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Monday, November 05, 2012

10 things marketers need to know about Russia: fair trade, cash, mobile and market research

This is the last blog post in our '10 things about Russia' series. To read the previous 6 insights, please click here.

#7 Fair trade? Never even heard of it!
Russia is also unusual in having had an imperial, but no obvious colonial past. So the whole concept of Fair Trade and concerns or ‘liberal guilt’ about conditions in the developing world are often quite muted. This means that ethical or environmental claims tend to be missed or even misunderstood by many consumers.

#8 Russians buy in different ways.
It would be easy to assume that living in a G8 country with a fairly high GDP per capita income would mean that people had bank accounts and be used to online payments, but... as always Russia has its own way. The financially unstable 1990s and a number of bank collapses long undermined people's trust in financial institutions. Even in 2012 Russia remains a cash or digital cash economy on a day-to-day basis.

People can pay cash for anything - including property and luxury cars. Online transactions are still more of an exception rather than a rule. Online shops will deliver products by courier, who collect the cash from customers.

#9 Money on the other hand is more mobile.
The underdeveloped banking system also means that mobile payments (by texting and using stored value cards) are more common and more sophisticated than they are in many Western markets.

Strong WiMax networks and free WiFi in most places also mean that the mobile Internet and mobile marketing are more advanced.

#10 Not the easiest consumer to study.
Russians - culturally - were never asked for their opinion. Russia is still not a market where consumers will easily ‘play the game’ and speak effortlessly about their feelings about products or brands, setting aside the rational answers that can sometimes frustrate research buyers.

For this reason, marketers need to be mindful of how they approach research, whom they target and what the best format for exploring a brand or campaign idea is. That’s where we come in.

We hope you enjoyed our 10 things that marketers should know about Russia. Hopefully it is no longer a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

Movember at Thinktank: permission, masculinity and brands of course

Movember is surely one of the great campaigns of recent years. It has engaged consumers throughout the country, got them participating (with their face no less) and made great use of social media. It has become a campaign that other brands want to be part of too. Just look at Gillette, HP Sauce and Byron jumping in to lend their support.

For the next month I will look a fool but everyone will know what I'm doing. They'll also know what I'm doing it for. Prostate cancer awareness should be the brief of nightmares for marketers. Getting men to think about their health is hard enough, let alone their intimate health when it doesn't directly affect their sexual prospects.

Movember's success is built on great insights about men. It plays on young men's desire for permission to test conventions but in the safe confines of a herd in much the same way as stag do fancy dress. Competitive facial hair growing plays on man's desire to measure his masculinity and compare it to his friends'. The moustache itself also comes with so many great nostalgic connotations; Magnum PI, Goose and Daley Thompson were 80's alpha male heroes. Finally, the timing is smart, taking one of the grimmest months of the year and turning it into something fun.

This year I am taking part in Movember. If you'd like to sponsor me that would be lovely. http://mobro.co/andycooper5

Andy, day 1 

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10 things marketers need to know about Russia: conspicuous consumption, lifestages and Russian TV

Today we continue to publish 10 things marketers need to know about Russia. You can read the first 3 insights if you follow this link.

#4 Russians consume conspicuously.
As in many developing markets, attitudes to consumerism are less conflicted than those in the West. It is important to remember that Russians did not have the pleasures of consumerist societies for over 70 years, so aren’t apologetic or self-deprecating about material success and aspirations: if you've got it, flaunt it! So should luxury brands try to be more understated? Of course not!

#5 Young lifestages are very different.
In Russia, fitting consumers into life stages can be trickier. ‘Gap years’ do not exist and most students live with their parents when they go to university. People tend to move in together, get married and have kids much earlier than in the West. Meanwhile, in a booming economy, careers can progress very rapidly, meaning social standing can be hard to pin down. So a 25 year old can be a CFO - and be just as likely to be single as to have three kids.

#6 Young Russians rarely watch TV.
If you think it is tricky to target youth in the UK – it’s even harder in Russia. Local terrestrial schedules there are heavily dominated by government propaganda, TV remains analogue and is widely pitched at an older, mainstream audience. This means that to not have a TV is now a hip lifestyle choice, and young Russians (especially the affluent and educated urban audience) tend to say goodbye to their TV sets willingly. Besides, with piracy being far more prevalent and monetized than it is in the West, the most popular TV shows and films are easily accessed online.

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

10 things marketers need to know about Russia: brand new world, Moscow and tough competition

Russia has been 'open for business' for over 20 years and the iron curtain is long gone. But even now it is often seen as a bit of a mystery – with its own alphabet and opaque political structure.

In this context, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the differences, find the most obvious common denominator and wishfully think that Russia (and especially Moscow) is nevertheless 'a bit like Europe'.

Konstantin Pinaev, our Moscow-born Head of Co-creation at Thinktank, put together a list of 10 things that marketers should keep in mind when they think about Russia. The first three insights are published in our blog today.

#1 Russians are still in a brand new world.
Brands in the way we understand them in the West did not exist in Russia until the early 1990s. A tranche of consumers still remember the days when there were no ads or brands.

That means that the picture has yet to settle; the brand universe is far more dynamic, heritage is often slender and reputations are easily lost and won. What’s more, the consumer is more fickle and harder to hold on to.

#2 Moscow is another country.
It’s fair to say that London is not the UK; New York is not the US and Paris is not France. It would be even fairer to say that Moscow is not Russia.

Here the differences really are huge: income levels are multiple times higher and habits and media consumption are nothing like the rest of the country.

#3 Don’t underestimate local competitors.
You’ll also be surprised by just how strong local champions can be.

What’s the most popular search engine? It’s Yandex (Google is way behind).
What is the most popular social network? It’s ‘VKontakte’ (‘in contact’). Facebook is not even the second – it is way behind ‘Odnoklassniki’ (‘Classmates’).

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