Brand and Communications: Past, Present and Future

By Ian Newman

Today when I walk on the streets of Moscow, it feels at times like many other big Western cities, especially as I take in the stores, shops, and restaurants – and specifically the names, branding, and communications. Much has changed over the last decade, and the pace with which these changes have taken place is astonishing.

CrossroadsThe evolution of branding and communications in Russia characterizes the very nature of this fast-growing emerging market. As a long-time professional in this field, I would like to offer some views and observations that would hopefully paint a fair picture about how branding and communications have developed in Russia’s retail banking sector over the past 10-12 years, and indicate trends that will likely shape the future.

The Past:

We often like to say, “Brand is not a logo, nor is logo a brand”. And still, in the early 2000s, especially among the retail financial institutions operating in Russia, a “brand” was manifested primarily though the corporate name and a logo. A sign that read “Bank” offered instant recognition of the nature of the business and customers had generally undifferentiated views about this or another bank. To them it made no difference: a bank is a bank.

Of course, the consumers by virtue were not very sophisticated at the time. Yet, the banks lacked the same quality, owing to the fact that they were entirely product-oriented. And since most banks offered pretty much the same service, the use of their brands was primarily limited to one goal: name recognition.

Internal PR departments tended to be the ones in charge of managing the corporate brand, which basically came down to advertising and promotion. It wasn’t until later that banks started to even have brand managers as a full-time job function. Meanwhile, the marketing departments did mainly research.

Ad campaigns were run through traditional above the line (ATL) channels (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines), while forms of customer communication were often limited to just brochures and, occasionally, posters. Almost no one really measured campaign effectiveness by, for instance, looking at how much was spent to acquire a single customer. So, the main purpose of branding and communications in the past was two-fold: get name recognition and advertise products.

The price of a product or a service was the key message used to compete for customers. Because of the lack of customers’ association with any banking brands, the brand alone had hardly any value.


Illustration: Past, Present, Future



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