Key Opinion Leaders: Influencing Retail Decisions in Vietnam

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

The term “influencer marketing” is a common marketing buzzword used globally by brands and advertising agencies to target specific groups of consumers by involving an individual or personality with a strong social media presence to create branded and unbranded content.

Influencers—also generally referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)—are seen as both ambassadors for a particular brand and a representation of the typical consumer with an opinion that goes far and wide, thereby being able to influence consumer choices.

By helping to build awareness and sales among a target demographic—usually the tech-savvy and those who spend more time online than in front of the television—influencer marketing is on its way to becoming more popular than traditional marketing tactics relying on print and television ads.

Influencers in ShoppingImage source: www.cmo.com

The Country’s Influencers in Various Industries

So who are the notable influencers in Vietnam today?

According to Influence Asia Council, Vietnamese influencers are listed in various categories. Well-known “Beauty” KOLs include: Changmakeup, Chloe Nguyen, Trinh Pham and Quynh Anh Shyn.Decao, Chau Bui and Kelbin Lei are sought after for their opinions on fashion. And for food, Helen Le, Kiyoshi Jiro, Ninh Tito and Esheep Kitchen top the charts in terms of followers and social media reach.

Other content categories where these figures are active include health, lifestyle and parenting. YouTube personalities such as An Nguy, Pho Dac Biet, JVEvermind and HuyMe Productions are also constantly engaged by brands to incorporate branded and unbranded content into their channels.

Becoming an Influencer

Celebrity endorsements on television commercials are still a common marketing tool for brands. However, these commercials are mostly staged and the personality in question may or may not actually be using these products.

This is part of what gives the opinions of KOLs a stronger edge. They typically have active Instagram and Facebook accounts specialising in a particular topic, and they start to gain recognition as an opinion leader.

Beauty bloggers for example, often start off by highlighting products which they feel are best for their skin and by applying the products in front of a camera. They then post reviews about the product. This format gives consumers a chance to see the products in action, with a credible review by someone who actually used it.

Sometimes the road to becoming an influencer can appear by chance. For example, when popular YouTube content—like video game commentary by bloggers like PewdiePie, or even videos of new products getting unboxed by tech geeks—receive high viewer numbers the content creator can be transformed into an influencer.

GIF source: Chloe Nguyen

Almost Everyone Online Follows One

In Vietnam, influencer marketing has reached new heights with global brands such as Samsung getting into the fray. Samsung recently launched their Galaxy S9 phone with a campaign featuring YouTube personalities creating content using the phone’s camera and highlighting its enhanced slow motion feature.

More than 60 percent of internet users of all age groups in Vietnam have interacted with an influencer by either liking or sharing their content, according to consumer research firm DI Marketing.

Nearly half of internet users have gone one step further and commented directly on the content.

Most internet users in the country rely on Facebook or YouTube to follow influencers. According to a 2016 survey by DI Marketing, 84 percent of respondents follow an influencer on Facebook, 61 percent on YouTube and 59 percent rely on online news sites. The wide reach of these influencers is the main reason why marketers in the country are resorting to social networks as a key marketing channel.

Three Modes of Engagement

There are three styles that define the way influencers and brands interact.

The first is that of mutual benefit.

Influencers and brands can share a symbiotic relationship by giving influencers the freedom to post content the way they always do, while incorporating the brand’s message. This was achieved by Samsung Vietnam, with the Samsung Insider Circle, a community made up of invited influencers with tailor-made content for the brand. This allows influencers to post Samsung-related content on their own channels without veering away from their usual content and still get paid for it.

One example would be the social media campaign for the new Galaxy S9 phone where KOLs such as beauty blogger Chloe Nguyen released videos of her usual makeup routines that were shot on the phone, using its “super slo-mo” function and uploaded on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Although the actual video was unbranded, the captions that accompanied the videos, including the hashtags #samsung_vietnam and #WithGalaxyS9 were more than enough for audiences to know what camera the videos were shot on.

The second style is drawing the KOLs by designing events tailored to the influencer’s needs.

