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Culture and design in emerging markets: the case of mobile phones in Russia

Asta Salmi (Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Elmira Sharafutdinova (Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 1 August 2008




This paper aims to focus on interactions between old and new cultural influences, investigating consumer preferences for a new type of product – the mobile phone – by looking at the cultural and socio‐economic factors that affect these preferences.


A total of 22 Russian experts in design and marketing were interviewed in the spring of 2005. The paper takes the viewpoint of Western firms interested in Russian (mobile phone) markets.


The study shows that the general features (high power distance, femininity, high uncertainty avoidance) characterizing Russian culture affect preferred mobile phone design. Long‐term values are seen, for example, in family orientation, which affects the use of mobile phones. Changing cultural and socio‐economic features are seen in the strict division of consumers into distinct segments. Current aspects of society, such as high level of street crime, are apparent in the desired features of products. The emerging Russian markets seem to consist of very different consumer groups and simultaneously represent both old and new cultural features and norms. Design has become a central tool for affecting product marketing, and an influential community of designers and a design industry are emerging.

Practical implications

Cooperation with the local designers can provide an important competitive edge and support when promoting both industrial and consumer goods in Russia's emerging markets.


Design was earlier neglected and it has only recently started to play a more significant role in production and marketing of products in Russia. Designers can now act as important intermediaries between Russian markets and Western marketers.



Salmi, A. and Sharafutdinova, E. (2008), "Culture and design in emerging markets: the case of mobile phones in Russia", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 23 No. 6, pp. 384-394.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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