Russian Standard Vodka Case Study

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Russian Standard Vodka: Strategies for Global Branding and Expansion into the US Market

Case Study
By CHEN Mengjie Marguerite

Given the success of Russian Standard Vodka in the Russian and European Market, following the global branding vision, expansion strategy for US market needs to be defined. This case study will provide in-depth analysis to focus on evaluating expansion strategies and offering market entry recommendations.

1. Russian Standard
1.1 Overview
Russian Standard was launched by Roust Holdings, a company driven by an unusual mix of quality orientation and Russian pride. In launching the Russian Standard brand, the ambition of Roustam Tariko, founder and main owner of Roust Holdings, was to set a new standard of world-class quality for a new breed of global Russian brands. The first category to which Tariko decided to apply his Russian Standard concept was vodka - born in Russia and strongly associated with the country. The next big move was the creation of the Russian Standard Bank, aiming to serve foreign trade companies, small businesses and individual customers, with a main focus on retail banking. Apart from the two mainstream businesses, Roust also launched B2B and B2C e-commerce portal.

1.2 Visions
Tariko had two ambitious goals for Russian Standard brand: (1) to develop a line of original products and services in multiple categories which would meet international quality requirements, and (2) to create a brand that would set new Russian standards and improve the image of Russia both at home and abroad.

1.3 Brand Identity
Tariko’s personal affinity for luxury goods and his ambition to create the first truly premium Russian brand determined to a large extent the identity of Russian Standard. The brand has the mission to re-establish something that will be a standard for Russians. The essence of the brand and the overall brand strategy was born as “embraced the past, and inspired progress” after brand research. This theme is the main identity and positioning of the brand.

2. Russian Standard Vodka
2.1 Overview
Roustam Tariko introduced Russian Standard in 1998 as the first authentic Russian premium vodka. Russian Standard vodkas are made with only the finest Russian ingredients, uniquely conforming to the formula for vodka established in 1894 by famed Russian scientist Dimitri Mendeleev for Russia's Czars. Two years after launch, sales of Russian Standard surpassed all imported premium vodkas on the Russian market.

2.2 Success Factors
The success of Russian Standard can be attributed to its high and consistent product quality, its distinctive premium packaging, its strong distribution and merchandising, and its Russian heritage.

1) True Russian Spirit: There was a clear niche in the Russian market for a premium brand that was genuinely Russian, with a link to Russia’s rich past. No competitors could qualify for this definition. 2) Market Uniqueness: Russian Standard vodka was the first domestic brand to create a rich mosaic of imagery (product, packaging, pricing, merchandising, media communications). 3) Strong merchandising skills and relationships with off-trade and on-trade: This allowed Russian Standard to secure privileged shelf space and promotion by supermarkets, and access to the bars of the most prestigious and fashionable clubs and restaurants in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Encouraged by its rapid success at home, management aimed to make Russian Standard the number one Russian vodka in the world. After launching the brand in 10 European countries, the founder wondered which expansion strategy to follow for Russian Standard vodka to be launched in the US, the biggest premium vodka market in the world.

3. Global Branding Strategies
3.1 Expansion Strategies Options
The management defined three expansion strategies:
1) Directly apply the successful positioning of the brand and marketing mix used for Russia to the US market. 2) Pursue a global...
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