Understanding Russian Culture To Engage Your Audience

International communications specialists will all tell you that learning about your target audience is a crucial first step to understanding how your products and services will be perceived.  While language is an important factor, understanding cultural aspects of your audience proves much more valuable when planning out marketing strategies. There are a number of resources available to better understand your audience. A native is always the best resource but anyone studying or experienced in a region will help provide the background you need.

This blog will give western companies an idea on how Russians’ cultural attributes may play into international companies’ potential marketing campaigns in Russia by looking at Professor Geert Hofstede’s model of different nation’s cultural dimensions.

Hofstede has found the deep drivers of Russian culture using a model to measure a nation’s cultural dimensions. The cultural dimensions Hofstede evaluates includes power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, and indulgence.

The first dimension Hofstede looks at is power distance. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Russia scores very high on power distance at 93.  High power distance means that status symbols play an important role in the culture. One could consider associating status with a product and marketing it through improving social status.  Including social media influencers, pro athletes, celebrities, or even crafting a status symbols for owning the product are all options to consider.

The second dimension Hofstede looks at is individualism, which looks at the degree of interdependence an individual in Russian society maintains. Russia scores on the lower end of individualism with a 39. There is significant historical focus on community and collectivism. This is even evident in the Russian language.  Russians often speak in “we” terms, in instances other nations may say “I.” Such as we and my friends as opposed to saying my friends and I.  Since individualism scores rather low in Russian culture, foreign companies advertising in Russia could benefit from making marketing campaigns that portray groups of people and relationships rather than just an individual.

Masculinity is the third dimension Hofstede looks at. A high masculinity scores means people are motivated by wanting to be the best and to achieve. While a low masculinity score is viewed as feminine, meaning people are motivated by enjoying what they do. Russia scores low in masculinity with a 36. Hofstede relates this score to the power distance dimension; Russians are modest regarding their own personal achievements, while dominant behavior is only accepted when coming from people in high positions.

Uncertainty avoidance is another dimension Hofstede assesses. This measures the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs that try to avoid these scenarios. Russians score very high uncertainty avoidance with a 95. This is apparent in how they online shop. Many Russians are not trusting of online transactions, so many still opt for cash-on-delivery payments. A great way to modify foreign campaign, is to translate your campaigns into Russian, ensure it’s clear that you products and services are not fraudulent.  This may be done by providing a live online customer service option will help comfort Russians that may feel wary of buying from foreign companies online.

The fifth dimension Hofstede looks at is long-term orientation. Long term orientation measures how a society has to maintain some links with its own past while also dealing with the present and future. Russia scores high with an 81 in long-term orientation, meaning they are much more flexible with tradition and adapting to present time. This also means that Russians are into saving and being thrifty, while also making sound investments.

The last dimension Hofstede looks at is indulgence. This dimension measures the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses. Russia has a very low indulgence score, making it a more restrained culture. Hofstede also notes that retrained societies place less emphasis on leisure time, and practice self control with their desires.  Marketers should consider making sure some of their marketing can be seen as more practical uses/purchases as opposed to an indulgence and luxury.

Taking all of these Russian cultural dynamics into account, marketing professionals can adapt their campaigns to both culture and language when launching in Russia. Testing and adapting your marketing practices in a foreign market is of course an important follow up step.