The CMO Survey Blog

The Riddle of Marketing in Russia

This post was co-authored with Evgenia Barkanova, Irina Kudryashova, and Irina Melnik, all MBA students at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

Winston Churchill said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” This becomes clear when thinking about U.S. companies marketing in Russia (more properly called the Russian Federation). Results from the last CMO Survey indicate that Russia is the international market with the highest sales growth rate. Sales are reported to have grown an average of 57% for U.S. companies that designate Russia as their largest international market. This compares with India at 38%, China at 26%, and Brazil with 19% growth.

Where is the enigma inside the Russian marketing mystery? Consider these facts. Russian is the world’s 6th largest economy. A member of G8 and G20, identified among the BRIC economies, and a recent entrant to the WTO, Russia is an emerging economic powerhouse. Strong earnings from the oil/natural gas industry have grown the overall economy and allowed the country to diversify its economy while retaining an above average GDP growth rate of 4.1 % from 2010-2012 according to the World Bank (compared to 2.4% for the USA). Even with these impressive credentials, Russia remains a difficult market for many foreign companies for a variety of reasons. What should U.S. marketers know about this Russian riddle? We collected the following case studies involving non-Russian and Russian companies as well as several interesting facts to offer these insights.

1. Sochi 2014: All eyes on Russia: The 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi promise a wealth of opportunities for foreign firms and investors. An estimated $50 billion will be spent on more than 40 transport, housing, stadiums, and other modernization projects along with upgrades in telecom, energy, and environmental protection to convert Sochi into a winter sports wonderland. Participating in this important international event could help non-Russian firms make inroads for future projects. Official sponsorships as well as using the Olympics for independent marketing events that piggyback on individual events and athletes could help build brand awareness among Russian customers. One threat is that the games may not go off as well as sponsors hope. The opening ceremony glitch with the Olympic rings is well-known by now and public perception of the games is so bad that @SochiProblems has already racked up ten times the followers compared to @2014Sochi—the official Twitter account for the games. The Olympic experience may serve as a metaphor for doing business in Russia … full of opportunities, but one is wise to prepare for more than the usual amount of the unexpected.

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CMO Optimism, Confidence, and Company Growth Strategies

Results from the February 2014 edition of The CMO Survey, a biannual survey of marketing leaders, offer strong evidence that markets are on solid footing. CMO optimism for the U.S. economy reached its highest point in five years. Asked to rate their optimism about the overall economy on a 0-100 scale where 100 is most optimistic, CMOs reported an average score of 66.1 which is nearly 20 points higher than a low score of 47.7 in February 2009 (see Figure 1). This optimism occurred across all sectors, ranging from manufacturing to biotech and consumer packaged goods.

Figure 1. How optimistic are you about the overall U.S. economy on a 0-100 scale with 0 being the least optimistic and 100 the most optimistic?
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Underlying this optimism are improvements in key customer metrics such as increased entry of new customers into the market, increased customer acquisition, increased purchase volume, and increased customer retention. These top marketers also predict that customers’ top priority over the next twelve months will be a focus on product quality, not on low price. This shift indicates a belief that consumers are ready to spend again and are less interested in cost savings.
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Why Companies Should Compete on Privacy (and What Customers Can Do to Help)

The CMO Survey reports that 40 percent of companies use customer information collected online for targeting purposes and 88.5 percent of chief marketing officers expect this practice to increase over time. At the same time, CMOs have very low levels of concern about how the use of online customer data infringes upon privacy. Specifically, when asked, “How worried are you that this use of online customer data could raise questions about privacy?” on a scale where 1=not at all worried and 7 is very worried, the average response was 3.5. The Figure shows the full distribution.

Figure. CMO concerns about use of online customer data and privacy questions
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At the same time, a recent by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 86 percent of Internet users have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints — ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email. Fifty-five percent have gone even further to avoid being observed by specific people, organizations or the government.
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Measuring Social Media ROI: Companies Emphasize Voice Metrics

The influential economist Albert O. Hirschman argues that customers can have a disciplining effect on companies and markets through their exit and voice behaviors. Instead of simply “quitting” a product, Hirschman urged customers to voice their complaints so companies could improve and learn. Hirschman would be a happy camper these days because social media puts a megaphone on the voice of the customer. Results from The CMO Survey® show that companies, in turn, are also starting to see the value of emphasizing voice-based metrics.

