Living Your Brand: Taking Action in Times of Crisis

The news coming from Ukraine is heartbreaking. Around the globe, we are hearing a rallying cry of support for an end to the invasion and the restoration of peace. We are at a moment in history where uniting with Ukrainians in solidarity needs to be more than a mere statement of support.

As brand stewards, small and large, we have an opportunity and responsibility to dedicate our leadership, voices, services, and wallets to taking real action and influencing change. And audiences have come to expect action from the brands they love

Taking Action in Times of Crisis

Over the last several weeks we have watched as brands have gone above and beyond a statement of support. We are inspired by those brands who joined compassionate relief efforts as the crisis in Ukraine began to unfold. Here are three lessons we can all learn from as we seek to live our brand and take action:

1. Modify or repurpose your brand’s products or services to support this crisis in meaningful and innovative ways.

  • Europe’s extensive railway system is currently offering to help Ukrainians travel to safety in other parts of Europe. In a remarkable show of solidarity, Poland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark are offering free train tickets.
  • More than a dozen telecom providers are providing free international calls to and from Ukraine or eliminating roaming charges. The providers include A1 Telekom Austria Group, Altice Portugal, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Proximus, Swisscom, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia Company, TIM, KPN, Vivacom, and Vodafone.
  • Uber is providing free trips between the Ukrainian border and Polish cities to support refugees.
  • Ryaniar, an Irish airline, is using its fleet to deliver medical supplies in the holds of flights scheduled to arrive in southeast Poland so they can be transferred to the Ukrainian border.

Brands not only make a positive impression on their audiences when they offer their products and services to relief efforts – but also effectively influence other brands in their space and beyond to step up.

2. Listen, join the conversation, get involved in the community in crisis, and leverage their platforms and mindshare to respond to the needs of the community.

  • Airbnb is providing free, short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees, mainly in European countries. The stays will be funded by Airbnb, donors to the Airbnb Refugee Fund, and hosts who are offering rooms and homes at no charge. And this is not the first time Airbnb has used its platform of lodging to help refugees: Over the past five years, and its partners have provided temporary housing to over 54,000 refugees and asylees from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and other countries.
  • LinkedIn has created an online news community of journalists, economists, trusted experts who are focused on the Ukraine crisis –– so that LI users can stay informed with objective, accurate news.
  • To support its community of makers, Etsy is cancelling fees for all sellers in Ukraine, including listing, transaction, and advertising fees.
  • Google temporarily disabled Google Maps live traffic data in Ukraine after receiving reports the tool was being used to track the movements of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers.
  • The Ukrainian fashion-tech company DressX is using its platform to sell virtual clothing to raise funds for Ukraine.

And when you take the lead in your industry to leverage your service platform to demonstrate solidarity and provide essential and critical services, you position your brand for growth at the same time you are making a difference.

3. Pause, suspend, or terminate a course of business to fit the times, even if it may mean a loss of revenue in the short term.

  • H&M Group has temporarily paused all sales in Russia. YNAP, which owns Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter, Yoox, and The Outnet, was one of the first brands to suspend shipping to Russia. Fashion house Balenciaga became one of the first Paris Fashion Week brands to show its support to Ukraine by dedicating its Instagram feed to sharing reports on the war.
  • BP was the first oil and energy giant to take a stand by divesting a $14B stake from Russian oil company Rosneft. Exxon has since announced it will make no further investments in Russian and has stopped producing oil in the country. Shell has ended its $3B partnership with the Russian energy company Gazprom.
  • Film releases have been paused in Russia by Disney, Sony, and Warner Bros.Netflix has halted its streaming service to Russia.
  • Apple has stopped selling its products in Russia, and Microsoft has suspended all new sales.
  • Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, and General Motors have suspended business in Russia. McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nike, Ikea, Zara, Chanel, and Hermes have temporarily closed stores in Russia.

Brands show a genuine united front when they back up their statements with real actions. The commitment to and authenticity in their actions will enhance public perception, increase customer loyalty, and distinguish brands from the competition. And, it is important to remember when brands go beyond making a statement to taking action, brand advocacy and loyalty are generated from the inside out as employee pride and morale increase.

By taking a stand and showing up during a crisis, companies are investing in creating compassionate brands for the long haul. Thank you to the brands that stepped up, undeterred and determined to bring peace back to Ukraine. How will your brand take action at this historic moment?

Laura Wessells

Laura Wessells has been a Brand, Marketing and PR leader for more than 25 years. She co-founded ShinePR in 2020 to continue her passion of helping cause-driven brands tell their story.