Sunday, November 1, 2009

Marketing in Vietnam

My friend Matt will laugh again, because I am again complaining about something that is very common in Vietnam: loud music. Whenever I see (or in that case) hear something new and different, I ask why it is like it is. So why there is so much loud music here?
First of all I learned that there are different ways to play loud music:
In Bars/Coffee shops
During any kind of public event
In shopping centers
In front of shopping center

Only bars and restaurants use the music as a (kind of) entertainment for customers, everything else is the so called marketing. Yes, even public events want to attract people with the music.

In Vietnam, people are used to get "information" through loudspeakers since the communist party made public announcements and broadcasts of important speeches of the leader for years (and still do it). While it's not so common in downtown Saigon and modern residential areas anymore, you will still have this experience in provinces and especially in Hanoi.

What we would call propaganda was the first step into marketing in the Vietnamese understanding. Peopel are used to get announcements through loudspeakers.

But why so loud?
My theory includes two reasons: One is: The louder the music, the more people in far distance will here it (what is usually technically wrong since they use loudspeakers who don't really take it for a far distance but were built to provide a clear sound). So actually it's more a stopper when you pass by.

Second reason is: If it's loud, people don't have to talk to each other. That may sound a bit like conspiracy, but I believe there is some truth behind. Silence means you can reflect yourself, you can think. Noise is exactly the opposite. So if you don't want that people think too much, make some noise.

So marketing in Vietnam means "getting attraction" Nothing more. Maybe "be the loudest and the most impressive". You will not see any real branding behind this, no product information, not even anything that is building an emotional relationship to the product.

The best example is the Saigon Paragon Shopping Center (here it comes, Matt, thanks for waiting). They try to attract customers by putting huge loudspeaker systems in front of and right beside a Rolls Royce. The message: "Hey stop, there is something special".
I am sure the Rolls might be special enough as it is the impressive building. But still not customers. So they try the Vietnamese marketing way. Loud music and banners. But still no customers. Why?

Just because they target the wrong audience: If you are selling cheap shirts on Trang Hung Dao it would make sense to attract the commuters with a sound system outside. Because they are your targeted audience.

At Saigon Paragon, most of the people passing by are residents of Riverside and Canh Vien or construction workers and service staff. The latter just can't afford the Saigon Paragon, while the residents already know that it's there.
Also, the products are high price products. Omega for example, well known parfum brands. Luxury and noise doesn't really fit (except you buy a Ferrari). Silence is a luxury itself, as you can see in 5-Star-Hotels all over the world.

Customers who can afford the products at Saigon Paragon will compare this to the shopping centers outside Vietnam (like the real Paragon in Bangkok). And the one in Vietnam just fails. Not enough choice, nice design, but not for a shopping center as you can't really see what kind of shops are there, because the view is blocked by escalators, bored and totally untrained staff and a so called food court where I am sure - they planned the garage for motobikes.

I am pretty sure that Saigon Paragon and the shops inside don't even make enough money to pay the rent. and that's mainly because of wrong concept and a wrong understanding of marketing.

Oh, if you don't believe me, have a look on Julian Treasure TED talk, where he spoke about the effects of sounds. A bad sound environment drops down productivity in offices by 66 percent while sales in retail by 28 percent.


Anonymous said...

did you...tell them? ;)

it's not communist, it's just...uneducated.

Thomas Wanhoff said...

Of course I told, although I never got an answer. The Saigon Paragon guys are just arrogant and refuse any contact to customers. Just try to find a customer service there.