April 17, 2006
Brand Naming: Stoli vs. Russian Standard, A Tempest in a Shot Glass?
Two top vodka brands, Stolichnaya and Russian Standard, are fighting over who can legitimately claim to be Russia's Best Vodka. I think there's a subtle irony here, as the top accolade in vodka brand naming should be who gets to be Poland’s Best Vodka, since that is vodka's country of origin.
Nonetheless, worldwide consumers associate vodka with Russia and being named Russia’s best would mean to most of us that your brand name is at the top. Russian Standard claims that Stoli ships out the basic vodka mix to Latvia where it is bottled and sold worldwide, and that what we get is not the original Russian vodka.
The double irony is that the Stoli brand name is controlled by French Pernod Ricard outside of Russia, a group that angrily dismisses these allegations. The ancient (500 year-old) Stolichnya brand name has been under fire before, not least by the Russian government itself, which has gone to court over its use in the lucrative U.S. markets. Russian Standard, on the other hand, was introduced in 1998, but has a large share of the Russian market and, love it or hate it, is Russian through and through.
It seems to me that in a world where production of almost anything is outsourced at least in part, it will be harder and harder to claim what is truly a "home brand": over 50% of a Ford is made overseas, for example, and nowadays most Italian shoe brands - brand names that certainly gain equity through their association with Italy - are outsourced to less exotic places like Bulgaria and Romania.
Drinking Stoli at least makes one feel authentically Russian, even if the Russians themselves aren’t drinking it.
Matthew Barnett shares more insight into what makes a genuine Russian vodka brand name in a recent blog post. Also check out the article Irina posted on her blog that unravels the trademarking mystery behind Stolichnaya Vodka.
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