Five things a PR professional should consider if they want Russians to love their brand

The Russian market in the 21st century has changed beyond recognition. It now stands out sharply in comparison to the other markets due to the speed and radical nature of these changes.

The way Russians view brands is changing, writes Dmitry Korobkov
The way Russians view brands is changing, writes Dmitry Korobkov

PR teams from Europe and the US should therefore take specific considerations into account to successfully promote brands in Russia. Based on my experience with foreign partners, I have compiled five points that are often not obvious to American or European counterparts.

1. Russia is a very young market. The history of branding here dates back barely more than twenty years. Before that time we had a non-brand society. Advertising in the Soviet Union simply meant "eat fish", "buy shoes", or "fly the (only available) airline". It's truly amazing how consumer preferences have changed over time. A new, brand-focused generation has arisen that treats purchasing entirely differently than their parents did.

2. Brand-building skills and the creation of advertising communications in Russian companies are completely different to those of Western countries, and even more so depending on the business sector. For Russians, the whole concept of brand management is fairly new. Most people associate the brands only in relation to consumer qualities. However, as employees of foreign companies took jobs in Russia, strong examples of working with the local brands deserve attention. For example, telecoms tends to take a professional approach to brand management, while segments like the jewelry sector or household goods are packed with curious brands with funny names, chaotic and tasteless communications, and spontaneous development.

3. The luxury segment stands apart. A joke from the 1990s is still relevant. One businessman asks another: "How much did you pay for your tie?" The other one answers: "$200." The first one then says: "Ha! You fool! The store around the corner sells them for $300!" This is only a slight exaggeration. Until now, people who drive expensive cars or wear Armani suits while economising on basics - food, for example - are not rare.

4. Love of domestic brands is moving along a sine curve. After 1917, many well-known brands of tsarist Russia disappeared. In the USSR and, at first, after the collapse of the state, imported consumer goods were deemed prestigious and were coveted. Then came the wave of patriotism that brought new "local" brands. So, originally everyone adored Western brands, and then Russian brands were better developed. Now, in the wake of the current foreign policy developments, we see an even greater increase in the popularity of Russian brands. Naturally this is a very favourable trend, which is exploited by foreign companies as well.

5. Any generalisation is of course dangerous, but European brands are generally more popular in Russia than US brands. This is largely explained by the simple geographic proximity. In the Russian language there is even the prefix "euro", denoting a kind of quality label: for example, "eurorenovation" means home renovation with a high level of comfort.

I believe that we are approaching the moment to change this situation and move towards greater diversification and it is hoped that business will remain indifferent to politics.

I have no doubt that success is dependent primarily on the professionalism of the team, and not on the country of origin.

Dmitry Korobkov is the chairman of the comms group ADV

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