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REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

Ukraine conflict: Consumers want to see brand actions, not words

By our News Team | 2022

Now its not the time for corporate storytelling around the conflict. But consumers have a list of actions they expect companies to take now.

As the war in Eastern Europe continues to make headlines and attract enormous public attention, corporate marketers, company executives and their PR teams must consider what stance their businesses wish to take – if any – and how to articulate it to their audience.

A recent blog post by international research and consulting firm, Gartner, examines some of the factors that companies should consider. It also analyses consumer sentiment in the US, which may help guide company actions in the current fast-moving – and reputationally fraught – environment.

Kate Muhl, a Gartner Analyst specialising in Cultural and Consumer Insights, notes that brand actions beat words at this stage. In other words, consumers are not expecting storytelling from brands about their actions and stances around the conflict.

Reputation Management

Photo by Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, via Wikimedia Commons

Rather, they want companies to take simple actions in response to the conflict. Eighty percent of respondents named at least one action they expected. These are, in order of listed importance:

  1. Reconsider doing business with Russia and Russian companies.
  2. Ensuring that employees and company related personnel in the war zone are safe.
  3. Take actions to ensure there are no disruptions (e.g. product shortages or price hikes) caused by the conflict.

People are not interested in company statements

But consumers are not particularly interested in corporate statements. “Making statements about the war is far down the list of actions that consumers are looking for from companies,” Muhl explains.

“But, for those consumers who do want to see brands making statements about what’s happening there, what they’re looking for at this time is for brands to express support for Ukraine, for people in Ukraine and for peace in general. 

“They do see a role for brands, additionally, to provide some guidance on how consumers themselves can help. But they’re not really interested in hearing from brands right now.”

Muhl believes there will be a time, however, when consumers may expect storytelling from businesses. In the meanwhile, it is time for a posture of readiness. 

“Consumers are not looking for storytelling about the actions that companies are taking, but I think soon they will be,” she says. “This is the time to get those storylines together… if you prepare now, you’ll be ready to tell those stories [when the right time comes].”

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