Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Challenges and opportunities of regional branding in Russia

Russian chapter of IABC held a roundtable at the press center of RIA Novosti devoted to the theme of branding Russia's regions. Here are the highlights of the discussion that lasted for over two hours.

In the Russian Federation there are 83 federal subjects, including 21 republics complete with own heads of state and heraldry. Plus, of course, the federal heraldry.

Demand for regional branding comes mainly from the authorities. Igor Mintusov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nikkolo M group of companies, said: “Regional governors are interested in attracting tourists, investment, and making sure the population stays in the region.”

Since mid-90s, visual branding has increasingly been a tool for highlighting projects in Russia's regions and cities. But, according to Andrey Lapshov, President, IABC/Russia, branding a region represents a real challenge to marketers on par with global corporate marketing projects.

“Territorial branding has been practiced worldwide for over 20 years compared to 5-7 years in Russia,” Alexander Chumikov, Director, International Press Club, said. “There is not a single local agency able to handle such complex promotion projects.”

Lack of expertise leads to excessive caution which limits creativity. “[Regional] brands in Russia are created for a theme and not with a purpose,” Pavel Rodkin, branding expert at RIA Novosti, said. He also gave a brilliant example (see page 4 of the PDF document) of how Russia is viewed as a brandless desert.

To cope with the challenge, contractors are inviting international professionals as consultants. The result is much better when they are assigned particular tasks and no hidden agenda is involved. Here is a nice example of a promo video for the ancient city of Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan will host the Universiade games of 2013. Hat tip to Oleg Manzha, Director General, Sportima.

There are easier and obviously cheaper ways to win attention from target audiences. “Any regional town in Russia can outshine Paris or Milan for a day,” Andrey Pourtov, Co-Founder and Director General,, said. “All the promotion budget should go to a single but unique project.”

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