The CMO Survey investigated which metrics companies are using to measure the impact of social media investments. In August 2010 and then again in February 2013, top marketers were asked to share which metrics they use to evaluate social media. Looking across the results, we can see which metrics companies most often use. The survey did not, however, ask respondents to rank or rate each metric in terms of importance. (more…)

Bulls, Bears, and CMOs: Predicting the Future of Markets

From reading the press, I think it’s fair to say that we look to members of the financial sector to tell us where the economy is going. These soothsayers read the tea leaves using metrics like interest rates, capital expenditures, unemployment and stock market reactions. This is all well and good, but it is incomplete. I think it is also wise to tap into the collective wisdom of marketing leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of the market’s biggest engine—customers.

In the February 2013 CMO Survey, 468 U.S. CMOs rated their optimism for the economy on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest). The average score was 62.7, which is up from 58.4 in August 2012. This ~10% increase is important but a set of follow up questions tells us even more. Specifically, CMOs were asked to state whether they were “more optimistic,” “less optimistic,” or “no change” compared to the prior quarter. In August 2012, results indicated that uncertainty was rampant with about one third of the sample more optimistic, another third less optimistic, and the final third no change (see Figure 1). Results of the February survey indicate that CMOs who were more optimistic increased from 29 percent of the sample in August 2012 to a whopping 56 percent in the current survey! This 93 percent increase offers a very strong signal that economic uncertainty is fading. (more…)

CMOs on the U.S. Economy: No Rebound in Sight

New results from The CMO Survey are in and they ain’t pretty. Two key findings reflecting top marketers’ views about the economy stand out. First, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) expressed doubt about the outlook for the U.S. economy. On a 100-point scale where 0 is least optimistic and 100 is most optimistic, ratings dropped from a post-recession high of 63.4 in February 2012 to a score of 58.4 in August 2012. Figure 1 shows this trajectory over time. The greatest pessimism lies among business-to-business companies which dropped from an overall optimism score in February 2012 of 60.2 to a low of 53.6 in August. Business-to-consumer companies also decreased, but only from 63.8 to 61.5.

Figure 1. CMO Optimism for U.S. Economy (0-100 with 0 being the least optimistic)

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Why Apple is a Great Marketer

Apple was voted the overall winner of the 2012 CMO Survey Award for Marketing Excellence… yet again. Apple has been selected as the winner or co-winner for five consecutive years by the sample of top marketers. So why is Apple a great marketer?

When Apple, Inc. (then Apple Computer, Inc.) incorporated in January 1977, its investor/advisor, Mike Markkula, assembled a 3-point marketing philosophy. Amazingly, thirty-five years later, this philosophy remains at the core of what makes Apple so effective at creating and profiting from loyal customers. This, in my view, is the definition of a strong marketing capability. Here are Apple’s original three points:

  • Empathy – We will truly understand their [customer] needs better than any other company.
  • Focus – In order to do a good job of the things we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.
  • Impute – People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.

Apple has used these principles to become the world’s most valuable company (measured by market capitalization) and one of world’s most valuable brands. Here are ten strategies Apple has used to become one of the world’s greatest marketers:

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Top Marketers See U.S. Economy on the Rebound

The results from The CMO Survey are in and one fact is very clear:  Chief Marketing Officers are overwhelmingly optimistic about the U.S. economy’s outlook. When asked if they were more or less optimistic about the overall U.S. economy compared to last quarter, optimists outweighed pessimists 8 to 1. (more…)

What Customers Want

The CMO Survey asks top marketers to rank order the following factors in terms of their importance to customers: low price, superior product quality, superior innovation, trusting relationship, excellent service, and brand. The specific question is “For your largest market, rank your customers’ top three priorities over the next 12 months” where 1 is most important. I charted these responses over the last three years to get a sense of how priorities have shifted, especially during these tough economic times. (more…)

Marketers to Spend Despite Tumultuous August: Smart, Crazy, Saviors?

While the general public can be accused of having short memories, it doesn’t take much for us to remember the volatility the financial markets experienced in the month of August. Standard & Poors’ downgrade of US credit and a tumultuous battle in the US Congress left many frazzled as their stocks moved in various directions. The words “double-dip recession” inundated the headlines and prognosticators’ outlooks. (more…)