Visitors to Moscow are often most struck by one thing – the women. In a market renowned for its beautiful women, think Natalia Vodianova and Anna Kurnikova, it perhaps comes as no surprise to know that the fashion and beauty category is big business. In 2012 the Russian perfumery and cosmetics market demonstrated one of the world’s highest growth, rates rising 21% since 2004, worth 13.5 billion US Dollars*.

This generation of Russian women grew up under communism and couldn’t express individuality, wear brands or different colours. But after communism fell there was a desire to wear strong vibrant colours, glistening gold jewellery and fashion logos, just because they could.

Russian women invest heavily, with both time and money, in their looks. Beauty is seen as a quest, whether that’s well-groomed nails or the details of an outfit denoting self-respect. And it’s not just reserved for the few. Being well-groomed is part of the everyday routine, it is a duty that ‘real women’ have no right to neglect. The attention to detail still remains critical in terms of status, marriage and career prospects. Women heavily outnumber men and looking good is considered a key competitive factor when hunting for a job, or even a man. Women want to invest in their beauty and brands competing in the market should emphasise their shared dedication, passion, expertise and attention to detail as well as portraying a premium look and feel, like that of admired Western brands Chanel and Lancôme.

Today Russian women are more discerning. Design and communication aesthetics have moved from the ‘big bling’ and ‘artificial’ glamour to sleeker, elegant, subtle designs which still exude self-confidence, albeit less overtly. But don’t be mistaken. This is not the European ‘get out of bed and go’ look. This is about constant hard work to reveal inner beauty. Any brand communication needs to reflect this through indulgence, and not be tempted to head for pared-back styles. Russian women just aren’t ready. This opulence could be cued subtly through shimmer, iridescence, minutia details or patterns which point to their love for colour & decoration embedded in their heritage. To quote one lady ‘it’s in our DNA, look at our churches, our art, our Tsars and palaces’.

The Lipstick effect – Russian women have an incredible hard work ethic and life isn’t always easy by Western standards. Even the wealthiest are very rarely the ‘idle rich’, most will still profess to have some kind of job. Shopping for, and using, beauty products is a perfect way to get a mood boast, indulging in a bit of self-pampering. Women are looking for brands to celebrate and enhance the feeling of both indulgence and reward, so it feels like a treat.

Brands also need to make sure their image is fresh and current to win in the retail environment. Although the retail market is still emerging, shelf standout can be really hard to achieve. A flood of (mostly Western) brands and new product innovation over the past 20 years has accustomed Russian consumers to seek novelty. As a consequence brands have to work extra hard to grab and maintain the consumer’s attention, placing the spotlight on interesting packaging & design. Popular beauty brand Guerlain specially launched an exclusive limited edition perfume, ‘Le Bolshoi’, for the re-opening of the main stage of the famous Russian Bolshoi theatre in 2011. It was so successful they have since launched another edition, available to buy only in Russia.

*taken from http://cosmeticsrussia.livejournal.com/.

Picture credit: www.guerlain.com

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