5 Ways the War in Ukraine is Influencing Brand Marketing Strategies


As the war continues in Ukraine, both governments and businesses around the world are making difficult choices about how to engage in such dire circumstances. From government sanctions, to business withdrawals, to giving humanitarian support, the world is watching the choices leaders are making in response to such a humanitarian crisis. This is a time when brand marketing strategies must be re-examined.

With the whole world watching, every business needs to engage in their brands’ values and make sure that those values are reflected in their marketing strategy immediately. Time is of the essence, as many consumers are looking to see how brands respond to an unprovoked war. They are looking to see if companies will follow their established marketed values, even if it comes at a cost.

Shoring Up a Crisis Marketing Plan

While most companies have a detailed marketing plan for the next year, there are moments when plans need to take a sharp shift in response to a world crisis. As the world continues to look for ways to support Ukraine, now is the time to embrace a rapid response marketing strategy to express your company values to your customers.

Rapid response marketing is a strategy that leverages breaking worldwide events to provide brands with an opportunity to lend a voice to the situation with relevant content, messaging, and public relations. It works differently than traditional marketing campaigns in that the responses are quick, concentrated, and don’t involve a great deal of planning or technical effort. Rapid response marketing is a great way to show authenticity and stay relevant during significant events.

This is because consumers tend to have a visceral connection to rapid-response marketing. The whole world feels the pain of the Ukrainian people, the refugees, and the men who are fighting for their country. These experiences are something every consumer can connect with on a humanitarian level at the moment. It is an effortless way to connect with other users and brands who are going through the same thoughts and feelings.

Some of the most practical rapid response marketing options are mass email, text messages, and social posts deployed immediately to ensure all of your customers hear what you have to say.

While some companies might want to pull back on marketing spending during a worldwide crisis that is potentially affecting their bottom line, it is actually one of the best times to invest in your marketing budget. While research has shown that profitability did not change much during the downturn for companies that kept their marketing budget at the same level, the big changes came after things started to go back to normal.

Companies that increased their budgets during a crisis gained significantly, putting them much further ahead of the competition by the time things got back up to speed.

Adjusting Ad Strategies & Demographic Targeting

Both ad strategies and demographic targeting changed almost overnight for many companies as the war in Ukraine started. In fact, it became one of the ways in which companies could voice their protest to the war.

One of the most genuine and easy-to-implement responses was to simply show solidarity with Ukraine by updating their logos to the strong blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Many institutions have updated their logos to promote the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag. Some businesses, however, have opted to pause advertisements entirely to avoid seeming insensitive during a global crisis.

This new age of war has revealed how important digital advertising can be as a means of bringing truthful information into a fight against disinformation. While Putin has shut down information sources like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, some marketing agencies have purchased digital ads on other platforms to try to spread real information about the war to those demographics that are losing the ability to get information from outside sources.

A British digital strategist named Rob Blackie began purchasing digital ads with a team of volunteers to slip by government filters with neutral headlines. Within a very short period of time, the ads had been viewed two million times and led viewers to independent news sources like the BBC.

Any business has the opportunity to work to bring solid information into a world of disinformation during moments of crisis, and through an authentic pursuit of truth, customers in your demographic can see your brand values and feel a sense of loyalty to your company’s authenticity.

Applying Social Sensitivity to Brand Marketing Strategies

One of the great mistakes advertisers make during a crisis is to not adapt or pivot towards sensitivity to the situation–they might simply continue with business as normal. But that just doesn’t work. Every business is going to need to apply social sensitivity, to not be tone-deaf, during these next weeks. Much of the information a company would normally want to be sharing about themselves can wait.

Empathy should lead the way during this time. It reflects that a business isn’t just measuring itself on its numbers, but on its values and genuine care for human experiences. There are a few practical tips that can help you engage in applying social sensitivity.

  • No matter the size of your company, anything can go viral, so advertise as if the entire world could see what you are putting out there.
  • While it seems like a good rule of thumb to always use your social media for good, now is the time to explore even deeper opportunities to use your platform to help in a crisis. For example, Wells Fargo and Bank of America both pledged $1 million to assist refugees fleeing Ukraine following the attack. When the institution is giving back, it often prompts its clients to do the same.
  • Take a look at your marketing tools—the ones that help you schedule out your ads, social media, and email marketing ahead of time. You might need to pause some of these to create socially sensitive marketing.

The bottom line is to lead with empathy. And at the very minimum, any brand should avoid the appearance of abusing a crisis to further its brand marketing strategies.

Strengthening Cybersecurity & Ensuring GDPR

By now, most companies have a deep respect for the continued security of their digital presence, particularly companies that do business online. During a time of worldwide crisis, it is more important than ever to strengthen cybersecurity. To understand the multiple ways that cybercriminals attack businesses and their clients’ personal information, we’ve created an infographic.

When you strengthen your cybersecurity, it continues to ensure GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation is a sweeping law that gives European citizens more control over their personal data and seeks to clarify rules and responsibilities for online services with European users. However, the law essentially sets a new global standard for data protection.

Download our Cybersecurity Essentials Checklist

The regulation applies to a broad array of personal data including name, ID numbers, and location, as well as IP addresses, cookies, and other digital fingerprints.

It might be easy to focus so much on pivoting and making a rapid response marketing plan that strengthening cybersecurity doesn’t seem like a priority. However, more cybercriminals understand that companies might be paying less attention leaving them more vulnerable to a cyber attack when they are working hard on engaging in a worldwide crisis.

Committing to Transparency & Empathy

Now is a great time to recommit to transparency within your business and incorporate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into your business strategy.

What is CSR, exactly? According to Investopedia, the exact definition is, “A self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.” Authenticity and transparency are at the heart of a truly successful CSR strategy.

Many companies have taken the lead to prove that their business is not just about numbers–that they believe in authenticity and empathy as a part of their business model and brand marketing strategies.

FedEx donated more than $1.5 million in humanitarian aid, including $1 million towards shipping to organizations that are strenuously bringing supplies into Ukraine. The reality is that thousands of companies are making similar commitments in support of the people of Ukraine, a worldwide effort of empathy.

At Gate 39 Media, one of our core values is empathy. Many of our employees have different ways in which they practice this value in their daily life. One of our lead designers, Nick Landsberger, says it best,

“I think generationally we need to empathize with one another. We need to be better for our future and with how technology is rapidly progressing, the world changes along with it. The world our parents lived in was much different than the world we live in, and the world we leave our children in will be different as well. We need to empathize with ourselves, those who came before, and those who are to come and think about how we can help them in the here and now. And we need to look at how issues that exist today came from mistakes of the past and how today and now is the best way to change things for the future. Overall, we need to empathize with one another and work together, do the small things, learn from our mistakes, and think about the future and the bigger picture. Because while that time can seem far away, sometimes it can be our last chance or opportunity as a society to do anything.”

At Gate 39 Media, we are here to help your business express its most authentic self. If you need assistance with your brand marketing strategies that incorporate rapid response initiatives or would like ideas as to how you can adjust your marketing to better align with your core values, connect with Gate 39 Media today.


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