working towards great client service

Make it Global or Make it Local? Stories of OMO and P/S

Interviewed by Bui Kim Ngan – s3343754

When I was a little kid in a small city nearby Saigon, there were not many products coming from the West. All consumer goods were produced and owned by Vietnamese, with Vietnamese names on the package. My family’s shampoo, soaps, detergent, dishwashing liquid and toothpaste were all surprisingly cheap and surely had very good quality too. Then just a few years later, they were quickly replaced by international brands like OMO, Colgate, Tide, Sunlight, Coast, etc. Consumers started to think quality standards of domestic products were lower, which were one of the reasons that lead to the death of local brands.

Until now, when I have gained more knowledge about advertising, I have realized that all gimmicks are based on the efficiency of brand awareness and positioning. In that complex strategy, localizing a global brand to approach domestic consumers is a must, and advertising is one of the most effective ways to achieve that goal. To find out specifically what “creative adaptations” global brands in Vietnam have been utilizing, I and Mr. Son Nguyen – account group manager of Grey advertising agency had a very interesting conversation.

Having been on the industry for nearly 5 years, Son has had opportunities to work for Lowe and Grey and gained variety of experiences working for international companies. The highlight of our meeting was the two interesting case studies about OMO – a detergent brand and P/S – a toothpaste brand. They revealed different approaches to Vietnamese target audience and proved that localizing global brands make them get closer to people, but is not always the best solution.

Opening the discussion, Son stated that the invasion of multinational corporations to Vietnam is becoming more intense. Since Vietnam has been opening its door to float with the international economy, many of its market’s traits have made the country looks promising to foreign investors.

“It is interesting to see big global corporations like Unilever and Procter & Gamble are significantly aware of the importance of localizing their brands.” – Son said.


Mr. Son Nguyen (in red T-shirt) with his colleagues at Lowe – Photo provided by Son Nguyen

OMO – Put Global Brand in a Cultural Perspective

Back to the time when Son was account executive for Lowe, he considered  OMO – ‘Say It With Kids’ was one of the most memorable campaigns.

OMO has been in Vietnam since 1995 and showed their strong marketing strategy right at the beginning with the firm message: OMO – Dirt Washing Expert (Marketing World 2008). It made a blast because of the early effective utilization of advertising , which successfully created nationwide attention and engegement. In 2005, OMO continued to mark a milestone when it adopted community-oriented advertising and PR strategy. Its process of localization had begun from here.

By 2010, OMO had already established solid brand awareness, and it was time to enhance brand reputation in consumers’ mindset. The purpose was to send “OMO’s Thanks” to all loyal consumers in Vietnam, especially mothers. Tet was the right time to launch advertising campaigns as it could reach mass public in a cultural scenario. That is why ‘Say It With Kids’ was put in the Tet atmosphere.

“However, it was hard to deliver OMO’s Thank You to target audience” – Son claimed, “OMO itself is a detergent brand. Consumers could consider it as a marketing trick rather than honest and genuine gratitude. That was our biggest challenge.”

To resolve this problem, Son and his teammates came up with the idea: let the kids say “Thank You” to their mothers. Maintaining the big theme – ‘Dirt is Good’, OMO developed the campaign by making children say “Thank You” to what their mothers had done to them.


E-seeds for mothers from OMO website (Reproduced from: Campaign Asia)

The campaign was highly successful. Son claimed it was because family values were emphasized in a persuasive manner, and showed OMO’s respect towards Vietnamese culture. Though the combination of mother and child is used in many creative concepts, OMO developed it into the image of “Seeds of Gratitude”, in which children planted real seeds and brought them home as gifts to their mothers.  From a global brand, this idea dug deep into national culture due to the emergence of motherhood and thus convincingly generated brand consolidation.

P/S – Get the Local go Global

Two years later, Son Nguyen moved to Grey and has worked as account group manager. His agency operated with PS – a big toothpaste brand in Vietnam. PS was a Vietnamese brand until Unilever bought it. At that time PS already accounted for 60% market share, the biggest in Vietnam (VTC News 2013).

“However, PS was always perceived as a local brand although Unilever, an international corporation, had bought it. Thus they wanted to make PS considered as toothpaste with international standards.” – Son said.

It was not a big issue until when Colgate entered Vietnam. As the slogan “Recommended by Dentist” strongly emphasized on “expertise” aspect, Vietnamese consumers began to see Colgate as a mightier brand. They utilized the image of Western expertise to promote the trustworthiness of American toothpaste. Meanwhile, PS commercial focused on family values and stuck by portraying itself as a product for Vietnamese people.

“Obviously it was not enough to boost the domestic consumption for PS.” – Son stated.

In the end of 2010, with Colgate’s strong advertising campaign (Mai Tram 2013) and the arrivals of many new toothpaste brands, PS’s market share was remarkably reduced. PS decided to do a big advertising campaign to change consumers’ perspective, in which “expertise factor” was added to increase brand credibility.

Son remembered it took 3 or 4 months just to brainstorm and evaluate creative concepts. They must help maintain family spirit and cultural engagement, and insert the credibility of international standards as well.

“Finally we came up with the ideas of using an “expert mom” – a woman who is a professional dentist and a careful mom at the same time. It was sparkling idea as we combined two necessary elements into one image, which makes the brand become more consistent, credible and premium” – Son assumed.


Image of an “expert mom” (Reproduced from: Youtube – Jen Nguyen)


Taking this case as an example, Son believed sometimes the local elements are not good enough to wake the market. Vietnamese consumers need products that appeal to national taste, but also have high credibility like foreign products. We cannot conduct brand localization without emphasizing the foreign origin, and vice versa, cannot make the product totally foreign without paying tributes to national culture.

I believe there should be a balance between global and local elements. The agency needs to discover if the brands can relate to cultural references in order apply them in an appropriate context during client planning process. Localizing global brands, or adding global standards to domestic products, it all serves the head to a long-term success of client’s marketing strategy.


‘Proof of Life’ Photo

Word count: 1, 100


Campaign Asia, 2013, ‘Say It With Kids’, image, Campaign Asia, viewed on 12th 2013, <,say-it-with-kids.aspx#.UZBHPMqZtcE>.

Jen Nguyen, 2012, ‘PS TVC Commercial 2012 – Babyface Entertainment’, image, Youtuble, viewed on 12th 2013, <>.

Mai Tram, 2013, ‘Colgate directly competes Unilever in tooth care market’, Tu Van Su Dung Kem Danh Rang Cho Hieu Qua, viewed on 11th 2013, <>.

Marketing World, 2008, ‘OMO – The Milestone of Brand Positioning”, Marketing World, viewed on 11th May 2013, <>.

VTC News. 2013. ‘How Did Unilever & Colgate ‘Swallow’ Vietnamese Toothpaste Brands?’, VTC News, viewed on 11th May 2013, <>.


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One thought on “Make it Global or Make it Local? Stories of OMO and P/S



    – “We cannot conduct brand localization without emphasizing the foreign origin, and vice versa, cannot make the product totally foreign without paying tributes to national culture.” HIGHLIGHT THIS IN BOLD OR ITALICS AS THIS IS THE PRIMARY TIP FOR CLIENT MANAGERS.

    – Overall, good case studies serve as good topic discussion anchors. To improve however, there could be more new non-internet resources to counter/ agree with the points raised in this blog to make the discussion well-rounded. Also more specific tips for client managers as to how to creatively explore the ‘local’ or ‘global’ aspects of their clients during the client planning stage. ~Mel C

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