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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A Fast Boat to China: How U.S. Companies Are Navigating the Marketing Waters

The saying “a slow boat to China” means something that takes way too long to accomplish. More and more, however, that expression doesn’t match reality. The Chinese market is an increasingly attractive market for U.S. firms and the smart ones are moving there quickly.

Here is what I found in The CMO Survey (August-2012). In response to the question, “Which international market is your highest revenue growth,” 21.5% of CMOs responded with China. This is up from 16% reported just six months ago (The CMO Survey, February-2012). In response to the follow-up question, “Considering this international market, by what percent did your sales revenue increase in the last 12 months,” CMOs reported a whopping 51.5% increase! Here is a list of some of the strategies that seem to be paying off when selling to and in China.

  1. Localize products (somewhat). In the fall, Häagen-Dazs sells ice cream moon cakes in order to celebrate the mid-Autumn Festival. Mid-Autumn Festival is an important day for the Chinese, marked by family reunions and gift-giving. Eating and gifting moon cakes is an important part of the tradition. Häagen-Dazs mooncakes can be eaten in shops or can be bought in gift boxes. The company also sells coupons, which many to companies give employees as gifts for the festival. Häagen-Dazs also offers an “ice cream hot pot” which is a special treat for small groups or parties. The hot pot is a big palette of different flavored ice creams and a pot of chocolate sauce. In another example, KFC derives almost a third of its total company revenues from China through its 2000 outlets across the country. KFC localizes by introducing dishes that match Chinese customers’ tastes. Two examples are the Beijing Chicken roll with sea food sauce (similar to Beijing duck, a traditional Chinese dish) and Spicy Diced Chicken (resembling a popular Sichuan-style dish). Both Häagen-Dazs and KFC are big global brands that bring status, quality, and exclusivity to Chinese consumers. At the same time, they have localized some of their offerings to fit Chinese consumers’ lifestyle, tastes, and preferences. The appropriate balance of standardization and localization should be thought through for each brand and its customers. A good example of a high level of localization is Home Depot. As reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, Home Depot learned that the slogan “You can do it, we can help” or more recently “You can do it” wasn’t selling among Chinese consumers who don’t embrace the do-it-yourself culture common among Americans. Instead, as noted by WSJ, Chinese consumers prefer “” which means different products (that require less work from the customer) and additional services (that are sold with home improvement products).
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A Fast Boat to China: Notes on Marketing

The CMO Survey reported that China will be the focus of the most dramatic increases in U.S. company sales revenues in international markets during the next 12 months. When asked to list the top three international markets for sales growth, approximately 20% named China. (more…)

A Passage to India: Notes on Marketing

The CMO Survey reported that India will be the focus of the most dramatic increases in U.S. company sales revenues in international markets during the next 12 months. India’s economic boom, growing per-capita income, and increasing liberalization of foreign direct investment (FDI) rules present opportunities for foreign exporters. Four sectors have attracted the most FDI in India over the last 10 years: services (21% of total), technology (17%), construction and real estate (15%), and automobiles (5%). (more…)

How and Where Do Your International Markets Grow?

The CMO Survey asks top marketers what percentage of their company sales comes from international markets.  Analysis of this question over time indicates that this percentage increased from 19.3% in August 2010 to 24.7% in August 2011. Exhibit 1 shows that this growth rate is unevenly distributed across sectors, though.  Product companies are showing big increases while services companies are flat.  (more…)