Recently in Vietnam, people are discussing about how domestic brands can find their own competitive advantage to be able to stand against the powerful foreign brands. Campaigns are running to encourage consumers to prefer the Vietnamese brands, attacking their patriotism to make the change. But is this going to be an effective move? Do consumers choose products because of their country of origin (COO)?
To answer the first question: is COO really that important? It comes to marketing theory, the answer is it depends. According to the consumer decision making process, there are 3 types: habitual, limited and extended decision making. As we move on the next more complex decision making, the more criterias we consider before purchase. Therefore, in case of FMCGs, which belong to habitual decision making process of consumers, COO is not really that important. Does the origin of OMO, P/s, Tuong An, Chin su or Hao Hao matter? The answer is no. So, you see COO does not relaly matter to these types of products, but does it mean a COO-marketing-based will have any effect? In my opinion, yes, but no. Yes, because products belonging in this category is mostly cheap, thus few risks for consumers to try the brand. Attacking patriotism can be effective. But why no? Because many foreign brands entering Vietnam take the Vietnamese brand name. Do you think consumers will spend time to find out about this? Absolutely not. Do people know Hao Hao belongs to Acecook, a Japansese company? When people find out about this, they will be surprised just like me when i realized this fact. You see, Hao Hao is a very familiar brand, so familiar to the Vietnamese consumers that it becomes a part of us. We never thought it came from a Japanese company. Next, when consumers involve in the limited and extended decision making process, COO becomes more important a factor. In many product categories, COO is so important that you cannot attack consumers’ partriotism. A laptop, TV, motorbike or car with a Vietnamese brand? Will consumers accept that? Never. But there can be some products that a Vietnamese origin can have a great effect, such as coffee house, wood furniture and a few others, which are products strongly produced and exported by Vietnam. So, if your products belong to this category, this advantage should be taken.
What can Vietnamese brands do better to compete against international brands?
Firsly, As mentioned, only products that are able to take the advantage of being a Vietnamese brand should focus on being a Vietnamese-oriented brand. Vietnamese famous products, such as mooncakes, coffee, rice should always remember this. Secondly, Vietnamese marketers must learn professional and effective marketing, which I believe is the most important part. In fact, a lot of Vietnamese brands waste tons of money. They lack of a proper measurement and waste a lot of time and money, which could be saved if they do it more professionally. Creative creative! Vietnam brands do lack that power, but this can’t be blamed because our education and training are just beginning to upgrade. Therefore, the ultimate answer to this problem is stop talking forever about ways to make Vietnamese people accept Vietnamese brands. In fact, I believe that is solution only touching the surface. You cannot make people accept what is not good, uncreative and inefficient. Change, change, change! If Vietnamese brands want to survive, please change!