VietJet Air teaches Vietnam firms a PR lesson
Updated : 08/11/2012 10:21 GMT + 7
Earlier this week, VietJet Air made national headlines for holding a mid-air bikini show on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang. The airliner has since been fined VND20 million (US$961) for hosting an unapproved event, as well as for allowing passengers to use mobile phones to take pictures. Such a small penalty is surely of little concern for a fairly large company, especially in light of the free publicity they have gotten thanks to the stunt.
Most Vietnamese companies are bad at advertising. TV commercials are loud, bright and obnoxious, and make me want to run away from whatever it is they are selling. For two years I’ve been trying to figure out why so many stores blast nauseating music from speakers set up out front, and I’ve yet to reach a satisfactory answer.
One thing for certain is that I will never enter such a store.
Resorts employ horribly sappy taglines, and oftentimes seem to have no idea how to sell themselves. Vietnam’s business community should take a lesson from VietJet.
The bikini show was obviously somewhat over-the-top, but it fits in with what sells well almost anywhere in the world: sex. In American commercials babes in bikinis sell everything from beer to cars, and Europe is even racier. The fact that people here are criticizing VietJet for such an ‘unconventional’ event is another sign of a country that is fighting itself as it moves towards modernity.
It is very common for a Vietnamese model or this and that actor to be fined for baring too much skin, smoking on a catwalk, or some similar offence that just seems silly to Western sensibilities. While waiting at a red light on the streets here you can look to your left and see a middle-aged woman covered nearly head-to-toe on her motorbike, while to your right is a young woman in shorts so short they are practically underwear and a top that leaves nothing to the imagination.
The controversy over VietJet illustrates this generational divide perfectly: I’m sure many older people were shocked to see pictures from that flight, but I would bet that most young Vietnamese (OK let’s be honest, mostly guys) are now much more interested in VietJet.
Call me a chauvinist, but I’ll certainly give more thought to flying with them the next time I travel domestically.
It is these young Vietnamese that businesses should be aiming much of their advertising at. This country has a massive number of people below the age of 30, and they are becomingly increasingly wealthy and westernized. Ads that worked on their parents won’t work on them. If a company has to suffer a $1,000 fine in order to generate buzz and surely attract future customers, they should be more than willing to do so. In a land where advertising somehow manages to simultaneously be boring and obnoxious, any firm who adds a touch of edginess to their marketing will have a big advantage. Perhaps there will be more VietJets in the near future.