Russian heads going ... head-to-head

Funny how things work out.

In the United States, it is illegal to use the likeness of a living person for commercial purposes without their permission. Brewery Ommegang in Upstate New York discovered the truth of that when it tried making a one-time-only batch of ale it called "Obamagang."

In the Russian Federation, however, it apparently is quite legal to do that. Thus, competing vodkas named after the two most powerful men in the Federation are going head-to-head for consumer attention.

The spirits are named after President Dmitry Medvedev and the man he succeeded, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. For those who are not up on their foreign affairs news, Putin hand-picked Medvedev to become president because he could not succeed himself, but still pulls the strings behind the scenes.

"Medvedeff" vodka went on the shelves last month but has not been as successful as "Putinka," which appeared shortly after Putin became president and now has 4.4% of the very splintered Russian vodka market, according to the daily business newspaper Vedomosti.

"Unlike Putinka, Medevedeff sounds a bit non-Russian, non-popular, it doesn't have the same kind of oomph," marketing expert Alexander Yeremenko was quoted as saying, referring to the French-sounding -eff ending of the name.

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