in response to
CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS AND DISILLUSIONS: THE CASE OF RUSSIA
The Flying Ship and the Tsar’s Impossible Tasks
Dr. Nikolai Ostapenko, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA
How quickly things change? I remember as a child growing up in the Communist Russia which was not so long ago. If someone told me back then that the Russian consumers would be broken up into several categories depending on the income level, location and tastes, I would be shocked that someone would make such a comment. It was impossible to imagine at the time when an average Russian consumer had only access to the soviet manufactured products
Now looking back, I am completely amazed at the quick transformation of Russian consumers whose tastes at times have become more sophisticated than those of the western European consumers. One can’t neglect the fact that that there is still a significant number of the Russian consumers who have some nostalgia from the old soviet times, but the nostalgia is mostly motivated by anger of not being able to afford products available for consumers now. AsRussiafurther develops its economy I predict that this segment of consumers will decrease in number.
So what is at the root of demanding the best and most sophisticated by the modern Russian consumer? My answer: newly developed individualism and desire to be perceived as successful. Russian consumers today for the most part grew up in the Soviet system which discouraged any form of differentiating. Although Russians are not very individualistic by nature, the tremendous pressure to conform developed a spring effect, so when the Russians finally had an opportunity to choose they went crazy. Perception that one is able to purchase expensive items is also important in Russian culture today and has a tremendous effect on the consumers. To put it in simple terms, if someone started publishing “Millionaire Next Door”, Russian readers would say a big fat “Nyet” and the book would not sell more than a few copies.
What lessons can we learn about the evolution of a Russian consumer from the Soviet day to the modernRussia? For one it appears that the tastes and demands for sophisticated features do not have a major correlation to the amount of one’s exposure to the market economy which offers ability to choose and customize. Also when evaluating the culture of a certain consumer market it is just as important to look at the recent trends as it is evaluating century long traditions of behavior.