March 18, 2022

In times of crisis, we must act fast and effectively. On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine and suddenly brands are learning how to navigate war, as the world watches.

The first challenge facing brands during wartime is tone and placement of creative. An Applebee’s ad juxtaposed with war coverage on CNN went viral for all the wrong reasons.

The second brand challenge is whether to continue operating in Russia. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo eventually ceased operations at great cost. However, some like Abbott Labs, AbbVie, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mondelez and Subway remain.

And the third brand challenge is how to provide meaningful support to Ukraine. Airbnb is offering free short-term housing for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Brands including Amazon, Bank of America, FedEx, Intel, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo have all announced seven-figure donations to Ukrainian relief efforts.

It’s not easy, but here are some tips on how your brand can navigate during this difficult time.

Mute the tone.

These are scary, serious and uncertain times. It’s time to tone down ads and avoid any jokes about the invasion, or any language that could be considered insensitive.

Curtail Russian operations.

Business leaders need to move past the idea that remaining in Russia can produce a win-win outcome. Cut ties with Russia, explain why, and explain how you’ll mitigate the pain for the Russian employees, customers and vendors left behind.

Contribute to Ukrainians.

If your brand can’t make meaningful in-kind contributions, then donate to Red Cross, UNICEF, World Central Kitchen, USO and other Ukrainian relief efforts.  You can also help by making it easy for consumers to donate via your website and social media channels.

As an individual it feels like you can’t do much, but together we can make a difference. Every brand must do its part to halt the invasion, protect Ukraine, and prevent the spread of war around the world.

Carolina Macedo, the author, is Project Coordinator of Marketing Keys.

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March 18, 2022