Influencer marketing is still a very new trend and many brands view influencers as a media channel, instead of a creative in their own right. Le Meridien Saigon solved this by offering a 6-month long campaign that invited influencers to give workshops and be a part of the hotel’s coterie of luminaries.

The third style is to provide a real experience.

The current practice among beauty brands is to provide a sample of their product to an influencer to showcase and review, which usually yields a positive response by the influencer.

For the launch of beauty brand Kiehl’s’ Calendula line for example, they created a creative concept titled Peace, Love and Calendula and sent out physical invites to influencers for an event at Takashimaya Saigon. At the event, beauty bloggers were invited to the Kiehl’s counter to get exclusive access to the products, and the chance to meet their fans while at it.

Influencers in ShoppingImage source: www.diva-in-me.com

This turned what could have just been a digital campaign, into an interactive, offline experience where products could be seen and touched and the audience could see the product applied in real time on their favourite personality, instead of just through a cold photograph or video on their newsfeed.

If You’re Big, It Pays

As the relationship between brand and influencer continues to evolve, with more integrated brand messaging platforms thanks to digital marketing agencies and influencer platforms innovating ways to reach bigger audiences, being an influencer might just be a legitimate career path for those seeking to establish themselves as a credible source of information, while enjoying the spotlight and the many benefits that come with it.

YouTube pays the most, according to Forbes. Those with 7 million followers earned US$300,000 for sponsored content. On Facebook and Instagram, the influencers reported earnings roughly half that.

Influencer platforms such as Hiip, the largest in Vietnam, has a database of over 2000 influencers with a clientele that includes international brands such as Heineken and Unilever. There are also dedicated media production companies such as Yeah1 Network that specialise in working together with influencers to create video content for them in partnership with brands.

Influencers in ShoppingImage source: image.vtc.vn

Ultimately, it is up to the influencer to determine if they want to be a credible source of information for their followers, or turn into a media channel themselves by becoming the bridge between brand and consumer, or in an ideal situation, striking the right balance between both. This can only be done by being particular with the campaigns they choose to get themselves into and not be bogged down by posting content they don’t believe in.

Banner Image source: Shutterstock


Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Vinh Dao

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

While French colonial architecture, exotic and cheap food along with the countless tourist attractions are the main draws to Ho Chi Minh City, the city is a mecca for shopping diehards. There are plenty of options for those looking for a high-end shopping experience or if you are searching for a bargain.

Vincom Center

Located smack dab in the middle of town, Vincom is one of Ho Chi Minh City's newest shopping centres. It boasts has eight levels that house more than 250 shops and you can find international brands such as Aldo, Armani, FCUK alongside high end local outlets such as Fanny Ice Cream . The food court at Vincom Center feels more like a collection of nice restaurants rather than a hodgepodge of unrelated greasy chains.

Local insight: They have recently opened Vincom A, which is located down the street on 171 Dong Khoi.
Address:72 Lê Thánh Tôn and 45A Lý Tự Trọng, District 1

Dong Khoi

Ho Chi Minh City’s high street, Dong Khoi has local boutique shops competing with international brands along with chic restaurants set in beautifully restored French colonial buildings.

Local insight:The street was known as Rue Catinat during the French colonial days and Tu Do in the 1960’s.

Saigon Square

A cross between a shopping mall and a bazaar,  Saigon Square is literally packed to the roof with everything from DVD’s to ersatz luxury watches and blue jeans. Frequented by expatriates and locals alike, cheap copies of designer sportswear rub shoulders with fashion brands. The quality is fake, but the price is right, that is if you can bargain hard.

Local insight: There is a second location on 7-9 Ton Duc Thang which has just slightly better prices than the original.
Address: 77 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1

Ben Thanh Market

The granddaddy of the Saigon markets, this market opened it’s doors in 1914. A bustling affair, this is a great place to pick up a souvenir or three. As it is the main tourist market in the city, prices tend to reflect it and you have to bargain hard, even if there is a price tag on the item you would like. It is also a great place to get some local cuisine. Prices are just above what locals pay but pretty tasty all the same.

