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Country Spotlight – Vietnam: The Impact of Regulatory Changes and Booming Digital Connectivity on Brands

In our Country Spotlight series, penned by our team of in-market researchers, we highlight the pivotal role of local expertise in social listening and digital research. Our analysts, deeply embedded in their respective digital landscapes and versed in various research tools, are experienced in providing businesses with unique insights into consumer behaviour and trends. This local perspective provides a nuanced understanding of each market and is invaluable for companies looking to expand. If you’re intrigued by our approach and wish to learn more, reach out to us or explore our resources for webinars, podcasts, case studies and whitepapers.

Embracing the Digital Age in Vietnam

Growing up in the vibrant city of Ho Chi Minh City, where I still live today, I’ve personally witnessed Vietnam’s evolution since my childhood. Today, the shelves and billboards are adorned with logos of globally recognised brands, and digital startups are sprouting across the country, showcasing a remarkable shift from its past as one of the world’s least developed nations. Through economic reforms, Vietnam is confidently progressing on a path of growth and advancement.

Loc with his pug, Sushi. Find out more about Loc and his role in his Employee Spotlight

This change is especially noticeable in the digital realm, which has altered daily life and work in ways my parents’ and grandparents’ generations could hardly have imagined. Currently, 80% of Vietnamese connect to the internet daily, marking a substantial increase from 2008, when internet access was limited to less than a quarter of the population. With the government’s ambitious goal to achieve nationwide access by 2025, the share of people going online daily is anticipated to grow even more. The widespread use of smartphones has been crucial to this evolution, placing social media, e-commerce and digital payments at the heart of Vietnam’s interconnected society. Ultimately, this holistic shift is reshaping how consumers interact with brands, driven by a demographic that is not only young and tech-savvy but also socially conscious.

Although the digital landscape challenges brands to carefully navigate their way around potential pitfalls, it also offers opportunities for businesses that get it right. Achieving success hinges on developing a smart and socially aware digital strategy that considers cultural nuances, even on a hyperlocal level, to forge connections with target audiences.

Understanding Vietnam’s E-Commerce Boom

Vietnam’s shift towards more contemporary lifestyles marks its move from a largely low-income population to a more affluent consumer base. This evolving demographic demonstrates a sophisticated approach to spending – being both liberal and judicious with their financial choices. Amidst this change, Vietnam’s e-commerce sector serves as a significant growth indicator. Despite the economic challenges that have impacted e-commerce worldwide, Vietnam’s market is on a trajectory for prosperity. Platforms such as Shopee, leading in e-commerce sales, along with Lazada, Facebook and TikTok Shop, are at the forefront of this growth. Understanding this trend is important for brands as it highlights the trust placed by Vietnamese consumers in social media platforms for product insights and purchasing decisions.

Brands need to tread carefully when exploring the opportunities platforms like TikTok offer in Vietnam.

Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Additionally, Vietnam’s evolving consumer landscape, coupled with increased internet access, has prompted adaptations in the regulatory environment. The government is now enforcing stricter controls on online content and brand communications, presenting companies with the challenge of complying with new regulations while staying true to their brand voice on social media. A recent initiative by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communications introduces “Social Beat”, an AI-driven social media monitoring tool aimed at ‘managing’ public opinions, monitoring trends and countering misinformation. This effort to control toxic or harmful viral content, particularly in the wake of recent showbiz scandals, such as actress Ngọc Trinh’s motorcycle stunt without a license, illustrates the government’s tightening grip. What repercussions did Trinh face for her actions? A public disturbance charge and a suspended sentence.

This backdrop of regulatory vigilance, especially the probes into platforms like TikTok by Vietnamese authorities due to concerns over its impact on the nation’s youth and cultural values, has led to calls for more rigorous content oversight. Developments like these bring home the message for brands: Engage in a responsible manner when leveraging the opportunities platforms like TikTok offer, or risk getting into serious trouble. In short, achieving success demands an understanding of local regulations and the agility to adapt, ensuring strategies are both culturally and politically attuned to the Vietnamese market.

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Case Studies: Trailblazing Campaigns in Vietnam

It all comes down to undertaking thorough market research being the number one rule when embarking on international expansion. Yet even established brands can encounter hurdles. Noteworthy examples of this in Vietnam are Burger King, McDonald’s and Danone, all of which faced stiff competition from local contenders. While each situation had its own complexities, a deeper dive into understanding their target markets and consumer preferences could have potentially led to more favourable results for these players. 

Beyond these cases, Vietnam’s market landscape features a variety of brands that have managed to carve out their own triumphs, not simply by entering the market but by embedding themselves within the fabric of Vietnamese society. Acecook, a longstanding player with a deep-rooted presence, has leveraged its familiarity with local consumers to maintain brand awareness. Meanwhile, Vietinbank, as a state-owned entity, benefits from a unique position within the market, providing it with a distinct advantage in fostering trust and engagement among consumers. Generali, relatively newer to the Vietnamese market compared to veterans like Prudential and BaoViet, demonstrates how even younger brands can make a substantial impact through strategic market entry and engagement initiatives. So, where and how did these brands get it right? Let’s take a look at some of their recent digital campaigns.

