By Chris Elkin, Founder of Doodle Brands

Mobile enthusiasm and internet connectivity amongst Vietnamese consumers has exploded to be amongst the highest in the world. There’s now far more mobile phones in Vietnam than there are people (Source: GSMA Intelligence Q4 2017.) 

I believe the most successful ‘digitally-transformed’ mobile-friendly brands have the following 3 traits that help them win, long-term:

1. Inside-out, they understand what their brand really stands for. 

2. They relentlessly innovate their product,  service and brand around what their customers really want in the digital age.

3. They fundamentally remain consistent in delivering their brand promise again and again, (no matter what technology the brand may use to reach the customer.

Facebook, YouTube and messenger apps, such as FB Messenger and local Zalo, lead the pack in social media popularity, with Instagram and Twitter quite far behind (Source: Global WebIndex Q3 2017). ‘Online’ is now the leading ‘first introduction’ channel to a product or service that customers subsequently purchased in Vietnam.  Now far ahead of TV across Vietnam (Source: Google Consumer Barometer Jan 2018). 

There’s no silver bullet to digital transformation success.  Fundamentally, despite all the media-change, brands need to be committed to building long-term relationships with their customers, continually innovating to find new ways of adding value to their customers often beyond their core product or service offering, ‘designing customer delight’ as their top and ultimate priority. 

Vietnam local brand, Mobile World (Thegioididong) is a great example.  With nearly 50% of Vietnam’s internet population claiming to have purchased a product or service online last year, this brand has rapidly expanded offering online delivery of mobile phones, groceries, cosmetics and electronics, ‘putting customer satisfaction first’ at the center of their brand building strategy.  

I’ve personally had the good fortune of partnering with Vinamilk to create and design their brands and packaging design. To me, Vinamilk stands out really strongly in the local market due to the emotional connection and trust it has consistently set out to build with the Vietnamese community – through the use of both ‘traditional’ strong brand building and digital transformation activities.

First and foremost, again at a fundamental level, this now ‘national brand’ has a strong moral compass: responsible, respectful and caring for the less fortunate in Vietnam, supporting many great causes to relieve poverty or to add nutrition to underprivileged children’s diets. 

Their products have a consistent high quality. They’ve hired smart, experienced marketers, (including digital-savvy thinkers and executors) who are impressively agile at innovating and diversifying their products around changing customer tastes; whether that’s in milks, yoghurts, ice-cream, fruit juices or new healthy beverages to grow their consumer wallet share. 

With a growing middle-class set to double in size in Vietnam over the next 5 years, there will undoubtedly be more global competition entering the market.  Having said that, in the 12 years I’ve lived in Vietnam, I’ve seen many global brands try and fail.   A global brand’s ability to really connect and understand what makes ‘the locals’ tick is however a huge challenge, requiring a million and one small ‘local changes’ in their traditional branding and ‘digital transformation’ capabilities to win.  I personaly think the clever local brands, with that strong understanding of their customers, have more power than many give them credit.  This genuine local understanding, coupled with a savvy understanding of how digital transformation can help them connect even more strongly with their customer’s digital lives will really drive their brand’s success.