Local insight: At night, the streets outside the market turns into a night bazaar with souvenir shops and ad hoc restaurants.
Address: Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, and Le Lai

Binh Tay Market

Built in 1928, this is the central market of Cholon, which is known as the Chinese district. The largest market in town spanning four blocks, most of the business is done wholesale here. While the market doesn’t stock souvenirs and other tourist fare, it does house some of the most interesting architecture in the city and the dominant yellow clock tower makes it a photographer’s dream.

Local insight: Just down the road on Tran Hung Dao street are a swath of textile shops where you can get some of the cheapest deals in town.
Address: 57 Tháp Mười, 2, District 6

Hope this list gives you some options for shopping in Ho Chi Minh City!


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



The Sweet Success of Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat

By: Lucie Sherwood

Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou joined forces and their names to create the Marou brand. Both co-founders have been dedicated to the Made in Vietnam concept from the beginningproducing their chocolate within the country and buying small batches of top quality cacao from local farmers.

Maison Marou

Samuel Maruta, explained the importance of ingredients to Marou, “We are a bit like a chef who goes to the market every morning to find the freshest products.”

The chocolatiers make it their mission to find excellent ingredients while maintaining their commitment to sourcing locally.

Marou sells mostly dark chocolate - at around 70% cacao content - a trend which Maruta believes was instigated by the increasing French taste for higher percentages. Marou also produces several other products, including a dairy-free milk chocolate made with coconut milk.

Maison Marou

At Maison Marou, the brand’s flagship Ho Chi Minh City cafe, the chefs experiment with more adventurous recipes, such as a ganache infused with the same spices that are used to make Vietnamese pho. Marou has expanded its offering at this central Saigon hub to also feature a gourmet pastry menu, which offers some of the best desserts in the city.

Maruta outlined the journey that he and Vincent Mourou have been on for the past seven years since the inception of Maroufrom two friends making chocolate in their kitchen to a business which has two shops, a factory and a team of almost one hundred people. Being an entrepreneur means both freedom and responsibility to Marutathe freedom to make decisions but also the responsibility to our customers and colleagues who have put their trust in us.

Maison Marou

Marou has become known internationally as the specialist brand of Vietnamese chocolate.

Marou’s market is both local and international. The company has a wide range of retailers in Vietnam and abroad as well as plenty of visitors to Vietnam buying the chocolate to take back overseas. Maruta pointed out that chocolate has always made a good gift because it travels well across the world.

In the future, Marou will continue to grow but Samuel Maruta highlighted, “We are big on organic growth.” He said that expansion should not happen at any price and that the company’s principles will always remain at the forefront of their business.

Video source: City Pass Guide

Image source: Maison Marou


The Extended Lifeline of Print Publishing in Vietnam

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Many of us grew up enjoying the experience of buying a brand new book from a physical bookstore. However, as technology bulldozed its way into our lives, along came e-commerce and online bookstores like Amazon, where you can buy your favourite novels without even leaving your home. Therein signalled the death knell of physical bookstores around the world with major chains such as Borders shutting up shop as well as smaller book boutiques being run out of business.

The Vietnamese Paradox

However, a global issue might not necessarily be a Vietnamese issue. According to Waka, the largest online book library available in Vietnam, the number of published printed books numbered 67,000 copies in 2017, the highest on record since the last peak of 65,000 in 2015.

Of these published books, 93 percent were released in Vietnamese, with English books only making up 4% of the total figures. A majority of these were children's books and literature for adults.

booksImage source: c1.staticflickr.com

News of the decline in printed books sales and the death of bookstores in other developed countries might seem like a strange phenomenon to the Vietnamese. The sales figures of printed books in Vietnam show a different trend: sales are up.

The total revenue of printed books in 2017 was an estimated VND5.9 trillion, much higher than 2014’s VND4.92 trillion.

