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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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