Professor Sergei Starov of St. Petersburg State University delights in the marketing intricacies of private brand developments for newly growing retailers in Russia.

What area of research are you currently working on?
Brand Management in Retailing (private labels, store brands)

A case study that you think is important. Why?
One of the major tasks when using a case study in teaching is the development of students’ creative thinking skills. Teaching with cases broadens the creativity horizon. It is aimed at emphasizing the role of creative improvisation, multiple ways to solve the problem and various alternatives of decisions as such.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting case study in marketing, that allows to unlock the potential, is the case «Colgate-Palmolive» prepared by Professor Sandra Vandermerwe of IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland. This case show the need for an integrated approach to launch a new brand and show the dangers of assuming that a product successful in one market will do well in another.

A management book you think highly of (written by someone else). Why?

David A.Aaker «Building Strong Brands» (New York, The Free Press, 1996). The reasons:

  • That book presents conceptual models of brand building and managing the brand identity.
  • Complex approach to brand equity measurement across products and segments is presented. Measurement is of practical interest to most managers attempting to build and manage multiple markets and brands, and it also provides a quantative discipline to the conceptual branding models.
  • That book explores issues surrounding brand extension decisions, and reviewed global brand strategies.

A very recent business or management title you read, and its significant lessons.
Peter Doyle «Value-Based Marketing» –New York, John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

 The book redefines the concept of marketing. The result of this new approach (integration of marketing and finance) is a concept of marketing that is more practical and more relevant to the objectives of today’s top management.

 What is one of your well-liked teaching moments (case, discussion topic, …)
I prefer to use the so-called “short vignettes” case format, that consist of 1-5 pages and one or two appendices. Those cases are usually incomplete in terms of some piece of information that the students would like to have. The students must make appropriate assumptions to fill the gaps of information in the case. Besides, the scarcity of information in   ‘vignettes’ provides the opportunity for the students to be very creative in solving the problem and offering alternative action plans. For example, the case about brand promotion   may not describe the figures of promotional budget (the author of the case state that no information is available). As a result, students have a good chance to switch on strong imagination to develop effective combination of promotional tools as alternative solutions of case problems.

What was your most interesting consulting assignment? Why?
The most interesting consulting project was developed in 2010. It was the project “Zenit-Mobile” by one of the largest mobile phone operator in Russia MTS. MTS and the well-known Russian football club Zenit from Saint Petersburg announced the launch in St.Petersburg and the Leningrad region of the joint project “Zenit-Mobile”, in which the two rates addressed the needs of fans of football club in the voice communication, Internet access and additional services
One of the interesting and challenging marketing objectives of this project was to involve buying rates for women who, as a rule, are not football fans, but whose the involvement would increase the market share of MTS on the Russian market.

If tomorrow you could occupy an executive function in any company, what function and company? Why?
If I had the opportunity to take the executive position in a company, I would like to try myself as a brand director for strategic development of private brands of large chain retailers. The direction of the creation of private brands in Russia since the mid 1990’s has been growing rapidly due to the concentration of the retail industry and the entry of the Russian retail market for large western networks (Metro, Auchan, Carrefour). Many Russian retailers are expanding portfolio of private brands, complementing its premium private label. There is a need to develop an integrated approach to developing a balanced brand portfolio, specifically by using various models of brand management.