Resistance to Change

One reason for the phenomenon is that while e-books are becoming increasingly popular around the world and are showing huge potential for development in recent years, only 137 publications out of the nearly 26,000 released in Vietnam in 2017 became digital publications, according to statistics by the Department of Publishing, Printing and Issuing under the Ministry of Information and Communications.

booksImage source: c1.staticflickr.com

The number of published e-books have actually been on a steady decline with an estimated 635 releases in 2017, a huge drop from 2,774 in 2015.

Arguably, this is due to Vietnam’s publishing houses not giving enough attention and investment to developing applications that will enable users to read publications online or through a device. This indifference from the Vietnamese publishing industry towards e-books is probably the thread that’s keeping printed books on the shelf.

A Dying Habit

So while printed books still remain a part of life in Vietnam, the habit of taking time to savour what is read is slowly starting to fade with many opting to read content from their smartphones and tablets. Instead of reading books, many people prefer spending their time on social networks, with an estimated 36.75 million Vietnamese users in 2017. Some people are also turning to online games and films during their free time.

GIF source: giphy.com

According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Centre in 2016, the average adult in the world reads four books a year, a drop from six books in the 2012 survey.

A survey done by Japan’s National Federation of University Co-operative Associations announced that more than half of Japanese university students do not read outside their required studies with about 53.1 percent of respondents admitting to never reading physical books.

Video source: Improvement Pill

According to Nhan Dan Online, the average Vietnamese reads 1.2 books a year, way below the global average which leads to a puzzling paradox - who’s buying all these paper books? Unfortunately, statistics have thus far given us no clues.

An Inevitable End?

Maybe the only reason books haven’t gone extinct in Vietnam is due to publishers still being skeptical of digital alternatives. However, times change and mindsets too, and it may only a matter of time before the global trend reaches Vietnam and paper books start to disappear.

booksImage source: c1.staticflickr.com

In the meantime, it is still not too late to visit a bookstore in Vietnam and enjoy turning the paper pages of a novel, if anything, to reminisce and to keep a part of what may soon be history.

Banner Image source: ibb.co


Top 7 Souvenirs to Buy in Vietnam

By: Quang Mai

The top 7 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam, whether you are on holidays or on a business trip.

Apart from the joy of discovering a new culture, taking photos and tasting the exotic flavors of Vietnam, shopping might bring you more opportunities to get in touch with local habits.

A shopping tour is usually the last step of a trip and it is always a bit tricky. The second “HCMC 100 exciting things”, a campaign promoting activities in the city, announced some time ago the top 7 souvenirs to gift to friends, family members and loved ones. The results came from a poll voted on by travelers and expats.

Hopefully more of these events will be coming to other major cities, such as Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue and others.


1. Conical hat

conical hat - souvenir in Vietnam 

Non la (leaf hat) is a circular cone made of bamboo cataphylls, notable for it’s romantic adornments. The non la is more than an indispensable tool for people in Vietnam: it has become a cultural symbol. The style differs by region, so for example those of the Tay people have a distinct color, while in Thanh Hoa they use only a 20-hem frame. Hue’s is thin and elegant, while Binh Dinh’s is thick.

Vietnamese wear the non la all year. The shape protects the wearer from the downpours of the rainy season like an umbrella, and provides shade and protection from the heat during April and May, when temperatures climb to unbearable levels.

Local Insight: At a workshop, you can get a hat for only VND 3,500 - VND 10,000. Depending on the quality, price at souvenir shops range between VND 30,000 and VND 100,000.


2. Ao Dai

Since the 18th century, the ao dai has been Vietnam’s national costume. There are three main styles of ao dai nowadays.

“Trendy” ao dai reach to the floor and fit the curves of the body by using darts and a nipped-in waist; the “hippy” ao dai is brightly colored and very popular among young teenagers; and the “mini” ao dai have slits extended above the waist and the panels reach only to the knees.

The usual way to acquire an ao dai would be to pick the fabric first. Usually there are two different colors, one for the long dress itself and a second contrasting color for the trousers worn underneath. After the fabric is chosen, you bring it to a tailor specialized in creating ao dais. Usually it takes around one week until you can pick up the finished product, but please keep in mind that during the preparation for Tet (lunar new year), it can take significantly longer.

