically as mobile phones become the new signal for social status.

Keeping up with the Nguyen’s with consumer finance in Vietnam

Keeping up with the Nguyen’s with consumer finance in Vietnam

The seventh of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the rise of consumer finance for consumers in Vietnam. In 2005, 6,000 new apartments sold in Vietnam according to CBRE. In 2015, 36,000 new apartments were sold.   In 2005 just over 25,000 new passenger cars were sold, in 2015 just over 125,000 new passenger cars were sold. Consumer finance in Vietnam reached 3.6% of GDP in 2005 at US$1.6 billion in consumer loans, in 2015 it is an estimated 9% of GDP at US$16 billion.

Consumer finance companies with their quick approval processes for unsecured loans have fueled the growth in consumer financing. Home & improvements account for approximately 40%, home appliances and electronics 30% and motorbikes and cars 15%.  Look at a new apartment, a motorbike showroom or browse a mobile phone or home appliances store and there will always be several competing consumer finance agents, ready to sign up the consumer in Vietnam with financing.  Keeping up with the Nguyen’s is made far easier with this easy access to unsecured consumer finance.

Self expression immediacy in Vietnam

Self expression immediacy in Vietnam

The eighth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the rise of social networks for self expression. In 2005 self expression was strongest on the now defunct Yahoo blogs, singing ballads at karaoke and football mania to rival the best British football fan.  In 2015, as this previous post noted on Online, mobile, social media in Vietnam Asia the growth in internet, social media and instant messaging applications is enabling 35 million consumers in Vietnam to post emoticons, stickers, selfies and status updates.

Mobile drives internet penetration and habits in Vietnam

Mobile drives internet penetration and habits in Vietnam

The ninth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the changes in media consumption as mobile drives internet penetration and mobile, video and over the top TV streaming converge.

Nationally 48% of the population is accessing the internet in 2015.  Frequent online access (in the past 7 days) is far higher in urban areas having reached 72% by December 2015.  In contrast many rural consumers remain without online access or access infrequently, only 20% are regularly accessing the internet. Mobile penetration is increasing access for rural consumers as rural penetration of mobile smartphones increases.

Mobile phone penetration including smartphones has reached 69% nationally amongst those aged 15 years or more. Smartphone (included within the latter statistic) penetration has reached 28% of those aged 15 years or more. Mobile access to the internet is changing the habits amongst online consumers in Vietnam and is successfully increasing penetration for two key consumer groups; consumers in rural areas and consumers aged over 35 years. For many consumers in Vietnam their first online experience is via mobile, having leapfrogged other devices.

Online mobile page views are growing exponentially and as at the end of 2015 accounted for 1 in 4 page views.  The implication for brands and their digital marketing teams are discussed in more detail here Online, mobile, social media in Vietnam Asia.  Further evidence of the rise on smartphones is found in the growth of mobile app downloads which grew by 60% in 2015.

Vietnam consumer market trends 2016

Fragmented opportunities as mobile, video and OTT TV converge in Vietnam

Fragmented opportunities as mobile, video and OTT

Mobile audiences for video streaming are growing exponentially.   The convergence of video and mobile, which when married with local media content and efficient streaming, will reap huge rewards.  The next technology race for active users of mobile native applications in Vietnam will be the streaming of online video to mobile smartphones.

Experience in China demonstrates the massive revenue opportunity waiting to be grabbed for the winner of this battle.  Digital brand marketing teams in Vietnam will have to brace themselves for the winners of the real estate battle for chatting and video streaming native applications. Social media promotion in Vietnam remains inexpensive.  New dominant players in chatting and video mobile applications will be the omnipresent media channels to directly communicate with consumers. Soon the winners will be start to monetise and generate significant revenue from brands to access these consumers.

Watch out for Clip which has an abundance of local video on demand content and is closest you can come to a local YouTube in Vietnam. Other over the top (OTT) channels to watch include established telecommunications firms FPTplay (FPT),  NetTV (Viettel)  MyTV  (VNPT) and new entrants Fim+ and Netflix, which may be limited by a focus on Hollywood content.

Consumers in Vietnam shift from brand ownership to new experiences

consumer shift to new experience

The tenth of the Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 is the shift in consumer fulfillment from the ownership of brands to new experiences; particularly experiences which can be socially validated and shared to provide a sense of actualisation. In 2005 consumers in Vietnam were bombarded with new consumer packaged brands. Opportunities to use these new brands gave consumers a sense of fulfillment; of catching up with the consumer world seen overseas on TV.

Today the urban and more affluent consumer in Vietnam finds fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment through their shared experiences. That may be trying the new retail environments discussed herein, enjoying a gym membership, rock wall climbing, experiencing the delights of modern cinema or travelling independently.

Leisure travel and tourism habits provide a great example of this shift. In 2005 a traveller in Vietnam was likely to travel domestically in groups and the lucky few who travelled overseas would typically do so on tour group packages. As Cimigo’s Insights to Travellers report indicates, travel habits have changed dramatically with many urban consumers having experienced international leisure travel, where independent travel accounts for nearly half of these travellers’ experiences.

Garnering involvement and excitement with new packaged brand launches a has become far harder, as consumers shift purchase priorities to enjoying and sharing new experiences.

