How to communicate your brand’s stance on the war in Ukraine: Key learnings from brands
The business world is not isolated from global politics, culture, or environmental issues
#StandWithUkraine as a global business movement
In the context of marketing communications, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has allowed business to gain another level of social consciousness.
Since February 24, companies large and small have joined their forces to support Ukraine and stop the war. Thousands of them have publicly condemned Russian aggression on social media and their websites.
Over 300 firms have announced their withdrawal from the Russian Federation (and some Belarus) and suspended any partnership in the region. Global players such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Ikea, Starbucks, and Inditex, which includes Zara, Pull & Bear, and Bershka, are among them.
Digital business and tech enterprises went even further. They followed their solidarity with Ukrainian people by providing free services or donating projects that give Ukrainians free housing, healthcare, educational, or transport assistance.
The news about Starlink from SpaceX in Ukraine shared by Elon Musk himself has already become a sensation. In turn, Airbnb announced a free housing initiative for Ukrainian refugees and urged users to book apartments in Ukrainian cities (including those affected by shelling) to support their residents financially.
As one of the largest stock content platforms in the world (with over 220 million files in our library), Depositphotos has suspended its business activities in Russia and Belarus, and created free targeted collections to spread the truth on the war in Ukraine.
Below we analyzed some inspiring brand cases that joined the #StandWithUkraine movement.
How brands have addressed the situation
Rule number one in today’s world, whether you’re a person, a non-profit organization, or a commercial brand, remains as follows—silence kills. And, although many have chosen not to be bystanders, the methods used to express their public position and actions differ significantly.
Trading networks have boycotted goods from Russia, depriving the aggressor state of profits. Sports associations such as the International Olympic Committee or FIFA have excluded Russian teams from tournaments.
Fashion brand Chanel donated €2m to help refugees from Ukraine, while Balenciaga dedicated its collection and runway show to Ukraine. Its creative director wrote a special note which was given to guests alongside t-shirts in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
“The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my home country and I became a forever refugee,” said Demna Gvasalia (creative director, Balenciaga).“This show needs no explanation. It is a dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace.”
5 actions business must take to take in response to the war in Ukraine:
- Suspend business in the aggressor state(s)
- Host charities and take part in fundraising initiatives to help Ukrainians
- Support Ukrainian employees (if you have any on your team) and offer work opportunities to Ukrainians
- Help refugees and other wartime victims with critical products and services (including those produced by your firm)
- Organize communication and creative campaigns aimed at raising public awareness and asking one’s governments—or other stakeholders—to take immediate action
How to communicate your brand’s stance: ideas by global brands:
#1 Opinion leaders and storytelling in action
People love people just like themselves. Therefore, the statements made by Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg have greater resonance than messages on behalf of their enterprises.
Numerous celebrities and cultural figures, such as Stephen King, David Lynch, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already made personal public statements supporting Ukraine. Strengthen your brand’s stance with individual posts on behalf of top management, your partners, and employees who are also micro-influencers. Motivate people to share personal opinions and stories, and tag your brand.
#2 Do what you do best to help—and stay effective
Start where you are and help people in the field you are an expert in. It will help you strengthen your expertise in the eyes of a broad audience and bring maximum benefit to those targeted by your public initiative.
BlaBlaCar has created a feature for free rides from regions targeted by the war. Airbnb built a site to search for free housing (in total, it is planned to help 100,000 refugees leaving Ukraine). Depositphotos also provides brands with free wartime documentation to distribute the truth on various platforms.
Your expertise-based initiatives are the easiest to communicate, and you can start a communication campaign by simply sending the news to existing customers. They will do the rest.
#3 Are you a global brand? Be official release-ready
Big brands such as Amazon, Toyota, PepsiCo, P&G, Electronic Arts, or H&M may limit themselves to official statements on their websites. Any decisive message from world-famous corporations will, in any case, be replicated in the media.
Moreover, an official website statement is a must because your official website is where people will turn to for evidence of the brand’s position.
Keep in mind that big brands do not need to make their position a news story. On the other hand, they have financial resources to help the injured. For example, Bolt donated 5% of all European Bolt orders made in the span of two weeks. Mastercard plans to donate $2 million to organizations helping Ukrainians. Those numbers are worth communicating.
#4 Creativity is your power
Ukrainian creative agencies and production teams, mostly concentrated in Kyiv, invested their resources in generating pictures and videos about what was happening in Ukraine.
Employees of such companies have witnessed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and are experiencing the horrors of war—that’s why their works are so heartfelt and emotional. Check out Instagram content by Banda and Fedoriv to see what we mean.
Creative projects often have higher potential to go viral. Think of Patti Smith, who translated the Ukrainian anthem into English. She performed it at a concert, which drew attention to the original words and meaning of the anthem. Gogol Bordello released a song called Teroborona (“the territory defense”), in honor of Ukrainian volunteers defending their cities.
Besides shutting down business in Russia, Netflix also put the documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom up for free on YouTube. Actions like this strengthen cultural connections and make Ukrainians close to other nations. As a result, more people quit being just bystanders.
Canadians decided to sell sunflower seeds (a common Ukrainian plant) to raise money for Ukrainians. In the Chech Republic, they designed a charitable pillow with President Zelensky’s photo. And the LEGO Citizen Brick team based in the US created a figure that looks like Volodymyr Zelensky to raise money and support Ukraine.
Such charitable projects may not bring much financial help (however, Citizen Brick raised over $145,000!), but they draw attention to the problem and spark optimism.
If every person and every brand in the world stands up for the values of democracy and humanism, our world will quickly become kinder and safer.
Are you choosing between staying on the sidelines or joining a movement for the values you believe in? Your voice matters, and right now, you can change the course of history and shape a better future for everyone.