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Nation Branding Through VinFast News Coverage | Report

For a prolonged period of history, Vietnam was deep in colonialization, wars and division and for that many times, the Vietnamese Communist Party has managed to unify the country against foreign disruptions (Sutherland 2012). Inevitably, people remember these events as their long-lasting impression of Vietnam. Henceforth, in recent years, Vietnam has been trying so reinvent their image as a developing economy and technological-forward country.

The end of 2017 observed a breakthrough in Vietnam history when VinFast was established as the first Vietnam-owned automotive manufacturer (Duc Huy 2017). This surely made its impacts on the national image of Vietnam since the company has been getting great amount of press coverage ever since it was founded. Vietnam is in urgent state to rewrite its name on the international discourse yet like many other ASEAN country, nation branding is an under-researched subject (Dinnie et al. 2010). Therefore, this study aims to explore how different online news media has been portraying nation branding in Vietnam through the impact of VinFast.


Scholars often interested in the history and the impact that colonisers had on Vietnam, leaving an outdated impression of the country. Little attention has been given to the current development Vietnam is trying to portray.

VinFast operates under VinGroup, Vietnam’s biggest private corporation (Duc Huy 2017). VinGroup has the aim to strengthen industrial development of Vietnam. Accordingly, VinFast provides the perfect model for nation branding by ‘[serving] as a signal to the rest of the world that the country is undergoing an economic transition to high-value industries, … a strong trading force in Southeast Asia’ (VinFast n.d).

Literature Review

Nation Branding

According to Anderson (2006), the idea of a nation is socially constructed where people imagine themselves as part of a community. Hence, a nation only exists where people represent it. The process of building this representation is ‘nation branding’ (Viktorin et al. 2018).

Nation branding is a collective force combining various institutions within society to create a depiction of ‘a geographical-political-economic-social entity’ (Viktorin et al. 2018, p. 1). This depiction should enhance and improve the perception of people from outside looking in. Ultimately, the goal is to gain power in international political discourse, generate economic investments and prosperity (Bolin & Miazhevich 2018).

Nation Branding and the Media

The execution of nation branding involves delivering the message to target audience to shape their perception (Bolin & Miazhevich 2018). Therefore, a medium is required. Anderson (2006) emphasised how the media is a means to formation of communities of message receivers. Through empowering the feeling of nationalism, the media creates a complex network of people who share visions and desires. The new media is a cluster of multiple genres of information. It should be no surprise when there exists a crossover between nation branding (politics) and lifestyle journalism (consumption of VinFast cars for example) (Duffy & Ashley 2012).

Nation Branding through Promotion of Domestic Corporation

The act of branding a corporation means producing a positive brand image to induce desires of ownership within audience (Viktorin et al. 2018). This process coincides with nation branding on many levels from its purpose to its means of communication. Hence, ‘nation branding can be … in conjunction with PR consultants and corporate businesses to launch campaigns promoting a certain image of a nation state’ (Bolin & Miazhevich 2018, p. 530). So in the progress of promoting a domestic brand through news media, influential corporation could potentially represent the country on international market and exert its brand image on the country. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘image transfer’ (Gotsi, Lopez & Andriopoulos 2011).

Research Questions

As clearly seen from the review, the news media is a multi-dimensional space where there are cross-sections of seemingly unrelated matters. For that reason, news media can be used as a tool in nation branding to effectively transfer the brand image of a domestic corporation into a representation of the nation itself. From here, the following research questions have been derived:

RQ1: How did Vietnamese online news media use the image of VinFast to portray Vietnamese national image?

RQ2: Are there any visible differences between the portrayals of VinFast by different news websites?


Content analysis will be applied as a research method for this paper. This is a message-centred methodology that will produce quantitative outcomes, measuring the frequency of certain codes found in the sample text (Macnamara 2015) (Lin, Pearson & Cai 2011).

Population of text

This study analysed news articles with the mentioning of VinFast from 1 October 2018 to present time, 31 March 2019. This specific time frame was chosen because VinFast cars attended its first international showcase during October 2018 and since then, it has been staged with an enormous amount of press coverage (My Anh 2018).

The news articles were collected from two Vietnamese news website, VNExpress and Kenh14. These are both most consumed news websites in Vietnam. Whilst Kenh14 is the communication bridge to teenagers and young adults, VNExpress, as a designated liberal news site, is accessed by more mature audiences (Vu 2017) (SimilarWeb 2019). The onsite search engines are used to obtain news articles with the keyword ‘VinFast’. This resulted in a sample size of 106 news articles (VNExpress: 81, Kenh14: 25) and each unit of individual articles is analysed.


Based on the earlier works of Gotsi, Lopez & Andriopoulos (2011) and Duffy & Ashley (2012) mentioned in the ‘Literature Review’ section, the following categories are hereby used to code the sample text:


RQ1 examined how did online news media use the image of VinFast to portray Vietnamese national brand. The result (see Figure 1) has shown that both news websites predominantly portrayed VinFast in ‘international visibility’ (73% in total) and ‘national pride’ (76.1% in total).

RQ2 explored the extent to which there is a significant difference between the portrayals of VinFast in each news source. Visually (see Figure 2), there are three categories that have considerably different frequency:

  • Advertisement

  • Potential competitor

  • Cosmopolitan


This study explored the way in which different online new sources use the promotion of VinFast to portray Vietnam’s nation branding. Similarities as well as interesting differences were found through content analysis of these news articles.