Acecook’s “Kiêu hùng tiếp bước” Campaign: Empowering Women Through Sports

Japanese nutrition brand, Acecook, launched the “Kiêu hùng tiếp bước” campaign to honour the Vietnamese female football team’s historic qualification for the 2023 World Cup. This captivating campaign broadcasted on major national TV channels and Acecook’s social media platforms, resonated with themes of female empowerment, independence and resilience.

Acecook’s “Kiêu hùng tiếp bước” campaign honoured the Vietnamese women’s football team’s historic qualification for the 2023 World Cup.

By drawing parallels between the football team and the legendary and esteemed military leaders Trưng sisters, Acecook struck a chord with its audience. The campaign’s impact was further amplified through interactive instant noodle cup designs, encouraging consumer engagement and collection. This multifaceted approach yielded remarkable results: over 37 million Facebook reaches, 27 million TV commercial views across all channels, 23 million interactions and an impressive 36% increase in Acecook’s follower base. The campaign’s triumph was not only due to its celebratory nature but also its ability to bridge historical heroism with contemporary achievements, set to inspire a new generation of women.

Vietinbank’s “Sống một đời có lãi”: A Campaign for Positive Community Impact

Vietinbank celebrated its 35th anniversary with a campaign titled “Sống một đời có lãi” (Living a Profitable Life). The campaign joined forces with the popular Vietnamese rapper Đen Vâu, renowned for his positive lifestyle messages. It creatively expanded the concept of “interest-gain” beyond financial benefits to encompass overall well-being, health and happiness. With a focus on younger generations, particularly Gen Z and Gen Y/Millennials, the campaign aimed to inspire them to make positive contributions to their communities.

For its 35th anniversary campaign, Vietinbank joined forces with the popular Vietnamese rapper Đen Vâu.

To amplify the campaign’s message, influencer collaborations were leveraged, and the new Eliv3 card was prominently featured, enhancing visibility and engagement. Despite airing for only one week in March 2023, it quickly emerged as one of the month’s top five notable campaigns. Its success was evident in the 14.4K comments, 51.4K interactions, over 5K Facebook posts, and 11.6 million TikTok views it garnered. The campaign’s achievement can be attributed to its relatable messaging, strategic influencer partnerships and seamless integration of product promotion, which resonated exceptionally well with a young, socially conscious audience.

Generali’s “Sống như ý”: Promoting Self-Care and Personal Fulfillment

The “Sống như ý” campaign by Italian insurance company Generali targeted young professionals aged 25-45 in major cities of Vietnam. It aimed to address the often-overlooked need for self-care among this demographic. The campaign served as a reminder that personal well-being should not be neglected amidst the pursuit of career success, social connections and family happiness.

The “Sống như ý” campaign by Italian insurance company Generali reminded young people that hat personal well-being should not be neglected amidst the pursuit of career success.

By employing a comprehensive multimedia approach that combined online and offline content across social media and office buildings, the campaign successfully elicited positive reactions from its audience. Its impact was substantial, generating over 40 million views, more than 160k brand mentions, and recognition by YouNet Media as one of the most notable insurance companies in 2023. The campaign’s effectiveness lies in its relatable message and holistic communication strategy, resonating with an audience navigating the pressures of modern life and emphasising the significance of personal health and happiness.

We’re Here to Support Your Market Entry: Talk to Us Today

At Convosphere, we pride ourselves on being active participants and facilitators in the dynamic world of market entry and expansion, not just observers. Our commitment to cultural intelligence, combined with our expertise in leveraging cutting-edge social listening tools, uniquely positions us to guide brands through the intricacies of forging meaningful connections in vibrant economies like Vietnam’s. 

Our services are designed to be flexible, accommodating the needs of businesses at any stage of their market research journey. Whether you’re looking to support your in-house team with our expertise or seeking a fully outsourced solution, we tailor our approach to meet your unique business requirements. Why not take a moment to explore our portfolio of case studies to get a better understanding of the impactful results we’ve achieved working with businesses across various markets and industries?

Embarking on the path to brand success in Southeast Asia goes beyond mere strategic planning. It requires a partner who is deeply familiar with the cultural nuances and regulatory frameworks that shape these markets. Here at Convosphere, we’re ready to be that partner, providing expert insights and strategies that are not only culturally attuned but also highly adaptable to your business’s unique needs. This ensures your brand doesn’t just enter the market but becomes an integral part of it, resonating deeply within these communities. 

For a research strategy tailored to the vibrant pulse of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, reach out to us via the contact form or request a free consultation for a time that works for you on our Calendly