Market research, branding
One firm that appears to have cracked the code of penetrating foreign markets is the Secoin Building Material Corporation that exports its handmade tiles to 60 countries and territories. With 30 years of experience, Secoin-branded products are now positioned in the high-grade segment of the global market, with prices fluctuating around US$25 per sq.m of encaustic tiles.
Dinh Hong Ky, Chairman of the Board at Secoin, said a product cannot be marketed if it lacks distinctive values. The corporation therefore has cooperated with world-famous designers to create quality handmade products and win customer trust. “To firmly position a brand, especially in foreign markets, it is necessary to build a value chain involving manufacturing, marketing, logistics, distribution and customer care service. The final goal is to leave customers with a good impression of the brand,” he analyzed.
The Eurowindow Joint Stock Company has chosen a different way to position its brand in foreign markets. The company exports large volumes of its products - doors, windows and panels - to Southeast Asian countries. Eurowindow’s Overseas Sales Director, Nguyen Thanh Trinh, said that before selling products abroad under its own brands, the company carries out careful market surveys to find similarities and differences in culture and consumer behavior in order to adjust its products and marketing methods accordingly. The Myanmar market, for example, has a firm legal foundation, but due to the conservative nature of local consumers, Eurowindow has prepared a long-term sales strategy for this market. In 2017, the company opened a representative office in Myanmar to facilitate the distribution of its products there, especially to avoid risks in payment. “Patience is vital to winning the trust of consumers and authorities in foreign markets,” Trinh said. The firm’s flexible and targeted policies yielded sales of VND3.2 trillion in 2017, which are expected to reach VND4.5 trillion in 2018.
Businesses believe that to position their brands firmly in the global market, along with creating distinctive products and carrying out careful market surveys, they need to register their labels in order to protect them overseas and prevent disputes with local companies. At the initial stage of accessing a foreign market, businesses need to implement their brand identification strategies by organizing events, such as workshops and investment and trade promotion activities. Vietnamese trade offices abroad play a very important role in this regard in connecting domestic businesses with foreign markets. In recent years, the domestic business community has taken the initiative in promoting exports under Vietnamese brands. Major brands, such as Viettel, Vinamilk and Hoa Phat, have been valued at hundreds to billions of US dollars. However, economist Vo Tri Thanh said that although in 2017, Vietnam achieved the highest export growth rate in the past 15 years, many products, especially agricultural products, remain of low value in the eyes of foreign importers.
Changing business thinking
Ngo Chung Khanh, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Multilateral Trade Policy Department, believes free trade agreements which Vietnam has joined will provide significant opportunities for domestic businesses to boost exports. Vietnam’s export value surged from US$5.4 billion in 1995 to over US$200 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach US$218 billion this year.
To promote exports of Vietnamese brands, in addition to support by the government, ministries and sectors, businesses need to change their awareness of production, sales and brand building. They should learn about international commitments, especially the 11-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is expected to come into force in the near future.
Sharing this view, Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Quoc Thinh, consultant to the Vietnam Value Program, said the most important thing is changing business awareness in order to appreciate the role of brands in sustainable development. According to Thinh, the Vietnam Value Program launched in 2003 has become outdated and needs to be amended. One of the program’s shortcomings is that it is targeted only at the brands of specific kinds of products but not at collective trademarks, especially brands associated with certified geographical indications.
At a recent trade promotion forum held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Tony Pigott, a brand-building expert from Canada, proposed a brand ambassador model. A brand ambassador can be a product, a company or an industry that could help entrench Vietnamese brands in the global market. Tony Pigott also spoke about the necessity of spreading public information about nationally recognized brands, especially in areas in which Vietnam enjoys advantages, such as food, textiles, garments and construction. In his opinion, businesses should pay special attention to surveying market demand in order to build suitable brand development strategies.