Local Insight: An ao dai costs at least VND 700,000. If you can spend the time and have experience finding decent cloth and a good tailor for ao dai, you might have your stylish ao dai at a reasonable VND 1,500,000.


3. Silk

Silk from Vietnam

Silk is woven from the cocoons of the silkworm. Thus, it has always been considered extremely luxurious and only available to the nobility. The days when silk had only been manufactured for Vietnamese royalty is long gone, and the fabric has become widely used throughout the country. Silk and its beautiful products are affordable nowadays, so tourists have a chance to choose their favorites and gift them to friends and family.

Local Insight: The price for regular Vietnamese silk is at least VND 70,000/m and over VND 100,000/m for premium kinds. Silk below that price is originating from China and of questionable quality.


4. Hand Embroidery

hand embroidery from XQ

The art of hand-embroidered pieces of clothing and framed silk pictures is an old handicraft tradition in Vietnam. You will mostly encounter picturesque natural scenes like flowers, trees, animals and birds, patiently stitched one colorful thread at a time. But also daily life scenes, even portraits can be created with this ancient technique. Tourists are frequently baffled by the vast variety of designs, offered in hand embroidery shops, the vibrant colors and the intriguing depth of the artwork.

In some shops, tourists can explain or sketch their individual idea to the artist, who creates a personalized present for friends and family.

If you visit Da Lat, there is a workshop & gallery for marvelous and artful hand embroidery images upstairs in the central market.

Local Insight: You can buy a small hand embroidered product for around VND 500,000. For bigger pictures, the price can be VND 2,000,000 and above.


5. Sand Pictures

Sand painting is the art of pouring colorful sand and powdered pigments on a sticky surface and fixating it later with spray, so it doesn’t come off again. However, there is a second art form called sand painting, which is practiced in Saigon: The artist pours the colorful sand between two glass panes or in a specially designed mug or vase. The layers of sand form an enthralling piece of art, that looks stunning on every shelf and makes an excellent souvenir. Vietnamese sand picture art comprise 4 categories: landscape, portrait, labor scenes and the traditional art of calligraphy.

Local Insight: The price for artful sand pictures ranges from VND 300,000 to VND 700,000.


6. Wooden clogs - Guoc moc

Wooden clogs (guoc moc) were a sort of traditional footwear for men and women alike in the past. After the feudal period, they mostly remained in a trio of Non la, Ao dai and Guoc moc to increase the gracefulness of Vietnamese ladies when attending important festivals or any special events in town. Guoc moc are rarely used nowadays, but tourists can catch a glimpse of them at traditional activities like the Cai Luong and Ca Tru performance.

Local Insight: Being considered as quite old fashioned footwear, the real Vietnamese wooden clogs are hard to find. If you can find some around VND 150,000 then go for it.


7. Musical Instruments

T'rung

A handmade musical instrument can also make a nice keepsake. Bamboo flutes and mini t'rungs are very popular among visitors. Since the flute is just a small bamboo pipe and the t’rung can be easily disassembled for transport, they are convenient to carry home and don’t use up too much space in your already stuffed luggage.

The sweet tone of these instruments will thrill your ears and remind you of the most memorable moments from your trip to Vietnam.

If you are in Saigon, there is a nice old man, playing and selling simple flutes in Le Loi street at the sidewalk. If you are interested in hearing more traditional flute play, there is a student club of young flutists, who meet in the evening hours at 23/9 Park near Ben Thanh Market to play and practice. Nguyễn Thiện Thuật street in District 1 is also known as “guitar street”. There are many shops and workshops for instruments, mainly guitars and their relatives - like the ukulele.

Local Insight: Prices for a t’rung range from VND 300,000 to VND 1,000,000. Simple bamboo flutes come at around VND 10,000.

You should expect to bargain for the items you want to take home as souvenirs. One “trick”, that can be applied in Ben Thanh Market is to browse the fixed-price shops outside and negotiate with the inside shops for the items you want to buy. We also have a blog post on bargaining at the market which shows you some tips to bargain and suggest some of the best places for shopping apart of the Top 5 Places to Go Shopping in Saigon.


