Study: Buyers Pick Quality Over Labels

Foreign brands such as Levi's and Sony have established themselves as undisputed leaders in the Russian market, but importers can no longer rely on the prestige that used to be associated with Western labels to sell their products to Russians, new research shows.

Discerning consumers are looking for quality, reliability, longevity and value for money from top brands, according to a study of Russians' attitudes toward leading brand names, obtained Wednesday by The Moscow Times.

"We want to use the research to show companies how they too can become market leaders," said Sergei Pskaryov, planning director of the U.S.-based advertising company D'Arcy Masius Benton and Bowler, which surveyed 2,000 consumers in nine Russian cities.

Foreign brand names -- including Reebok, Adidas, Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Mars, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestl?, Philips and Moulinex -- dominate the list of brand leaders, but in some areas Russian producers are putting up stiff resistance to the flood of goods from abroad.

Imported products constitute around 40 percent of Russia's consumer goods market, but the survey shows that the prestige formerly attached to Western goods appears to have diminished and just 19 percent of respondents said it affected their choice of a brand leader.

Quality is now by far the most important feature offered by brand leaders, according to 87 percent of respondents. Reliability was mentioned by 74 percent of those surveyed, while 55 percent thought value for money was an important factor. In Moscow, however, only 35 percent worried about whether they were getting good value or not.

Muscovites also had more difficulty than residents of Siberia in selecting leading brands because of the deluge of foreign goods available in the capital. "In Moscow, it's more difficult for consumers to name a leading brand because they have such a wide choice of goods here and it's impossible for them to say which is the leader," said Pskaryov.

When it came to beer, however, it seemed like the whole country could not decide which brew it thought best. Only Russia's Zhigulevskoye label was cited by the survey as being a leader in more than one city. "There is a very large choice of beer and there is no clearly defined market leader," Pskaryov said.

But Zhigulevskoye's success in holding its own against an influx of foreign goods is not unique.

Mars ice cream may have been the top choice in most cities, but in glitzy Moscow people prefer the humble vanilla Plombir. In Siberia, residents of Novosibirsk stay loyal to Russian-made Eskimo bars, and in Omsk the Omsky Khladocombinat tops the popsicle chart.

For Moscow's chocolate lovers, the city's Red October heads the pack. Samara also chose its locally made Rossiya candies, and the residents of Chelyabinsk followed suit. Further east in Novosibirsk and Vladivostok, Rot-Front was the chocolate of choice.

Mercedes cars were preferred in most cities, but Lada scored top in Chelyabinsk and AvtoVAZ -- maker of the Lada -- led the field in Omsk. Nestled on the shores of the Sea of Japan, however, Vladivostok residents bucked all trends and opted for left-hand drive Toyotas.