What Do People Want Brands to do About the War in Ukraine?

April 11, 2022

As the calamity in Ukraine drags on (please see here for ways to help out amid this humanitarian crisis), brands are figuring out the best way to respond to the crisis. While research from the CMO Survey [pdf] suggests that CMOs are generally reluctant to take a stance on politically-charged issues, this issue falls beyond internal political rifts, and a survey from NPR and Ipsos indicates that there is broad bipartisan agreement (71%) among Americans that no US company should be doing business in Russia.

Indeed, a separate survey conducted in early March by YouGov found that more than 4 in 5 registered voters (82%) in the US believed that brands should stop doing business in Russia. Likewise, 86% supported brands sending relief by way of money or supplies to assist in humanitarian efforts, while only about 1 in 10 did not believe that companies should take either of those actions.

There was less widespread support for just making statements. Two-thirds (68%) agreed that brands should issue statements in support of Ukraine, though 17% felt that they should not do so. However, 3 in 10 reported having a lower opinion of brands that had not issued any statements regarding the invasion, and about 1 in 4 had considered boycotting brands that had not made any public statements.

Even so, about half at the time said that a brand’s decision on whether or not to take a stance made no difference to their opinion of it.

It’s worth noting that the survey was conducted at the beginning of March, and as evidence of atrocities and war crimes mount, there is likely now more pressure on brands to act.

As War Drags on, More Marketers Show Support for Ukraine

Marketers themselves have been more apt to take actions in response to the crisis as it has extended, according to surveys from the ANA. A second ANA survey conducted in mid-March found 71% of respondents that were currently doing business in Russia saying that they were suspending or reducing media spend there. That was more than double the 31% who said the same when an initial survey was fielded shortly after the Feb. 24 invasion.

Similarly, the proportion of respondents who said they were ceasing or scaling back operations in Russia more than doubled from the first survey to the next, from 31% to 64%.

There was less of an expansion in terms of public shows of support, though that figure also increased. The second survey found that half of respondents were publicly voicing support for Ukraine, up from 42% in the initial survey.

Americans Support Brands Assisting in Humanitarian Efforts

Although during a war and resulting humanitarian crisis the focus should be on the victims and not the business impact of brand support for Ukraine, companies and marketing teams are likely considering what the impact of their support might look like. And on this end there appears to be a relatively strong consensus among registered voters in the US that a brand’s efforts would be well received.

Indeed, about two-thirds (68%) of voters surveyed by YouGov said that they would be more likely to buy from a brand that promised to give a portion of its money to aid humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. An additional quarter (26%) said this would make no difference to them, while virtually none (2%) said they would be less likely to buy from such a brand.

In terms of increased likelihood to buy from a brand that promised to donate to humanitarian efforts, the oldest age group was most vocal, with 8 in 10 ages 65 and older saying they would be more likely to purchase from such a brand. By comparison, a relatively smaller portion (56%) of voters ages 35-49 would back such a brand.

The ANA’s surveys indicate that as of mid-March almost 8 in 10 (78.5%) marketers and advertisers polled were supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, up from half in the first survey conducted soon after the invasion.

Why Should Brands Respond?

Taking a more global perspective, a study from GWI [pdf] surveyed more than 20,000 internet users age 16-64 in 21 markets, finding a majority saying that brands should always (24%) or in certain circumstances (32%) take action and make their views known.

When asked the reasons for a brand to respond, the survey’s participants were most likely to say brands should respond to a conflict if they can have a meaningful impact (43%) or offer practical help (40%), while some said a reason for response would be if they had a presence in the countries impacted (37%) or if they have a global presence (33%).

In terms of what people feel should be done, the leading response was for brands to donate goods/services (43%), followed by offering free products/services to those in directly impacted countries (40%) and donating money (35%). Many also said that they should withdraw their products/services from aggressor countries (35%) and end investments in aggressor countries (35%).

There is less need to voice support than to offer tangible assistance, per these global respondents: only about 1 in 4 said that brands should show support on social media (27%) or make public statements (25%).

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