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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milk Maker Mooves Onto the Web

If you’ve spent enough time wandering around the Russian web this summer, you’re bound to have seen the Wimm-Bill-Dan company’s bizarre logo gracing the occasional banner add.

In an advertising medium where e-commerce, portals and news are the norm, it’s surprising to see the biggest name in Russian juice, milk and yogurt pushing its wares.

And for that matter, it’s a hard to understand what WBD is hoping to get by shelling out for prime spots on the RuNet. Selling juice online? Launching some sort of new Internet venture? Or just adding to regular advertising?

In all likelihood, the company is just testing the water. Last winter WBD, one of the biggest success stories in Russian business, set out to improve its use of the web. Plenty of companies have slapped up pages on the RuNet, but WBD wanted to take their site to the next level, to make the Internet more than a fancy place to list phone numbers.

So an edict was sent down the corporate ladder and the company’s various divisions were asked to do some brainstorming and put together an Internet wish list.

When the results from the query came back, the company sifted through them, laid out some priorities and hired Russia’s hottest web designer, Artemy Lebedev.

Lebedev’s team finished in early June with the launch of two new WBD sites – and its English-language version, (a domain name purchased from a student in Arizona for $4,000).

The two new sites are professional and useful, but nothing that will send your mouse scurrying for the bookmark button.

The .ru site, the bigger of the two, doesn't get too far beyond general information and pretty pictures. The site includes company press releases, environmental policies, an under-used juice chat room, and seems to be fishing for a function.

Though it doesn’t go much deeper, the .com site has a more defined purpose. WBD is trying to expand exports to and investments from the West, and is part of the communications effort needed to make that leap.

The .com site is a finely polished, if thin, piece of marketing designed to create the image of a multinational corporation and help Western investors forget their Russian stereotypes.

But the most promising part of WBD’s new web strategy isn’t on either of new public sites, it’s an electronic ordering system.

Developed this spring as the company was building its new sites, the system allows customers to place orders and check supplies on the web.

"Now the company’s clients have the ability to look independently at the current balance of products in our warehouse and to receive and send electronic invoices," glowed WBD spokeswoman Julia Belova in an e-mail. "It’s [no longer] necessary to keep calling the orders department, have them explain the current selection of products, and then talk with a dispatcher."

At the moment, this slick new sales system is only hooked up to WBD’s Lianozovsky Molochny Kombinat, outside Moscow. And since there are no immediate plans to integrate it into other plants, it could be a while before electronic ordering has a fundamental impact on WBD's operations.

Regardless of how long they take to integrate and perfect, the sales system and even the .com site are good signs for WBD. They're indications that the company is beginning to find ways the web can solve the problems its business faces — that the web is becoming a powerful tool, not just pretty pictures.

Rick Burnes is deputy editor of Wimm-Bill-Dann Wins Advertising Industry Award, The Moscow Times, October 21, 1999 A YEAR AFTER THE CRASH: Food Giant Quietly Dominates Russian Shelves The Moscow Times, August 17, 1999 Wimm-Bill-Dan's English-language site Wimm-Bill-Dan's Russian-language site