When one reflects on the success of THP, it’s difficult to not associate that success with the personal traits of my parents. There is no limit to their ambition, and they are relentless in pursuing their dreams. My father literally never gives up. Everything that they believe is encapsulated in THP’s seven core values. The core value closest to my father’s heart is the one which states, “Nothing is impossible. There are no limits to what we can accomplish.”
Those accomplishments, however, don’t come without experiencing failure. Like all great entrepreneurs, my father has never been afraid of failure. In fact, I would say he actively embraces it because he knows it will teach him valuable lessons, which will enable him to achieve even greater heights in the future. If we aren’t willing to fail, we won’t be willing to try new things and take on necessary risk in order to grow and learn.
I often reference our experience in trying to introduce a product called, Laser Beer as an example of this. In 2004, Heineken controlled the largest share of the premium beer market, and my father wanted to compete head-on by producing a draft beer in bottled form. Instead of going to a restaurant, consumers would be able to enjoy the fresh taste of beer at home.
We wanted to compete with Heineken and as a result we invested in aseptic bottling technology, which meant the beer did not need to be pasteurized and would retain its fresh taste. The target audience was meant to be high-income earners, and we believed they would be prepared to pay a premium. So, we priced Laser Beer at VND9,500 per bottle, compared to VND9,000 for a Heineken.
Our large investment meant we needed a pricing proposition for Laser Beer, but pricing above a competitor proved to be a challenge. Things then went from bad to worse when we found it hard to distribute the beer. Many restaurants had exclusivity contracts with competitors like Heineken, which prevented competing products from being distributed.
We had also marketed Laser Beer as “Bia tươi,” which means “fresh beer,” but the affluent young drinkers we were targeting thought this was a product for low-income earners. They carried on ordering “Bia Đức” (German beer) or “Bia Tiệp” (Czech beer). Within eight months it was clear that Laser Beer was a failure, and we withdrew it from the market.
It was a powerful lesson on multiple levels. We made sure to learn from this experience to make sure our R&D, pricing, and promotional strategies were on point for future products. Failure is sometimes a necessary step in the journey to success. Embrace it and don’t fear it. Learn more from our experience by reading my latest book, Competing with Giants.