bne:Chart - Branding Putin

By bne IntelliNews July 9, 2015

Ben Aris in Moscow -


"Distinctive, cutting edge, leader, energetic, estimable, reliable, straightforward, superior and trustworthy." Those are the leading character traits that 100% of Russians who answered a survey conducted by leading branding agency Landor agree apply to Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Putin's character traits block chart (highest rated top left, lowest bottom right, large squares mean more people agree)

Putin is the second strongest brand in the country after Google, despite the fact that it is being trounced by the leading Russian search engine Yandex, the most valuable internet company in Europe.

Russian companies have understood the idea of marketing which is designed to boost sales, but they are still grappling with the concept of brands, the survey found.

The strength of Putin's brand is remarkable given that Putin hasn't gone out of his way to create a brand. Landor's CEO Emma Beckmann said: "Putin is an extremely strong brand image as a function of the legacy of the Soviet Union. The Communist state was aspirational. It espoused an ideal lifestyle. It was founded on the idea of a community or peer group the worker could belong to. The slogans and logos were stylised and distinctive. It even created an entirely new type of art, social realism, which also found its expression in literature, poetry and song. In short the Soviet Union was a phenomenally successful brand that lingers on today."

When Aeroflot moved to remove the hammer and sickle from its logo in the 1990s, focus groups overwhelmingly nixed the idea. (The company did ditch its flying elephant mascot though, on the basis that the focus groups said elephants don’t fly, with one obvious exception.)

Putin's domestic approval ratings hit an all-time high of 89%, at the end of June, according to a survey by independent pollster the Levada Centre, probably making him the most popular political leader in the world. The latest figure represents an increase of three percentage points since June. A mere 10% of respondents expressed disapproval of his actions, the poll said.

Given the incessant flow of negative news coming out of Russia, Western observers find it difficult to comprehend how Putin could possibly be so popular. The Landor survey shines a little light on the question.

Part of a much larger study of Russian companies and brand marks, the survey also polled people on their views towards several leading Russian celebrities. But while many of these scored highly in the survey in several characteristic traits, Putin stood out for the uniform agreement over what are his best features: a 100% of respondents ticked the character traits listed above.

Maybe the biggest surprise was the surprisingly positive image Russians have of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In the West seen as a ineffectual foil of Putin, Russians view Medvedev as a younger, energetic and modern counterpart to the more stolid Putin. He scored surprisingly well against the peer group leading with "healthy”, "restrained”, "intelligent”, "superior”, "straightforward" and "cutting edge”.

Together Putin and Medvedev blow all their peers out of the water on "up to date" scoring 99.88% and 94.27% respectively as well as "customer centric" (99.88%, 68.90%). Both men also scored in the 90s for being "friendly" and "socially responsible”, although Medvedev is seen as more "fun" than Putin. Medvedev scored low for "independent" (53.90%) but Putin and Medvedev were on their own in the "gaining in popularity" category (99.88%, 72.20%) and both men have seen strong gains in the opinion polls recently.

There is not much surprise that Putin scored badly in the "chic" and "sensuous" but it is a surprise that he scored only 3.4% in the "traditional" category. Although Putin has been pushing an increasingly Orthodox conservative line, Russians almost universally see him as a "man of the day”.

"Gaining in popularity" category

Putin also beat almost all his famous peers – both at home and abroad. Everyone agreed that the much beloved master of Russian verse Alexander Pushkin was "unique" and the revolutionary poet Vladimir Myakovsky was "daring" and "differentiated”. Author Fedor Dostoevsky is best defined as "intelligent" while singers Vladimir Vysotsky, the Bob Dylan of the Soviet Union, and the chanson Alla Pugacheva were both also seen as "daring”.

Putin also beat out all his political peers. Asked to describe Joseph Stalin, the surveyed Russians all said he was "no nonsense" and "rugged”, while they see Lenin as a "leader”, "intelligent" and "superior" in that order.

Russians also showed respect for several western political leaders of the past. US President John F Kennedy scored well and is seen as a "leader" as was Martin Luther King, who was also a "visionary”.

Contemporary international political leaders fared a lot worse in the survey. US President Barack Obama is clearly disliked by most Russians, who overwhelmingly said he was "arrogant" followed by "distant”, "visionary”, "different”, "rugged" and "unapproachable”. The only categories that Obama did well in were "carefree" (94.15%) and "down to earth" (90.37%).

See the interactive chart here:

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