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Russians Have Low Trust in Domestic Clothing Brands

Despite the recent arrival of new domesic brands in the clothing market, many Russians remain loyal to imports. However, using foreign-sounding brand names does not help Russian companies, according to Natalia Antonova, Associate Professor of the Department of Organizational Psychology and Head of the Psychology of Consumer Behavior Research and Study Group, and students of the HSE Department of Organizational Psychology Ajay Kumar, Maria Soloreva and Veronika Morozova, members of the Study Group.

Russians tend to have poor awareness of, and low confidence in, domestic clothing brands. According to research, promoting consumer loyalty for Russian brands would require additional effort.

In their study, AntonovaKumar, Soloreva and Morozova compared consumer perceptions of domestic and foreign brands and found the former lacking in all aspects of brand image.

The researchers surveyed 178 respondents varying in age and social status about their perceptions of Russian and foreign clothing brands in terms of quality, exposure, confidence, history, uniqueness, and personification.

Masquerading as Foreigners Does Not Work

Each respondent was asked to name a few domestic and foreign clothing brands which they frequently wore. Foreign brands were mentioned 7.5 times more often than domestic ones; Zara, H&M and Nike were found to be the most popular foreign brands, while TBOE, Kira Plastinina and Incity were the leaders among domestic brands.

The study found, however, that respondents had problems with remembering domestic brands; many refused to answer the question about domestic brands, saying that they either never wore them or were not aware of them. Thus, according to lead researcher Antonova, hiding a domestic brand under a foreign-sounding name – a strategy widely used by Russian companies – appears ineffective.

More Issues with Domestic Brands

To compare consumer perceptions of domestic and foreign clothing brands, the researchers used a ‘trademark image model’ developed by Valentina Markova, who considers the image of a trademark to be an "emotionally charged and socially significant concept" designed to have a psychological impact on consumers and shape their behaviour. Her model is based on six parameters – quality, exposure, confidence, history, uniqueness, and personification (i.e. personal identification with a brand). Antonova et al. asked the survey respondents to assess domestic and foreign brands using these parameters.

The findings were not favourable towards domestic brands. "The biggest differences were found in terms of 'confidence', 'quality' and 'personification' – perhaps the key reasons why Russian consumers prefer foreign brands" according to the study's authors. In addition to that, high confidence in foreign brands may lead to their selection based on heuristic assumptions, such as 'imported means better quality', rather than rational choice.

The above findings were confirmed by a factor analysis designed to identify the specific components of a brand image which are critical for consumers; the analysis used a version of Fyodor Vinokurov’s 'semantic differential' approach to examine brand images in detail. This factor analysis helped identify such factors of brand perception as 'inspired confidence', 'brand identity', 'brand status’, and 'friendliness of the brand'. It was found that foreign brand images typically focused on just two of the four factors – 'inspired confidence' and 'brand identity', while domestic brand images involved all four factors. The researchers suggest that "the images of Russian brands may be perceived as more complex and thus trigger a more rational and longer decision-making process."

Table 2. Components of domestic and foreign brand images

Measured parameter

Foreign brand (FB)

Domestic brand (DB)

Difference (FB-DB)

Quality

74.7%

25.3%

49.4%*

Exposure

72.5%

38.2%

34.3%

Confidence

83.2%

33.1%

50.1%*

History

38.2%

14%

24.2%

Uniqueness

43.8%

20.9%

22.9%

Personification

62.4%

16.9%

45.5%*

Total brand image ratio

63

25

 

Source: Antonova et al.’s study findings

Projecting the Right Image Requires Effort

According to the study's authors, brand personification, i.e. the likelihood that consumers would identify with a brand, is weaker for domestic brands, although theoretically it should be stronger. Thus, hiding under a foreign-sounding brand name may be counterproductive for domestic brand communication. Another theory – which needs further testing – is that foreign brands may be more consistent with the consumer's ideal me image and thus cause stronger personification.

It is also worth noting that Russian respondents tend to perceive foreign clothing brand images as more masculine or projecting dominant traits, while domestic brands are seen as projecting more feminine or subdominant traits. 

According to the study's authors, domestic clothing brands could benefit from putting more effort into the development of all brand image parameters – in particular, confidence and personification – to increase the acceptance of these brands by local consumers.

Author: Marina Selina, March 14, 2016