In the early days of the pandemic, there were a lot of questions around how brands should act or behave on social media in a time of global crisis. Should advertising remain turned on? Should marketing messages be changed? Do we acknowledge the crisis or pretend it isn’t happening? Marketers are still wondering about social media marketing during times of crisis today, especially as it relates to the current crisis unfolding between Russia and the Ukraine.
Many brands have taken a stand by shuttering their stores or halting business in Russia. LVMH closed all of its 124 stores located in Russia, while P&G has pulled all of its Russian operations and launched a multi-million dollar relief fund for Ukraine.
The tech giants of Apple, Google, Meta, and Twitter have all publicly imposed their own sanctions on the Russian government in a move to stop the spread of misinformation and limit the Russian government’s ability to spread war propaganda. Most major marketing and advertising agencies have pulled operations from Russia, as well.
It is clear that today’s consumers want the brands they shop to stand for something more than a sale. A February 2022 survey conducted by Gartner found that 80% of U.S. respondents are concerned about the Ukraine crisis and want to see brands take action. However, according to the survey, simply making a public statement or shifting a marketing activity won’t do. Instead, the majority of respondents (60%) would like brands to reconsider doing business in Russia, or with Russian partners.
Although consumers want to see brands take meaningful and impactful steps, it is better to pause social media marketing efforts than to risk appearing tone deaf or shallow. In other words, don’t jump on the bandwagon without a clear strategy. It is critical to reassess the marketing messages that are going out from your organization, in addition to where and when these messages will be seen, in order to calculate the risk of an adverse brand safety situation. Any piece of social content has the potential to go viral, so make sure you are setting a good example with every post.
Secondly, determine where your organization stands on societal and cultural issues, and stick to those standpoints. Once you identify something that your brand truly believes in wants to support, commit to that goal and be transparent in your communications about it. Make sure it’s clear why the brand has aligned itself in a particular way and why that cause is important to the company ethos. Use your social channels for good, and share helpful resources and inspiring stories. Tell your followers you are dedicated to what’s going on in the world.
Thirdly, back up your words with actions. The biggest danger brands face is appearing like they are capitalizing on a global crisis for the sake of public appearances or to make a profit. Back up statements like, “We Stand with Ukraine,” with specific actions taken by your organization that directly contribute to helping the current crisis. Provide useful links and resources that demonstrate impact and allow consumers to learn how your brand is making a change, as well as how they can become involved on their own.
Lastly, remember that circumstances change quickly, and what might be right for your organization today could come off as insensitive or outdated tomorrow. Dealing with a global crisis of any kind means constant re-evaluation and adaptation. Marketers need to keep their ears to the ground and monitor not only what is going on in the world, and the media, but also within their social communities. Active social listening and proactive community engagement can make people feel like their voices are being heard and shows that the brand actually cares about the opinions of their consumers.
Written By: Maria Sparling, VP, Strategy & Client Services