If you liked this blog, you might like those:

Top 5 places to go shopping in Saigon

The art of bargaining in Vietnam

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi


A Dragon’s Sống: Metiseko’s New Sustainable Silk Collection

By: Molly Headley

Designing textiles that value both artistry and ethics.

The importance of a positive workplace.

Whether it’s luxurious silks or quality cottons, Metiseko has exactly what you’re looking for.

Sống - Definition: life [noun], to live [verb]

In the Metiseko silk boutique at 101 Dong Khoi in Saigon, an array of beautifully displayed garments beckons visitors to step inside and run the glossy silk through their hands. Ruby red dragon scales wind their way through cumulus clouds on a bomber jacket in Metiseko’s signature print - Long Dao, while across the room, tangerine waves awaken electric blue depths on a flowy dress in the Sunrise print. Beyond their beauty, there is an ethical advantage and underlying meaning woven into each piece in Metiseko’s new Sống collection. 

Metiseko

Vietnamese Artisans and Universal Elements 

Designed to stir the viewer to delve into the legend of Vietnam, The Land of the Dragon, the hand screen printed mulberry silk textiles are splashed with motifs from traditional folk paintings. Air, Water and Fire, the elements that are believed in the East to make up the universe, create an additional layer of meaning. 

The colour palette of the Sống collection was created to reflect the theatricality of Cải Lương, the country’s traditional opera, with shades of tangerine, carmine, black and Persian blue. This bold collection is a departure from their previous botanical prints and water coloured pastels.

Metiseko was created with the idea of designing textiles that value both artistry and ethics with a strong Made in Vietnam identity. 

Metiseko

How Positivity in the Workplace Results in Excellence at Metiseko 

One of the first truly sustainable and fair-labour fashion brands in Vietnam, Metiseko is constantly working towards complete transparency in the production process. Every piece in Metiseko’s repertoire is made by one single artisan, from the first cut into the fabric to the finishing touches. The company uses the small production motto of “Sell one piece. Make one piece.” 

As Owner and General Director Erwan Perzo put it... 

“When you buy something from us, you’re truly purchasing the work of an artisan from A to Z...” 

Metiseko

Beyond simply constructing the pieces in the collection that end up in their boutiques, there is a strong ethos behind the work at Metiseko. Organic; sustainable; ethical; handcrafted...these are buzz words that actually mean something to the company. 

Things such as fair wages, reasonable working hours, medical insurance for workers and their children, partnered with low environmental impact dyes and Global Organic Textile Standards certifications create a positive workplace and low staff turnover that is difficult to surpass in Vietnam. 

Metiseko

Two Textile Universes in Saigon 

Dong Khoi, Ho Chi Minh City’s premiere luxury shopping avenue is home to two separate Metiseko stores. One encompasses their organic cotton collections while the other showcases gorgeous mulberry silk pieces. Above Metiseko’s Silk Boutique, you can also shop the artisanal homewares of Sadéc District Boutique, as well as quality lingerie offered by Miss30, making 101 Dong Khoi a true stand-alone shopping destination, celebrating local design and local creativity. In District 2, their newly redesigned store features a curated selection of both collections. 

Metiseko

Metiseko’s screen printed textiles and ethical ideology optimise quality and consumer confidence while constantly reinventing their creations. It takes commitment and hard work, but in the Land of the Dragon the creative inspirations run deep. 

Where to Shop for Metiseko in Vietnam:

SILK BOUTIQUES 

101 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
140 Trần Phú, Minh An, Hoi An

TANMY DESIGN CORNER 

61 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi

ORGANIC COTTON BOUTIQUES

157 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
142 Trần Phú, Minh An, Hoi An

SNAP CAFE BOUTIQUE

32 Tran Ngoc Dien, district 2, Ho Chi Minh City

VICTORIA CORNER

Victoria beach resort & spa, Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An

www.metiseko.com

Image source: Metiseko

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH