Risk-taker and lateral marketing
Round face, high forehead, gentle look at a glance, and the friendly way of talking presented Phan Quoc Cong as a teacher rather than a sharp businessman.
Before this meeting, I heard a lot about the name Phan Quoc Cong behind the famous brand X-Men. He is said to be a daring marketer who would head into an empty and unattractive market with a few products, the men’s beauty care. And his way of marketing is also worth-mentioning - everything from packaging, branding to brand ambassador, TVCs and print ads is all Western-oriented.
I like the spirit of marketing
Phan Quoc Cong admitted to have trained himself of diligence, carefulness and strong will since his young age. He graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology in 1993. In 1994, he was sent to Belgium to study textile technology and returned to Textimex to build a textile factory. Therefore, in 1995 when he was first exposed to marketing concepts and values in 1995, he was completely stunned. Aside from high quality and reasonable price, consumers still need to find interest in daily products. Cong decided to shift to business although many people who had already known him shook their heads, thinking that he is not suitable for business.
Also in 1995, he wished to set up a household electronics factory as a match with his professional knowledge. To fulfill his wish, he applied for a sales position of Electrolux, the famous home electronics company. However, it is in this working environment that he realized the required capital for a household electronics factory is enormous. At that time in Vietnam, there was only one factory manufacturing washing machines and refrigerators by Sanyo with the capital of 20 million USD.
Acknowledging the excessive capital and technology barriers, he changed his business plan again. He joined SmithKline Beecham Vietnam to market over-the-counter medicines. But not until when he worked for Nestle, a foreign corporation with a food factory in Vietnam, did he accumulate valuable experience. He had the opportunity to take part in product development process from the beginning, from researching customer insight to designing packaging, looking for distribution channels and the market for the products. Cong admitted that 3 years at Nestle brought to him a lot, and he heated more the determination to set up his own business.
In 2002, Cong founded International Consumers Products Ltd. (ICP) with his friends, focusing on personal care and cosmetics since this is the right match for his ability and promises a potential market.
Believe in what you do
With 5 years of always weighing the pros and cons, ICP has made step by step progress. First of all, the introduction of fruit and vegetable wash Vegy met the demands of housewives who were worried about the amount of pesticides remaining in vegetable and fruit. Following this was the kitchen cleanser Ocleen. But only with X-Men, the men’s shampoo, did ICP actually stir up this market. Although it was not the first comer, ICP stimulated consumers’ demands by aggresive marketing strategy.
At that time, discussions arouse among Vietnam marketers that X-Men’s marketing style could easily made people think of a foreign product. Explaining this, Cong shared shortly, “when launching X-men, we wanted to make an international product to be easily exported to other countries. All the later TVCs followed that direction. For instance, by using foreign actors, when selling the products in Cambodia, all we need is to translate these TVCs into native language. At that time, not many people got used to this marketing method, but now I realized many products were marketed this way. For Vietnam’s products with innate strengths such as rice or coffee, Vietnam origin should be emphasized. However, as for cosmetic products, building an international image will help us to move further.”
Believe in what he does and follow it till the end, Cong impressed the modern marketing guru Philip Kotler with his marketing strategies for X-Men, which made Cong more confident in ICP’s future direction.
Bring into play people's strengths
Phan Quoc Cong affirmed, “At ICP, there isn’t an individual brand but the concentration on building a team’s brand. Thus, when setting up ICP, his mission included two important tasks, choosing the proper business solution and building a bonded team. Transparency in everything from finance to salary, bonus, profit, etc. is one thing Cong always maintains to ensure the company’s sustainability.
Phan Quoc Cong’s achievement after 5 years with ICP is partly seen through the success of the shampoo for men category with such brands as X-Men, Dr. Men, X-Men For Boss, Hatrick, and Teen-X. When Mekong Enterprise Fund II invested more than 6 million USD into ICP, Phan Quoc Cong immediately set the plan to use this capital resource. ICP will expand into children’s personal care by partnering with the Disney brand and step into fashion by producing casual wear with the license from Pierre Cardin. Many big projects at ICP are dragging Cong forward.
(Thanh Nien Weekly - 9/01/2008)
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