‘Image transfer’ of VinFast to nation branding

Regarding RQ1, both websites have shown that through international exposure of VinFast, it has imposed on the image of Vietnam a sense of pride. 73% of the sample celebrated VinFast as a representation of Vietnamese nationalism and a proof of development to foreigners.

On the other hand, the other three categories did not make significant coverage. Although Vietnam did take on a lot of influence from foreign brands during the making of VinFast vehicles, ‘cosmopolitan’ image did not transfer into the national brand. The same goes for potential competitors. Many professionals, both domestic and foreign, considered VinFast to have a lot of potential in taking on the global market but this details did not shine through. VinFast was also included as advertising materials but this does not reflect in the image of Vietnam.

Differences in Frequency

This begins with the huge difference in the sample size from each news source. From there, the three pillars, advertisement, potential competitor and cosmopolitan are covered at drastically different frequency in each website. This might occur for the following reasons:

  • Advertisements was much more visible in Kenh14 than VNExpress. This might due to the fact that the prizes and competition are aimed at younger news consumers in Kenh14.

  • Potential competitor was more dominantly portrayed in VNExpress than Kenh14. The reason is because business competition (price, market situation and etc.), especially at a macro-economic level, are more of a concern from the mature group of audience. These are the people who genuinely care if Vietnam is seen as an internationally qualified competitor.

  • Cosmopolitan was seen more frequently in Kenh14 since young adults are more exposed to foreign influence. Therefore, they want to see how much of VinFast and Vietnam is actually influenced by popular culture and fit into the global standard.

Overall, due to the contradicting interest of their respective audience that the frequency of VinFast portrayals varies on different websites. However, it is worth noting again that they still share the same goal to promote VinFast’s international visibility and national pride.


There are limitations on this research paper. The limited time frames and sample size might not be sufficient to reflect upon the representation of nation branding through VinFast on Vietnamese news media landscape as a whole. Moreover, it is important to be aware of the generalisation of concepts and coding process. This instance hereby calls for future in-depth revisions with a more satisfactory population of text and coding.

However, that does not mean the findings are completely disregarded. Finding out the gap in academic research on ‘image transfer’ from corporate promotion to national branding, this study took the case of VinFast to explore in what way that promotion of an automotive manufacturers can reflect upon the branding of the whole nation. Through analysis of news coverage on VinFast, the finding shows that Vietnamese news media uses international visibility of VinFast to reflect upon Vietnamese nationalism as a show and tell of development. Although there are different frequencies in the way each new source portrays VinFast, namely its advertisement, cosmopolitan and potential of VinFast to compete on global market, the reasons came down to respecting and responding to audience’s interest.

On a grand scale, the purpose of this ‘image transfer’ from business to national branding is to ensure that the international perception on national image is an accurate representation of their economic development. ‘To have some kind of image, and escape their current anonymity, they would be able to participate more effectively in the global marketplace’ (Anholt 2008, p. 265).


Anderson, B 2006, Imagined. Communities -Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 3th edn, Verso Books, London.

Duffy, A & Ashley, Y 2012, ‘Bread and Circuses’, Journalism Practice, February, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 59-74.

Duc Huy 2017, ‘Vingroup produce cars - car dream of Vietnamese people’, VNExpress, 2 September, viewed 19 November 2017, <>.

Anholt, S 2008, ‘‘Nation Branding’ in Asia’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, November, vol. 4, iss. 4, pp. 265–269.

Bolin, G & Miazhevich, G 2018, ‘The soft power of commercialised nationalist symbols: Using media analysis to understand nation branding campaigns’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, October, vol. 21(5), pp. 527–542.

Dinnie, K, Melewar, C, Seidenfuss, K & Musa, G 2010, ‘Nation branding and integrated marketing communications: An ASEAN perspective’, International Marketing Review, vol. 27, iss. 4, pp. 388-403.

Gotsi, M, Lopez, C & Andriopoulos, C 2011, ‘Building country image through corporate image: exploring the factors that influence the image transfer’, Journal of Strategic Marketing, June, vol. 9, iss. 3, pp. 255-272.

Lin, Y, Pearson, T & Cai, L 2011, ‘Food as a form of destination identity: A tourism destination brand perspective’, Tourism and Hospitality Research, December, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 30-48.

Macnamara, R 2015, ‘Media content analysis: its uses, benefits and best practice methodology’, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-34, <;dn=200705762;res=IELAPA>.

My Anh 2018, ‘Paris Motor Show 2018 - nơi VinFast chào thế giới’, VNExpress, 1 October, viewed 8 April 2019, <>.

SimilarWeb 2019, ‘’, SimilarWeb, viewed 11 April 2019, <>.

Sutherland, C 2012, ‘Introduction: Nation-building in China and Vietnam’, East Asia, March, vol. 29, iss. 1, pp. 1-13.

Viktorin, C, Will, M, Estner, A & Gienow-Hecht, J 2018, Nation Branding in Modern History, Berghahn Books Incorporated, viewed 10 April 2019, ProQuest database.

VinFast n.d., ‘About’, VinFast, viewed 11 April 2019, <>.

Vu, T 2017, ‘Quảng cáo trên Kênh14 – Cầu nối với các khách hàng trẻ’, Sense Media, 16 May, viewed 11 April 2019, <>.


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