A BRAND NEW WORLD AWAITS EASTERN BLOC MARKETERS

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Consumers in Eastern Europe have spent most of their lives in a brandless world where products came from factories with numbers rather than names.

Even Young & Rubicam's own researchers, drawing up a list of local brands for the Russian questionnaire, were initially confused. Asked to name toilet paper brands, one responded, "White, blue and pink?"

As a result, many established package goods marketers like Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive have found that their brands appear as new and exciting options to consumers either cut off by the Iron Curtain or unable to afford them. Three chocolate brands-Mars Inc.'s M&M's and Mars bar and Kraft General Foods' Toblerone-appear on the ranking of top 50 brands by vitality, partly because of their appeal to new markets. And Adidas ranks a surprising third on the vitality list.

"In the developed world, Adidas is almost over the hill," said Jim Williams, senior VP, director of strategy & research, Y&R Europe, and head of Y&R's BrandAsset Valuator study. "In the developing world, it's the brand people have wanted for many years. They're not tired of it. They haven't moved on to Nike and Reebok."

In Eastern Europe, consumers initially rejected local brands in favor of newly available, expensive international brands.

"They're beginning to realize not everything from the West is wonderful," he said. "East European brands are held in high esteem now and [considered] a lot better value."

In fact, some local brands are benefitting from Western marketing expertise. Biopon detergent was languishing at 9% of the market when Unilever bought its Hungarian manufacturer several years ago. In 1992 Biopon changed its pack design, formulation and advertising. Line extensions for colored clothes and other special uses were introduced.

Cute commercials by Lintas Budapest show a guilty-looking dog which has spattered several kids with mud. The big blue swirl from the front of the Biopon pack nimbly plucks dirt from the kids' clothes while they're still in them and is about to start on the dog's spotted fur (in Hungarian, spot and stain are the same word, the kind of play on words that Hungarians love) when the mother admonishes, "No, not that one."

Today, Biopon is Hungary's No. 1 detergent with a 23% share.

"People are learning price consciousness, like Western consumers," said Pierre Emmanuel Maire, chairman-CEO, Lintas Budapest. Local brands are often the low price, value buy in a brand portfolio that also includes international products as the most expensive, he said.

Unilever is even launching a new local brand, Hera margarine in Hungary, where the multinational already has more than 50% of the margarine market. A series of newspaper ads by Lintas Budapest that broke at the end of August starts simply with a picture of a fork and the headline "Lend us your mouth." In the second day's ad, the fork rests on a Hera pack, under the headline "Lend us your mouth for a week." The third ad promises "Cook with Hera for a week and you'll never use oil or lard again."

Local companies are also adopting more sophisticated marketing techniques. Discount suit maker Oltonyhaz is emphasizing its low prices with a Lintas Budapest spot showing a man wearing an elegant suit only on the left side of his body. His right side is naked. The voice-over asks, "Why be half-dressed when you can be fully dressed for the same price?"

A national TV campaign started earlier this year with the opening of a first store in Budapest.

Although Coca-Cola and Mars are popular brand names in Moscow, it's a different story in Siberia. With less exposure to international brands outside the big cities, Russian consumers overwhelmingly named Russian products for the ranking by stature, or current success. The first foreign brand on the list, headed by Indiiskly tea, a TV program "Pole Chudes" and Sovetskoe champagne, was Sony at No. 38. Mars lagged at No. 90.

The vitality ranking revealed other hopes and dreams, with Christian Dior, Faberge, Disney, Pepsi and Coke sharing the top 10 with two Russian clothing designers, Valentin Yudashkin and Slavazaitsev. The other three names in the top 10 were Russian TV shows.

In the former Soviet Union, it was often not the brand name but the factory that was important. For example, vodka aficionados made sure their bottles were made by Kristall, regardless of the brand name.

"Brands really are marks of identification, associated with quality or preference," Mr. Williams said. "In Russia, different factories-or distilleries-all make the same thing but not equally well so the factory names and numbers more than the brand name denote quality."

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