#4 - JRL 2009-229 - JRL Home
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009
Subject: Response to JRL 228, Item #2/ Moscow Times: Rebranding Russia’s Agitprop]
From: Andrej Krickovic <akrickovic@gmail.com>

We thank Mr. Pryde, Mr. Fuss and Ms. Mitchell for their piece and welcome the chance to open up these issues to further discussion and debate. They make some very valid points about Russia’s shortcomings and about the need for change. We also agree that the current PR efforts to rebrand Russia are misguided on several levels: they target the wrong people, they are too focused on the past instead of the future, and they do not recognize that the brand is owned by the consumers. They try to bombard the audience with a prepackaged message ­ instead of coaxing the audience to think about Russia in new ways.

We think that Mr. Pryde, Mr. Fuss and Ms. Mitchell unfairly lump us together with the stale and contrived “agitprop” approach that Russia has adopted to image making. We make it very clear in our piece that you cannot create a brand that is a lie. Branding does not ignore reality. It helps to shape the perception of a complex and multifaceted reality that for any country, Russia included, can be read in many ways (both positive and negative). We make the argument that re-branding is as much an internal as it is an external process. It must be based on reality and must reflect real changes for it to work.

Last week was a particularly hard week for Russia, and reminded us of the many problems that Russia still faces. However we believe that the picture of Russia that Pryde, Fuss and Mitchell form is one-sided and overly state-centric. It focuses on the (admittedly many) shortcomings of the Russian state ad of governance in the country. But it ignores the tremendous progress that Russia has made in emerging from totalitarianism and from reversing the chaos and disintegration that threatened the country in the 1990s

Russia still faces many challenges and problems. But let’s not forget where Russia was 20 or even just 10 years ago. Russia’s society today is arguably more open, dynamic and diverse than it has been at any time in its history. While TV continues to be dominated by the state, newspapers and internet are open to vibrant debate and criticism. Savvy entrepreneurs are finding ways to maneuver through the endemic corruption and bureaucracy of the economy to create wealth and opportunity. Diversity in all its forms (ethnic, religious, class) is thriving, as Russians are finding new ways to live together and build a harmonious and prosperous future.

A country’s brand reflects more than just the image of a country’s state. It also reflects its culture history and people. In some cases the state may have very little impact on the brand (think Italy or Australia). We believe that Russian society is where the real action is and where the three brands we advocate can be formed.

Again we welcome further comments and the chance to discuss these issues.

Best wishes to all!

Andrej Krickovic and Steven Weber

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