Recently, Seth Godin wrote about the importance of authenticity in business. For Seth, being authentic is doing what you promise, not “being who you are.” That got me thinking — how many businesses are truly authentic in the way that they interact with customers? And how many businesses think they are being authentic, but really aren’t?
This poster for Stolichnaya vodka, to the casual observer, probably looks authentic. There’s definitely something very Russian about the text, right? And it’s from a Russian vodka company, so why would anyone doubt this advertisement? But how authentic is it? The ad at least implicitly claims the mantle of “authenticity” for Stolichnaya (“Stoli”) — hinting that all the “fake” vodka brands from France, Poland, Sweden and wherever else are just pale imitations of true, authentic Russian vodka. Yet, believe it or not, this advertisement has 20 different mistakes in it!
Yep, any speaker of Russian will notice that the ad copy uses the wrong Cyrillic alphabet characters in 20 different places! For example, the backwards “R” is actually a “ya” in the Cyrillic alphabet, and the lower-case “h” is actually a “ch” in the Cyrillic alphabet… Even the word “Stolichnaya” in the center of the ad copy has two mistakes in it! Trying to pronounce the word as it is written would sound something like “Stolic-chi-a-cha.” In other words, pure nonsense.
Which is sad because Stolichnaya actually was keeping it pretty real for awhile. I loved the video ads with the dancing Cossacks and the Red Army Choir music! Stoli is certainly not alone in its horrible transgressions against the Russian language — consider the Red Square restaurant in Las Vegas, which also uses that horrible inverted “R” to ill effect. (Do all vodka marketers assume that Russians are dyslexic?) Stoli is actually a Russian vodka that Russians somewhat respect (although, truth be told, Putinka, Moskovskaya, Gzhelka and even Russkii Standart are more popular), and it’s a shame that Stolic-chi-a-cha dropped the ball when it came to authenticity.