Positioning Vietnamese value

Wednesday, 2019-02-20 08:24:42
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Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) attends the opening of the National Creative Innovation Day - Techfest 2018 in November last year. (Photo: NDO/Anh Dao)
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NDO – The world is changing in the way of recognising national brands. Accordingly, "national brands" are not only associated with products and businesses, but also a combination of values of culture, society, ethnicity and commodities produced by each country. Such elements are different, but reciprocal. These values, besides the common standards, must be different from those around the world. In other words, it is the impression that international friends, tourists or consumers think of a country. Only when such values are located, can the country come up with a suitable development philosophy.

Defining the “national brand” concept

2018 marked an impressive year for Vietnamese businesses in the international arena. Two Vinfast-made sedans and SUV models that were launched at an auto show in Paris (France) have surprised even the largest car manufacturers in the world. Only one year after its establishment, Vinfast has launched its first two car models with dynamic designs, in line with modern trends. Rice was once a strong export item of Vietnam, but now has "retreated" to give way to others, such as seafood exports (about US$9 billion) and fruit exports (over US$4 billion). In the seafood sector, Vietnam is a "pangasius giant", with an absolute market share of more than 90%. However, the national brands and products exported to the world lack their own characteristics and outstanding values ​​representing Vietnam, the values when it comes to discussions, people can immediately recognise that it is a Vietnamese enterprise and Vietnamese values.

Vietnamese businesses have made great efforts in conquering the world market, but those efforts are still limited and lack a common development philosophy. Most businesses listen, learn, and adjust their products according to market demands, but there is no strategy to mark the products with their own impressions.

The story is very different for Japanese products, which are a Vietnamese favourite. Whenever speaking of Japanese products, it is not necessary to know which brand they belong to, Vietnamese think immediately of reliability and persistence. The impression of "Japanese brands" also comes from the culture and personality of the Japanese people. Japan belongs to the group of countries with the most developed technology in the world, but also maintains and disseminates traditional cultural forms to the world. Such "non-economic" factors are the foundation for Japanese people to create "made in Japan" products, regardless of brand. And those "non-economic" factors always have a strong impact on consumers' psychology when standing in front of a Japanese-branded product.

Back to Vietnam, for a long time, the "national brands" have just been recognised purely in the field of production and business operation without a comprehensive view. Strong brandnames are indispensable to form a “national brand”, like Japan having Sony and Toyota, the Republic of Korea owning Samsung and Hyundai, and the US with Apple and Google. In contrast, a collection of a large group of Vietnamese companies, such as Hapro, Vinamilk and Hoa Sen Group, lacking one or several common national values, will find it hard to form a “national brand”. It is impossible to represent the country if they only operate in the domestic market. There is also little attention paid to the interaction between cultural, social and behavioural factors of Vietnamese people towards customers' feelings when selecting Vietnamese products.

Positioning Vietnamese values

Vietnam is among the world’s "pangasius giants", with an absolute market share accounting for over 90%. (Photo: NDO)

For a long time, "good at fighting" was known as a typical characteristic when talking about Vietnam, as the country has experienced multiple wars with the world’s powers. Then, Vietnam became known as an example of poverty reduction, and also the land of young and cheap labour. But those "brands", sometimes reluctant, are no longer suitable for the current context, or even suitable for economic purposes, especially when Vietnam is aiming at building an export-based economy.

Until this time, although being a major exporter, especially for several key items such as rice, coffee, textiles and footwear, the "Vietnamese imprint" in those products is still fuzzy. Vietnam still exports raw products to foreign markets for local businesses to process and label them. The domestic businesses do not pay adequate attention to affirming the special values that Vietnamese goods have.

That is about the product. As for the Vietnamese people, besides the good impression, especially about preserving individual culture when going abroad, there are still negative acts that affect the Vietnamese image, thus leading to a lesser impression of Vietnam, about the reliability of Vietnamese products with foreigners. For that reason, building a national brand in a broad sense is an urgent need.

There are beauties in the Vietnamese character that have been recognised by the world as diligence, intelligence, creativity, ingenuity, fond of learning and friendliness. Vietnam also "scores" with the world thanks to its cultural depth, efforts to rise and humanitarian policies for disadvantaged communities, even though the country still faces a range of difficulties.

Positioning Vietnamese value, first of all, is to recognise the inner advantages and disadvantages to overcome weaknesses and select and promote the advantages in the socio-cultural traditions and the nation's personality, in combination with elements of the current period to form values that cover all the socio-economic, cultural and educational aspects. In other words, it is to choose the philosophy for thorough development, imbued with Vietnamese identity in all areas. It is the foundation for building a national brand.

It is not an easy or short-term process. The strength of Vietnamese people is their ability to cope in difficult circumstances. But it is also a weakness, when a long-term development strategy is needed. Positioning Vietnamese value and building Vietnamese brand must start from changing the thinking of every person, every business and even policy makers. There will be obstacles, but if the issue is resolved, the country's soft power will be affirmed, thus creating great momentum for national development and also pride when regarding Vietnamese brands and "made in Vietnam" products.