The digital revolution in Vietnam has changed how young people interact with brands, according to the latest study of Vietnamese Millennials and Gen Z by ASEAN integrated marketing agency Vero.
The study, titled “Vietnam’s New Influencers: Gen Z, Gen Y, and the Shift of Trust,” documents the ongoing rise of online influencers as part of broader generational changes in Vietnam – many of which are tied to advances in technology.
It is based on a survey of a representative sample of 300 members of Generation Y (aka Gen Y or Millennials, b. 1980-1994) and Generation Z (aka Gen Z, b. 1995-2010) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Traditional advertisements and celebrity endorsements are losing ground in Vietnam, the study says. While celebrities from the worlds of TV and music have learned to engage fans online, online native influencers have become equally popular and are more influential upon their followers.
For this reason, brands that wish to reach young consumers in Vietnam will benefit from familiarizing themselves with the new influencer-based marketing landscape.
“Influencers were once considered merely support tools to share branded content,” said Phuc Ngo, Vero’s IMC Strategic Planner in Vietnam. “Now, however, they play a key role in the communication landscape by allowing brands to connect directly with specific communities to build trust and maximize reach, in contrast to TV ads which must appeal to a broad audience. An influencer’s fan community will follow them across platforms, proactively seek out influencer content on a regular basis, and place more trust in products and brands that the influencer endorses. Success in modern influencer marketing requires a willingness to see influencers as essential elements of the communications process.”
One of the whitepaper’s most prominent points is that young Vietnamese perceive modern influencers as fundamentally different from traditional advertising. Besides acting as product spokespersons, it says that influencers are first and foremost “sources of information, relatable individuals with genuine and relevant stories to share.”
This means that those brands which can harness the power of Vietnamese influencers will engage a highly active audience that deliberately seeks out their content. The study reports that nearly half of Vietnamese followers say they like when influencers promote brands, and 66 percent say they are more likely to trust a brand after seeing an influencer post about it.
As a result, the study finds that influencers rank first among communication channels in the level of trust they inspire. 70 percent of followers in the study say that influencers believe in their own endorsements, even if they are paid or gifted by brands. It speculates that this is because trust among influencers is a kind of currency – the primary thing that separates them from ads, and therefore at the core of their value.
“Influencers benefit from trust capital more than any other advertising channel, but they succeed only as long as they maintain that trust,” said Ivy Chau, Vero’s Media and Influencer Specialist in Vietnam. “In exchange for their trust, Gen Z hold influencers to higher standards regarding the sincerity of their endorsements. This means that appealing to Gen Z requires a different approach than what many brands and agencies are used to, one that acknowledges how branding has become personal.”
The study’s whitepaper, which can be downloaded from https://vero-asean.com/vietnams-new-influencers/ takes time to position its findings in the larger context of Vietnam’s rapid development while offering advice to the many brands still coming to grips with how the market has changed.
Professor Nguyen Dinh Thanh, Co-Founder of Elite PR School, provides context with a quote in the whitepaper: “Behavioral differences between generations are the result of deeper, underlying shifts in the structure of society,” Nguyen says.
“GenY grew up with the arrival of the internet in Vietnam and started consuming media digitally. Gen Z, in turn, born as the internet had become the norm, don’t differentiate between mainstream media and KOLs - among them there is no concept of official, traditional media.”
The study shows that Gen Y have warmed to influencers, but the attitudes and behaviors of Vietnam’s Gen Z are friendlier still – they follow more influencers and topics, consume more influencer content more often using more platforms (Instagram didn’t start to catch on in Vietnam until Gen Z came of age), engage more readily with influencer content, and buy more products recommended by influencers. They also care less about an influencer’s fame compared to the quality of their content.
“Vietnamese Millennials have led the charge towards the modern digital society, and PR specialists of their generation are creating some of the most effective marketing campaigns today,” said Raphael Lachkar, Director of Vero’s Vietnam office.
“However, the internet they grew up with was different from the one Gen Z now spend much of their lives in. Millennial marketers should not appeal solely to an audience of their own generation – they must also reach the consumers of the future, who are part of an influencer-first generation.”
The study also finds some intriguing differences between Vietnam’s North and South, as well as between men and women. Hanoians are more trusting but more demanding, it says, while women have more positive feelings for influencers and men purchase more influencer-endorsed products.
Vero is a regional agency that has been active in Vietnam since 2008 via a local partnership. In 2019, Vero decided to broaden its offer, divesting from its partnership and opening an entirely owned branch in Ho Chi Minh City with full IMC capacity. In doing so, Vero brought on both regional employees and local PR, digital, and brand strategy experts.
“When Vero started off over 10 years ago, Southeast Asia was still in an era where traditional media were the primary way brands built their reputations,” Vero ASEAN Director Brian Griffin said. “PR remains at the core of how we look at communication challenges, but today we’ve integrated more services to the point that digital operations make up over half of what we do in the region. As an ASEAN-focused IMC consultancy, we need to generate our own data in order to better understand the markets we work in, and to help our clients understand opportunities for the best way to create results. All of us need to keep adapting to ensure we are delivering earned content that people trust.”