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    Q&A: Tân ‘Sunshine’ Nguyen – Brands in Vietnam Are Reactivating Their Connections with Consumers

    Sunshine is CEO at TBWA\GroupVietnam.

    By Bobby McGill - Sep 3, 2020
    Q&A: Tân ‘Sunshine’ Nguyen – Brands in Vietnam Are Reactivating Their Connections with Consumers

    We recently caught up with Tân “Sunshine” Nguyen, the CEO at TBWA\GroupVietnam.

    Nguyen kicked off her career in advertising as an account manager with Grey before moving to Pyramid Consulting. After joining TBWA in 2010 to lead the digital group at the Ho Chi Minh-based agency, Sunshine ascended to Managing Director in 2017. She was appointed CEO at the beginning of this year.

    Over the course of our conversation, we talk about the mood of brands following the second wave of COVID-19 cases in a country, the shift in the way women are perceived in communications in Vietnam, and more.


    What’s been keeping you busy lately?

    Building and transforming our business. I’m excited by what the future will bring.

    After operating separately for more than a decade, we officially welcomed f\adigital into the collective in June. This strategic merger plays a central role in our Group development plan to deepen our in market digital capabilities.

    In Vietnam, TBWA\ is recognized as a leading creative agency, but our reputation for Digital is not quite as strong, yet. f\adigital brings a depth of skills, knowledge, and leadership, placing us in a stronger more confident position to offer our clients full solutions; from creative to performance, driving business results that positively impact our clients’ bottom line.

    We are also working with various partners to explore new initiatives and identify ways to integrate data and CRM into our offerings. Stay tuned, more exciting news will be coming soon.

    I’ve got to ask. How did you get the nickname “Sunshine?”

    My nickname Sunshine originated from my name “Nhật Tân”, which means “new day”. Since “Tân” is difficult for some foreigners to pronounce, people started to call me Sunshine. Honestly, I love the nickname. Some of my closest friends at TBWA said they call me Sunshine because I brighten up their day. For that, I’m extremely flattered!

    Vietnam saw a remarkably quick recovery from COVID-19 due to a speedy intervention by the government. Now, with the second wave of cases, what is the mood of brands there?

    Vietnamese, including myself, feel proud of how the Government has dealt with the pandemic and contained the virus early on. Even with the second wave, companies are resuming their marketing activities and starting to invest in campaigns to reactivate their connections with consumers, particularly local brands.

    FMCG, Electronics, Finance, and Pharmaceuticals are among the most active industries. Leisure, Luxury Goods, and Exporting Companies are understandably remaining prudent, as the global economic uncertainty continues to evolve.

    “People are inclined to keep money in reserve, in case the situation worsens again. This behavior has given rise to a Makeshift Economy, where brands, businesses, and even charities, have shown creative resilience by innovating their offerings.”

    With the national lockdown ending early May, we’ve been busy with many projects. One I’m particularly excited about is a brand campaign we’re creating for a Vietnamese conglomerate. This brand is a pillar of our national pride and we feel very honored to be working with them.

    Have you noticed any particular trends brought about by the COVID-19 disruption?

    As a global Collective engaging with audiences, listening, monitoring, and identifying what’s driving culture and change in behavior is something we follow closely – it’s a strategic imperative. We have a process of identifying what we call ‘Edges’ – trends that are not fully established yet but are emerging and growing. COVID-19 has triggered new attitudes and behaviors that have brought us a whole new set of Asia Edges, which can be found here.

    Consumer spending behavior has dramatically changed as a result of the pandemic. The second wave of cases resulted in people becoming more conservative and hesitant to spend big bucks on unnecessary goods than ever before. People are inclined to keep money in reserve, in case the situation worsens again.

    This behavior has given rise to a Makeshift Economy, where brands, businesses, and even charities, have shown creative resilience by innovating their offerings – like online travel booking services pivoting to food delivery, flower shops becoming coffee shops, and ATM’s that distribute rice to those in need, allowing minimal physical contact.

    “Although females make up the majority of the workforce, across all levels, with female representation in the parliament higher than the global average, advertising still defaults to the traditional cultural codes.”

    Furthermore, as we’re emerging from a very tough period, people now prefer to consume positive energy. Entertaining and optimistic content is preferred by consumers. There’s a great appetite for light-hearted, humorous, and even satirical content.

    We’ve also witnessed a sense in National Pride, with the crisis bringing the nation together, we’re all proud of how the country responded and managed the virus, particularly in containing the first wave.

    It’s important for us and brands to continue to monitor these behavioral trends, the longer the pandemic places a sheet of uncertainty overall lives, some of these new cultural triggers will remain for the long haul. Brands must understand these and develop plans around them to thrive and secure a greater share of the future.

    How do you think branding approaches, in general, differ in Vietnam from other countries in the region?

    Vietnam is a country with unique cultures and heritages, and our demographics are not as diverse as other neighboring countries. Because of this, it is crucial for branding approaches in Vietnam to be locally relevant (not simply adapting global campaigns).

    To be successful, we must ensure local trends, local insights, nuances, and local tastes are thoroughly deployed and conveyed in our creative work.

    I think what we will begin to see is a shift in the way women are perceived in communications. Although females make up the majority of the workforce, across all levels, with female representation in the parliament higher than the global average, advertising still defaults to the traditional cultural codes. As an industry, we must turn this around and take responsibility to present work that is more representative of society today.

    Is there any particular work that TBWA has done that you’re most proud of?

    Besides the project mentioned briefly above, we’re also working with GSK to launch an important disease awareness campaign for moms and babies. Statistics show diseases caused by pneumococcus bacteria such as Meningitis, Pneumonia, and Acute Otitis Media are on the rise and cause fatal risks to babies under three years old. Our campaign raises awareness and educates moms about these diseases while prompting them to take early prevention methods (vaccination) to protect their babies.

    Our deep-dive research into Vietnamese moms’ behaviors and decision making revealed they often prioritize nutritional and physical exercises during their pregnancy and only consider vaccinations after. Furthermore, pregnant moms are usually stressed and consequently avoid negative information. As a result, our strategy and creative work took on an entertaining approach, creating light-hearted compelling content in which the educational messages and call-to-actions are still strongly communicated.

    I’m proud of this work because it will have a real and important impact on our community and protect the lives of many precious babies.

    What advice do you have for international brands looking to resonate with Vietnamese consumers?

    As mentioned above, being locally relevant is imperative. It is important not to simply rely on white-paper reports and data points. Of course, consumer data is helpful, but you cannot fully comprehend insights without talking to real people.

    Cultural understanding is at the heart of this, and something we embed into our operational process – observing behaviors, monitoring cultural trends, engaging with consumers, listen to their thoughts, and helping them live their dreams.

     

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