Tuesday, November 25

The familiar versus the cutting-edge

People...Vietnam, UK, France, US, Brazil... We're becoming so similar in our habits, our likes, our technologies, our media and yet we're still so, so different. As a marketing guy I spend a lot of time getting into the mindset of the target audience, with groups as different as low-income frequent online gamblers, to Aston Martin driving readers of Clarkson.

Vietnam is, by far, the hardest challenge yet. I speak the Vietnamese. I've travelled here countless times, I now live in Saigon. But still the nuances of what makes people tick is illusive. I can almost see it, but I'm not yet sure. With a web application, this nuance is vital to understand.

In Europe, in 2008, we can assume a lot about our visitors abilities online. They'll comprehend a social network very quickly, they'll identify the benefit to themselves (or not) within a few clicks. In Vietnam you can't assume anything. You can build a service for the masses, but it will need to be toned right down, look familiar, have familiar features and functions. Familiar is mass market, but a crowded competitive space. Or you can build it for the tech-aware, and hope it 'tips' from there into a bigger audience.

Taking advice on this nuance from some of the very talented locals that really do 'get it' is very difficult too. Because an opinion is an opinion, and it's based on that own persons tech awareness and abilities. So it probably does not represent the wider, mass of users who are some years behind.

The hardest part of this is striking something in the middle. Something new, something unique, something useful...but that is strangely familiar and easy to adopt.

My tendency is to want to bring something fresh and new. But that's also a lonely place to be. So I am listening to views of lots of people from all backgrounds to get an instinct on what they like, how far to push design, functionality... This is something that, as an onlooker, I think VinaGame have got. That's one reason they've taken Zing up against Yahoo so strongly.

The best analogy I can make is with the coffee shops of Saigon. There are hundreds of standard coffee shops. They play famous Vietnamese love songs, have good cheap lunches and are generally popular. (I struggle to name one because they are all so similar). Then there are a few funky, fashionable new guy's, like NokBox, SOHO. They have pushed the boundaries in design, style and atmosphere. Prices are a little higher. And they're doing pretty well at it, and you remember them. Even talk about them.


Blogger David Everitt-Carlson said...

Good call on Vinagame. But in my book, Soho will never beat my corner coffee, that is, until I have a hot chickadee to impress!

25 November, 2008 13:03  

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