Vietnam got juice

Coconut, sugar cane and other tropical blend to your liking.

POM(agrenade) has made a blast as new entry into the American juice shelves.

Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me got around to make a movie about brands.

His VIP sponsor: POM juice.

Branding is both mystical and magical.

It helps institutions and companies thrive and survive the downturn.

When in doubt, keep the cards closer to your chest: TIDE, Coca Cola, British Council.

Honda has suffered some unexplainable scooter explosion lately in Vietnam.

Its nearest competitor, Yamaha, finally gets a leg-up.

(in the US, it’s Hyundai who rules in the wake of Fukushima and Bangkok disaster).

In fact, brand tends to jockey for its nearest one: Vietnam might move up to number 1 rice exporter which has been held by Thai Land.

The Republican presidential candidates know this very well: it’s the poll that takes one up and another poll drags him/her down.

(Two different actresses are jockeying for the role of portraying Sarah Palin; art is more competitive than life).

Vietnam itself can use some brand improvement.

Young and educated work force? Check.

Untapped or not-yet-saturated consumer market? Check.

Strong motivation to leap-frog into software and service? Check.

Second Happiest Country on Earth (Costa Rica being no Uno)? Check.

But then we got traffic congestion in those very same growing centers that are the lures first hand.

Vietnam got lucky by being cautious during the 1997 Asian crisis, and 2007 with the housing-bubble crisis. As my nephew would say, “the poor got their own way of enjoying life”.

First Lady Obama would have a hard time with her childhood obesity campaign here (might have to give KFC’s some head start first). A Wisconsin lawmaker made a remark (then a retract) about her derriere – as a way of saying, what made you qualify to preach. Nobody said anything about Nancy Reagan when she was into “Say No to Drug”, but herself said “Yes to Astrology”.

OK, Vietnam got juice. Vietnam got lucky. Vietnam got work to do to improve its brand (and image). It also has to campaign internally so its sons and daughters will want to come back and work here. All those ambitious, talented folks have fled overseas, a crisis in brain-drain.

Nobody is into patriotism (except when watching a soccer match. Even in the fox hole, one dies for his comrades, not country).

Policy makers will have to help people connect the dots: English-academic success-overseas advanced degree-upward mobility-wealth–recognition among peers – influence which then reinforces life long learning  which leads to a fulfilling life.

Those dots are often not connected or only to a certain point, then leveled off (collectively, it’s called middle-income trap) short-changing the dream.

Both camps (quick money-making trade such as manicure in the US and slow-burned academia pursuit in Liberal Arts) often found themselves at odd with each other. So while Vietnam got juice, Vietnamese run out of them.

When world attention returns to Vietnam, after having focused elsewhere over the past few years, will it find a people who got juice? Or just a place? I hope they will find a country with more smiles and smarts.


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