Why Digital Marketing is not booming in Vietnam?

The fact is Digital Marketing is nowhere near its potential in Vietnam. There are many reasons for that reality.

I have talked to a number of senior people in the industry and this post is as a result of those talks.

To answer this question in full, we need to look at the overall Marketing landscape in Vietnam.

1. Digital marketing is too new in Vietnam

Well traditional marketing is new in Vietnam, let alone digital marketing. The American war ended in 1975, the latest war with the Chinese ended in 1979 (less than 4 decades ago) and Vietnamese economy just opened up about 20 years ago. So you can see why I say that even traditional marketing is new in Vietnam as compared to other countries. Hence, the talent pool is small. Well, not only professional in marketing but professionals are needed everywhere in Vietnam in my humble opinion.

That’s the situation for traditional marketers so you could imagine the situation is even worse for Digital marketing.

Before going too far off the topic of this post, let’s go back to Digital Marketing. The internet started to get popular in Vietnam in 1998, only about 14 years ago. From the beginning it was largely played with by IT professionals, software engineers i.e. technical people. Technical people would think if using software to collect email addresses, to spam the inbox-es of their targets etc… without proper marketing strategy.

Banner advertising (one of the most popular form of online advertising in Vietnam) only started to go mainstream after VnExpress gained popularity in 2003-2004. VnExpress just celebrated its 10th birthday this year. Some of us can remember the time where pop ups were everywhere and you often saw banners that said “you were the lucky winner of some mysterious prizes, CLICK here to learn more!” Those times were largely over in Vietnam just a few years back.

2. Lack of education courses

The number of reliable Digital marketing courses in Vietnam is quite limited. No mainstream university offers courses in Digital Marketing i believe.

And while there is demand from the market place for learning, the number of lecturers who not only understand but also practice Digital marketing before is small. Those highly skilled professionals are busy working for their own companies/projects that they have little time left for teaching. Let’s face it, not all professionals could teach well so you can do the math. While you come to the number of true professionals who can teach/embark knowledge well, you would be terrified that it is so small.

Besides, not everyone is willing to share his/her “trade secrets” when they teach. It may be a culture thing or one of pure economic reasons. I don’t mean to be judging and i would do the same if i were in their shoes i guess.

Out of those who attend courses in Digital marketing, many of them do not have any background in marketing. (I myself didn’t major in marketing in university; however i am lucky enough to learn on the job and from online sources). “Students” are largely from the IT crowd/web designer/flash designer/coder. Many of them (certainly not All) lack the marketing understanding to make a Digital marketing successful.

Those with traditional marketing mindset think of Digital marketing as something too complicated, too technical, “not to the point”, doesn’t make much sense etc… Those with IT background don’t often think about marketing while doing their job unfortunately.

3. No authority figures

Just like any new industries, there is urgent need for guidelines, case studies, best practices in Vietnam. They are vital so that marketers from client side can base upon to judge the performance of their campaigns, planner/creative people from agencies can learn/upgrade their skill.

In Vietnam, there are no Clear authority figure and many people/organizations just choose to follow/publish/claim practices/ideas that suit their economical means. It’s the same situation as trying to raise a child and no one is teaching the child things for his/her own development/sake but rather “care givers” are trying to persuade the child to “buy” his/her solution. Because of those “education”, the child would start to eat/drink/learn all kind of “funny” things, start to get confused of conflicting messages.

IAB Vietnam is going nowhere and almost dead at this point. I don’t see any other organizations found with the mission of helping Digital marketing in Vietnam grow.

4. Slow economic progress

Vietnam economy has experienced great difficulties for the past a few year and expected to slow down in 2012 as well. In tough economic time, naturally marketing budget is being cut. While it’s true that some marketers would start looking for newer solution because traditional media is too expensive, many will just play safe. It has been the case where all the money is allocated elsewhere then what left over is allocated for digital media. While digital marketing can help you save cost if done correctly, it doesn’t mean that you can achieve great results with limited or “no money”.

The only way to solve this dilemma is for digital marketer to show the Return of their activities to claim a bigger share of the pie.

Well enough from me i guess. As always it’s more important to spend time/efforts thinking about how to make things happen rather than stating why it doesn’t work. Please feel free to share your ideas on how we can help shaping digital marketing landscape in Vietnam.


    1. You are right Pedro. The market is so nascent that there are lots of opportunities. You would need to be patient though.

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