July 10th, 2012
In Vietnam, P&G Woos Hearts, Minds, and Schools
By Lauren Coleman-Lochner
On June 1 a new kindergarten opened in Minh Phuong, a hardscrabble village about 50 miles from Hanoi. It looks like many schools in developing countries, with mustard-painted cinder block walls and tile floors. There’s something unique about the classrooms, however. Each has a silver-colored plaque near its door emblazoned with names rarely found in a textbook: “Gillette Be Your Best,” “Pampers Golden Sleep,” and “Pantene Shine.”
These are all references to brands sold in Vietnam by Procter & Gamble (PG), whose employees helped raise almost 80 percent of the school’s $100,000 cost. The world’s largest consumer-products company is using everything from good deeds to television advertising to hand-washing demonstrations to win Vietnamese customers. It’s not alone—Anglo-Dutch rival Unilever (UL), which has done business in Asian markets for more than a century, has proven to be a particularly tough competitor. And others such as Kimberly-Clark (KMB) and Germany’s Beiersdorf (BEI) have staked their claims in Vietnam as economic growth ripples through southern Asia.