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Editor’s note: As part of our coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, creative professionals who remain in the country have reached out with their own personal accounts. Anton Dolhov, a brand strategist, shared the following dispatch. This piece has been edited for formatting and clarity.
Over the past few years, I have been creating strategies for brands that want to stand out in the market and that have certain values at the core of their activities. And each of my briefs begins with the question: Why are you in business other than to make money? Usually, the answer to this question will determine our further cooperation.
At the end of last year, you, like many other marketers and brand managers, probably read a lot of trend reports for 2022. I too read reports from Accenture, Deloitte, Hubspot, Hootsuite, Gartner, Kantar, Instagram, PwC and looked for insights and growth points. I thought about what content formats would be popular and what new communication channels should be developed.
But February 24, 2022, changed everything.
The planning horizon has been reduced from one year to one day. And the war has become an indicator of who is who—both among people and brands.
Therefore, now is the time to state your position, if you have one. And it will be a real win-win strategy.
Benefits for people
It is wrong for marketers to put themselves in the place of the target audience. But since the war has touched me too, I will allow myself to do this.
In the early days, people in Ukraine found themselves in despair. Everyone was worried about only one question—how to survive. We found ourselves in a very vulnerable position, and any help, even the smallest amount, could save someone’s life.
Fashion brands began to make clothes for the military, restaurants began to prepare food for citizens and local defense and trains began to run for free in evacuation mode. Many businesses began to donate thousands and millions of dollars to support the army and humanitarian funds.
At that moment, it became clear who really cares about the country and their fellow citizens and who only earns money here. The war will end, but people will remember for decades which brand supported them in these difficult times.
Any support is important and valuable. But changing your logo in the colors of the Ukrainian flag or making one post with the #NoWar hashtag will have no practical value.
Do you remember the first days and weeks of Covid-19? All brands began to make the same type of posts and videos about being close to their customers. As a result, a video was created about how such reactions are typical and similar to each other.
This is confirmation that support and solidarity should not be declarative but must be confirmed by real actions.
Now there is a crisis in which tens of millions of people find themselves. Think about how you can specifically help them in your business. People will never forget it.
Benefits for brands
We live in a capitalist world where nothing is done without purpose.
Any social responsibility of a business is an integral part of its commercial success and not just altruism. The 2018 Kantar Purpose Study cites the following figures: Brands with a clear purpose in 12 years have risen in stock price by 175%, unlike those that do not have it.
If you manage a successful brand, you probably have a presentation that describes vision, mission, essence, value proposition, brand personality, attributes and much more.
Are there words like “freedom,” “heroism” and “courage” in your brand strategy? What activities within your brand model could you take to help Ukrainians in their struggle?
For example, we have seen Airbnb offer to host 100,000 refugees from Ukraine in Europe for free. A small Lego retailer Citizen Brick raised over $16,000 for Ukraine, selling figures of Zelensky and Molotov cocktails.
At the same time, those brands that support or even speak neutrally about Russian aggression fall under an eternal ban and cancellation for many years. Because in hard times, people are really sensitive to any manifestations of both good and bad.
Gratitude lives on forever
Dear colleagues, marketers, brand managers, creatives and strategists—use your empathy and creativity to help Ukraine, increase brand loyalty and maybe even win some awards at festivals. Imagine that you have the most important brief in history.
The war will end one day, but gratitude for all the good things will live on forever.