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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Advertising the Product: Still a Foreign Concept

They changed a billboard near my apartment the other day and pardon the unpardonable pun, but it was another bad sign for Russia.

They took down a Snicker's sign and put up one for Peugot cars. But in my year here, I have been waiting for one of those billboards to herald a national campaign for a Russian-produced consumer product. The wait has so far been in vain.

I visited a Russian housewares store the other day and bought a teflon pan, wastebaskets and a pretty good set of cutlery, all nameless. On the bottom of the wastebasket is a funny symbol with some circles and lines and the words "for nonfood products". Was that the name of the product?

I also purchased a microphone. It doesn't work too badly. But if I want another, I'll have to ask for an MK-1119, which is the only identifying mark on it. It probably wouldn't matter anyway, because the store will probably be out of them.

A look through some of the country's biggest newspapers found that advertising for Russian products is practically non-existent. You can find a few ads for Russian-made tractors, cars and car parts but the vast number of spots are for Western-made goods.

Seven years after Russia was opened to the West and three years after imported goods in all their packaging and product-identifying glory began flooding Russia, the concept of marketing has still not caught on here.

Russians often talk about developing a new type of capitalism at their own pace. But if there is a way to do this without individual companies promoting their own goods, nobody in the West has figured it out, even though a lot of managers would love to fire their marketing department for the sake of profit.

Even the pre-revolutionary Russians were aware of it. In St. Petersburg, there is a stunning exhibit of beautiful 19th century shop signs that hung outside stores on the ritzy Nevsky Prospekt.

Today in Moscow, even while claims are being made that nearly half of all shops have been privatized, one is likely to see the old Soviet standardized placards showing that milk, meat or potatoes are (theoretically) sold inside. Near the billboard is a private Russian shop selling foreign goods for rubles with the innovative name "Produkty".

The lack of advertising and marketing in Russia is, by its absence, a sign of how little has changed in the minds of Russians. State enterprises that continue to receive credits and sell their goods through state channels, and which are run by the same old state managers, have no need to advertise.

Somebody needs to get rid of these guys or figure out a way to tell them it isn't called a "market" economy for nothing.