10 Vietnam consumer market trends 2016 impacting purchase priorities

1. High income households double in 10 years in Vietnam.
2. Life stages in Vietnam are maturing. Kids are less influential in determining purchase priorities.
3. The rise of new retail chasing share before profits in Vietnam.
4. The rise beer clubs, cafes and casual fast service restaurant chains grow in Vietnam.
5. Health consciousness in Vietnam translates into action and spend.
6. Conspicuous consumption has always been mobile in Vietnam.
7. Keeping up with the Nguyen’s with consumer finance in Vietnam.
8. Self expression immediacy in Vietnam.
9. Mobile drives internet penetration and habits in Vietnam.
10. Consumers in Vietnam shift from brand ownership to new experiences.

More hot consumer market research trends Vietnam Asia

Cimigo, a market research agency Vietnam, Asia presents the latest consumer trends.

Vietnam Market Research Trends 2016

Register Now Join us for Vietnam Market Research Trends 2016 at April’s M2 – Marketing & Media Network.
Six of Vietnam’s leading market research experts who will discuss trends in Consumer, Media, Mobile, Retail and The Future of Market Research.

April 6th (Wed) at Hard Rock Cafe / 6:00pm ~ 9:00pm. Pre-paid – 250,000 VND / At the door – 350,000 VND. As with all  M2 – Marketing events there will be networking with drinks and food before and after the presentations.

The event is co-organized with ESOMAR Vietnam and the Vietnam Market Research Community – If you can attend only one event this year on market research, make sure you attend this one.

Vietnam Market Research Trends 2016

Moderator |
Lien Phuong
Tran Lien Phuong
Research Director
InsightAsia Research Group

Tran Lien Phuong [aka SKINNY], appointed as Research Director, InsightAsia Research Group, Vietnam since August 2015.

  • Research Director at Epinion | October 2011- July 2015
  • Group Account Director & Research Director, TNS Vietnam | 1996 – 2011
  • Senior Account Supervisor, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising | 1994-1996

A well-known moderator and speaker at international seminars on Brand Strategy and Communication and an “honored lecturer” at Vietnam Marcom since 2000. Experienced with many large market research projects for both local and multinational clients across multiple sectors

Skinny is a certified Neuro Linguistics Programming (NLP) Specialist, and one of the most senior research practitioners in Vietnam’s market research industry.

Speakers |
Richard Burrage
Managing Partner


Richard Burrage is the Managing Partner of Cimigo, a regional marketing research agency in Asia. Richard has worked across Asia Pacific consulting across a range of industries and business issues. He travels constantly. He loves advising clients on new product development, brand and communications development. Richard is a UK national, who has lived in Asia longer than his place of birth. He resides in Saigon, with his Vietnamese wife and three children.

Ralf Matthaes
Managing Director
Infocus Consultants

Topic – MOBILE

Ralf is the founder and Managing Director of Infocus Mekong Research, Vietnam’s first dedicated Mobile Market Research firm. Infocus focuses on Mobile phone data collection, specialized custom research and integrated strategic research and covers the Mekong region with partners, MDI & POD Research.

As Vietnam’s longest practicing Market Researcher, Ralf established TNS Vietnam in 1996 and over the years, set-up and ran TNS Media, Kantar Worldpanel and operations in Cambodia and Myanmar, garnering dominant market share in each market, as well as running TNS Thailand & Malaysia.

A Graduate of Wilfred Laurier University, Ralf served as Aide de Campe (read glorified coffee boy) for the Deputy Minister of Ontario Canada before succumbing to the charms of Vietnam in January of 1994.

Ricardo Glenn
Business Director
Kantar Media Vietnam

Topic – MEDIA

Ricardo Glenn is the Business Development Director of Digital and the Cambodia Market for Kantar Media Vietnam. He has more than 20 years of experience working on Marketing, Market Research & Consulting in Mexico and Vietnam.

He has worked with many of Vietnam’s leading Communications & Market Research companies including Epinion, GSK, Millward Brown and Nielsen before joining Kantar Media in 2014. He has worked with a variety of multinational companies including Coca Cola, General Motors, Mars, Nestle and WalMart.

Phil Worthington
Managing Director
Millward Brown Vietnam

Topic – The Future of Market Research

Phil Worthington is the Managing Director of Millward Brown Vietnam, responsible for overseeing the expansion of the Millward Brown brand in Vietnam.

Phil is one of the most experienced authorities on the development of brands in Vietnam, having worked in the market research industry here since 1994. His particular area of focus is on understanding brands and communication impact.

Interspersed with his time in Vietnam, Phil has also worked for market research companies in Myanmar (1997), the UK (1999-2001) and Thailand (2004-2007) and has a keen understanding of marketing in Southeast Asia. He is a key speaker at brand and marketing events in Vietnam and overseas.

Dzung Nguyen
Director, Retail Measurement
Nielsen Vietnam

Topic – RETAIL

Dzung Nguyen is Director of Nielsen Retail Measurement Services. Prior to this, he was a CMI Director of Mondelez Kinh Do and Nielsen Analytics Consulting in USA & China.

Dzung has extensive experience in market research in both developed markets (the United States) and developing markets (China & Vietnam) and a great story of driving team development and client management.

More hot consumer market research trends Vietnam Asia

Cimigo, a market research agency Vietnam, Asia presents the latest consumer trends.