I’m window-shopping in Stoleshnikov Pereulok, the Russian capital’s premier luxury boutique strip where top brands including Cartier, Hermès and Jimmy Choo vie for customers’ attention. I’m on my way to meet Nickolas Koro, Russia’s leading brand guru, who has revolutionized the branding scene in Russia – essentially introducing the concept of branding to the country.
His offices are in a courtyard off Stoleshnikov Pereulok, surrounded by stately 19th-century mansions. But hidden behind the stark exterior, the offices of the Research Center for Brand Marketing and Brand Management are filled with vibrant colour and bold modern artwork on the wall.
Dressed in an informal black suit and T-shirt plus funky red glasses, Nickolas meets me in the large reception wall. “Welcome!” he says with a big smile. “You must be Katja!” He leads me down the hallway where large Andy Warhol-style portraits of all the employees are displayed.
“I see you like art,” I say.
“Contemporary art is my passion,” says Nickolas. “My personal art collection allows me to create my own vision of the world.”
“Does that also include a very specific vision on branding?” I ask as we settle in soft armchairs in his office.
“I guess you could say it does,” Nickolas answers as he serves me a cup of strong Russian tea and offers me a slice of Praga cake. His office is a cheery clutter of overfull bookshelves, and notes and booklets strewn across his busy desk. A large collection of awards and diplomas on the walls testifies to his vast experience and extensive achievements.
“Branding is still quite a new domain in this region, which is what makes it really exciting,” he says. “I focus quite strongly on the target audience and build brands from the bottom up based on the aspirations and responses of the target audience rather than the other way around. There also a strong focus neuro-marketing, which is a little-explored area here in Eastern Europe.
“Neuro-what?” I ask as I take another sip of tea.
“Neuro-marketing,” says Nickolas with a laugh. “I bet you think it sounds like science fiction but it’s really a wonderful thing: it focuses on how visuals, sounds and colour can influence customer choices. It’s fundamental to building a successful brand in my view.”
“Wow, branding 2.0!” I say. “It sounds ground-breaking! But that’s also reflected in your website isn’t it? It’s colourful and unusual – not like any other branding or marketing website I’ve ever seen!”
Nikolas laughs. “I guess it is unusual, you’re right,” he says. “I see it as an informal space where I can talk about my vision on branding and marketing, but also about all sorts of other things. I want my clients to know real me so that they know what to expect if we work together.”
He passes over the tray with cakes and urges me to take another. “Well all I can say,” I tell him as I take another slice, “is that I would sure like to learn more about just about all aspects of the Nickolas Koro approach and vision to Russian brands in 2013. I feel like I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg!”
Nickolas Koro personal website: http://www.nkoro.ru/main
Ekaterina Rogova for CoolBrands