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Digital advertising in Vietnam for foreign businesses – what are the challenges you may face?

Doing business and investing into Vietnam, many foreign companies face challenging obstacles even though they have no financial obsession.

Consumers feel more confident to choose domestic brands over foreign ones. Today, Vietnamese domestic companies are operating strongly such as: Zalo, Viettel, Vinamilk, VNPT, Sabeco, Vinhomes, MobiFone, Masan Consumer, Vietcombank, FPT and Vincom Retail… Most of them have over 10 years of experience, enough time for companies to assert their brand name. Reference: Thi Truong Tai Chinh Tien Te 

Meanwhile, foreign brands have begun to show signs of “exhaustion” and turned to “defensive” options over the years: Whatsapp, Muji, Big C, Parkson, Lotteria, Shinhan Bank, Hong Leong, Guardian…

Asian companies Vs American companies

If comparing Samsung – Korea and Apple – US, it is straightforward to see that Asian companies are having more disadvantages.

According to a report from Counterpoint in October, Apple’s iPhone accounted for 33.38% of market share in Vietnam, while Samsung ranked second with 30.56% market share. The next three positions in the top 5 belong to Oppo (14.99%), Xiaomi (8.1%) and Vivo (4.36%).

In the three months of the third quarter of 2021 (7, 8 and 9), Counterpoint said that Apple’s iPhone market share was above Samsung, which means that when looking at the quarterly summary, Samsung continues to go behind Apple. Information from: 24h

Samsung dominates the largest markets in Asia but still has to cede the top spot to Apple when competing in Vietnam. From a regional perspective, the Asian company has not been able to develop as a brand that is most loved by Vietnamese people.

Disadvantages of Asian companies

Language is one of the major weaknesses of Asian companies. Vietnamese is not well understood by many people and sometimes the hidden meanings are unpredictable.

Even when used in everyday life, reading and writing, Vietnamese is often more complicated than people think.

Vietnamese is an isolated language with distinctive features that make communication easy:

  • Words will not be morphologically changed, these morphemes are not intended to show the relationship between words in a sentence.
  • The position of words, adjectives or the order of words in a sentence will indicate the grammatical relationship as well as the meaning of the sentence.
  • Features of syllables make the boundaries between syllables, morphemes and words become unclear. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish between phrases and compound words.
  • The definition of the word is also quite vague, there are words that have unrevealed meaning. Read more here.

Grasping the typological features of Vietnamese cannot be done overnight. Asian companies in a hurry will misunderstand the language of Vietnamese.

Vietnam – an Asia from “international” to “global”

Coming to Vietnam, Asian companies should learn from French, American, Swedish and Brazilian companies to enhance their position and experience clearly.

Consider incorporating the advertising methods as below when advertising with Vietnamese people:

  • Facebook Ads + Influencers
  • Zalo Ads
  • Vnexpress
  • Instagram and Facebook organic

Facebook Ads + Influencers are highly effective because your company can interact with customers. Facebook owns a huge user base, valuable data with 3 types of audience, flexible, fast and easy to control advertising distribution budget.

Zalo Network which includes Zalo application, Zing MP3, Bao Moi News, Zing News is the channel that Vietnamese people use every day. Therefore, Zalo Ads supports increasing traffic to website.

Vnexpress reaches almost every audience and is loyal to the traditional Vietnamese newspaper style. Launched in 2001, Vnexpress focus from the title, article description to the details in the article. The most demanding readers will find news content satisfying and meeting their standards.

Instagram and Facebook provide information sharing functions, which should facilitate advertising to young people. With just a few taps, you can find out the company’s information, hours, location, or upcoming events on Instagram and Facebook.

Local management and administration should also be considered whether you are using Facebook Ads, Influencer or Zalo Ads, Vnexpress methods in most cases. And, remember “First distance, second speed”. Success will depend on your presence in the area.


Just investing in the Vietnamese market is not enough, you should learn how to use the language the way Vietnamese people use it. Once you have a solid Vietnamese foundation, you will develop more smoothly.

You can also find a reliable partner in Vietnam to support you. Partners will help you learn about awareness, culture and how Vietnamese people perceive and choose to buy products. As a result, you will improve the digital marketing plans for the company.