The Lexus, the Olive tree and the xenophile “guilt”

Ngày: 31-05-2013


“The Lexus and the Olive tree” (by Thomas L. Friedman) is a great book about globalisation – a concept of the conflict between civilisation and poverty, old and new norms, traditional and international values. The author used Toyota’s modern “Lexus” – at the South of Tokyo and the ancient “Olive tree” on the bank of Jordan river as metaphors.


The luxurious Lexus is a symbol of civilisation. The factory of Lexus in Tokyo manufactures 300 cars daily, using 66 workers and 310 robots. Automated, speedy and absolutely accurate. Human are only responsible for product quality control. There’s only few people that give hands to twist a screw or heal some parts. They even have automatic trucks to transport materials in the factory that are able to identify human and alert them by “beep”.

In contrast, people are killing each other for the ownership of the olive tree in Beirut and Jerusalem. The conflict between the Serb and the Muslim or the Hebrew and the Palestine for the olive tree ownership is to answer the question: I must be acknowledged by owning this symbolic value. If not, I will be dominated in economics and politics by others and more importantly, I will not be considered as an ethnic with an unique identity.


The Olive tree is a symbol of somewhat called “essence” because of various reasons. Human often intends to remain old values. And old values are sometimes a barrier of evolution and development.


In essence, the symbols of the Lexus and the Olive tree reflect human attitude towards evolution and development process. In the development principle, whether keeping pace with changes or not depends on the adaptability, the bravery to get rid of the old things and have open eyes to the world outside.


When opening doors to the world, Vietnamese people have a prevalent term: “xenophile”. Anyone who shows the preference or adoration to foreign people or international brands is normally judged as xenophile “guilt”.


Nick Vujicic came to Vietnam and his presence triggered a media storm of mixed opinions including tears, sympathy as well as criticism and ostracism. The peak of the criticism is: Why we spent hugely 32 billion Dong (the Vietnamese currency) to invite a foreigner guy to talk? Why did’n use this money to support other Vietnamese handicaps? Does Vietnam lack of role models that overcome their difficult circumstances like Nick? Why we had to queue to praise a foreigner?


Yes, we do not lack of typical people who overcome their special difficulties. But how about the ability of speaking in public and especially ability to inspire thousands people? Do we have such a person?


A group seems to fall into the “Olive tree” syndrome as mentioned in the story above: Oh, the “foreigner” Nick is good but our “Vietnamese” Nicks are also the same. I want a “Vietnamese” Nick to be respected and praised in the world like that or even more. Vietnam’s identity is not behind the Western civilisation.


We should make an opposite question: why don’t we have such a media-attractive Vietnamese Nick Vujicic? Does his success only come as a result of contemporary PR? Is that because the Australian Nick has “a strong brand image” then he is invited to talk everywhere (Nick has come to deliver speech in over 40 countries in the world)?


In short, Nick is only a “commercial product” in the eyes of many people.




I am myself  dying for a Vietnamese “commercial product” like Nick? For what? First, that person will have a generous life (it is said that Nick is paid thousands of dollars for every single presentation). Next, the society will have another person who can inspire, motivate many unlucky people and even those who are in intellectual impasse. As Nick did, is doing and will do in the future.


If we spent 32 billion to heavily promote a “Vietnamese” Nick, would he attract 30.000 people to My Dinh stadium? And would Facebook be “heaten” up unusually by this event? A recent article explained the reason why Vietnamese people facing same circumstance like Nick do not receive such a appraisals. It justifies by excuse of “No man is the prophet in his own land” and the xenophile psychology of Vietnamese people.


It reminds the author a similar incidence when Starbucks opened their first store in HCM city several months ago. There are numerous people queueing to enjoy “the coffee-flavoured water with sugar” and then they receive ironical comments: you are xenophilous!


Come on! the addiction to the civilisation and something news is also a “guilt”? Really?


A brand is strong or weak, loved or hated does not depend on “the Olive tree philosophy” hidden under deceptive words such as “patriotic” or “national pride”.


No one forces you to love or hate a certain brand. Love or adoration comes very naturally. We, of course, wish that there will be someday a talented Vietnamese speaker like Nick Vujicic who would be invited to speak in Australia or the U.S, would be paid a high fee and would be welcomed everywhere. Trung Nguyen coffee already opened a store in the U.S. It’s a big proud if American would queue up to buy Trung nguyen’s Robusta cup of coffee.


Then, would we go back to criticise local customers as xenophile?


It’s time to make clear of this term. That is the desirable word for every company and brand. To be “xenophilous”, brands must be better, more differentiated and sometimes luckier than competitors. And you know, once to be “xenophilous”, the glory and money will naturally run to you despite any criticism.


In a flat world, unless we change the mindset and viewpoint to the world, we will “dig” a stagnate “hollow” on our own.


And nothing is terrible as a stagnate “hollow” in the mind.


Global brands always develop and innovate day by day to be more advanced. There is no place for those who wants to get into the Lexus but still try to hold the Olive tree.


Nguyen Duc Son

Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates


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