branding in Vietnam

Long ago, Hynos toothpaste was on prominent display at Saigon Central Market. It featured  a black man, smiling, showing  his white teeth. Back then Vietnam had just done away with women blackened-teeth practice (to prevent tooth decay).

Kids wore BATA shoes to school ( a popular brand in US during WWII, a period when men were enlisted, leaving women to connect phone calls – switch circuit technology or to produce army uniforms and weaponry,) Vietnamese women on the other hand, would model after Madam Nhu’s collar-less  “ao dai” (she herself went after Katherine Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany).

One would find simplest flyers advertising : Co Ba Soap, or Tiger oilment .

You got to brand your products here with animal symbols since the undercurrent worldview is animistic in nature (tuc “Xam Minh” i.e. tatoo for divers and fishermen).

This predominantly agri-aqua economy relates well to other species: even whales got a proper burial.  Clever marketers would go along  and not against the grain: Eagle batteries and Black-cat  Craven-A  cigarettes (incidentally, at the movies,  MGM has the Lion’s roar for header).

Mothers would feed their babies with condensed milk (Birdies), and housewives look for Elephant rice at the market.

Children’s lanterns are shaped in various animals: fish, elephant, birds.

One ill-researched professor at Standford went so far to conclude after being here just one week that the eerie absence of birds, rats and dogs in the cities was due to the aggressive diet of the Vietnamese who ate them all (I found many dead rats after heavy rain on the street. He apparently chose to tour Vietnam during the dry season).

And when it comes to choosing among the multiple carriers for mobile phone, I notice a new choice: Beeline (as of this edit, this Russian-backed carrier doesn’t fan out, being a late entry into an entrenched market of duopoly).

In some shopping malls, I noticed Lacoste brand . The ubiquitous crocodile may someday get a proper burial as well. Such as the harmonious nature of the Vietnamese consumers with other species. I still miss the Hynos black man’s smile when boarding the bus at Saigon Central Market. Today’s students carrying RMIT backpacks perhaps don’t realize what have been transpired : blackened teeth ancestors who greeted you with sincerest of smile. Back then people took time for Sunday stroll, and the music was in the air “Sunday Morning, I walk in the park, hey, hey, hey, it’s a Beautiful day”.  Do you know where Saigonese end up? Where else but the zoo. Told you, gotta to live in harmony with other species of the same eco-system.



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