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How Are Brands Responding to the Ukraine War?

If you’ve been active on social media or watching international news, you would know that Russia has recently declared war on Ukraine. The attack resulted in numerous deaths,...

John Joseph
John Joseph April 8, 2022

If you’ve been active on social media or watching international news, you would know that Russia has recently declared war on Ukraine. The attack resulted in numerous deaths, hundreds of destroyed infrastructures, and millions of civilians fleeing their homeland. 

The internet has been sprawling with posts, including fake news and propaganda, viral photos and videos, pleads for and initiatives to help, and changing icons to blue and yellow, the Ukrainian flag’s colors. 

In a nutshell, Russia sent its armed forces into the Ukrainian borders last February 24, 2022. While this may seem like a surprise to many, they have had a complicated relationship since 2014.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to depose Ukraine of its government, ending its desire to join Nato’s Western defensive alliance. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy enacted martial law and general mobilization throughout the country. 

This global phenomenon isn’t a Netflix film — it’s a real crisis that’s a matter of life or death for many people, even an entire nation. Many countries still haven’t recovered from COVID-19, and yet we have another disaster at hand.

This begs the question: could brands be part of the conversation? 

What are Brands Doing?

In a survey conducted by 4A’s, 37% of consumers care when brands take a stance on social injustices and conflicts, and 61% believe it is right to pull away from Russia. 

Here are some initiatives global brands are doing in response to the ongoing crisis.

Airbnb

Airbnb provides free, short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees leaving Ukraine. These accommodations are funded by the company, donors of their refugee fund, and hosts’ generosity. It is also working closely with the leaders of Poland, Germany, Hungary, and Romania to offer support for individuals entering their borders.

In a thread of tweets, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky laid out their efforts and how the app’s consumers can support by donating.


This isn’t the first time Airbnb has provided emergency assistance to those in need, which it has been doing for nearly a decade now. In 2020, hosts worldwide opened their doors to frontline workers fighting the spread of COVID-19 (check out the creative ways brands have responded to the pandemic here). It has also activated its emergency response program to aid those affected by floods across Western Europe.

Microsoft and Epic Games

Computer software giant Microsoft and game developer Epic Games announced that all proceeds from the first two weeks of Fortnite’s latest season would be donated to Ukraine-related humanitarian efforts. 

Their campaign will last from March 20 to April 3, 2022, and will include various types of real-money “Fortnite” purchases, including its in-game currency V-Bucks, subscriptions, gifted battle passes, and certain cosmetic packs. 

Just two days in and Fortnite has raised $36 million.

Mark Zuckerberg and Meta

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Russia’s war against Ukraine as a “massively destabilizing world event.” Meta has blocked Russian state-backed media accounts in Ukraine and the European Union. It has also given Ukrainian users the ability to lock their Facebook profiles and prevent others from seeing and sharing their posts. A recent policy change also temporarily allowed for political expression that normally violates the platform’s rules for “violent” speech.

Moreover, Meta is helping Ukrainians stay informed by connecting them to reliable, timely, and high-quality information to stay safe and find assistance. The Emotional Health Hub on Facebook also got additional resources to help individuals cope with this tragic time. 

Instagram

Russia has blocked Instagram from the vast majority of the country’s population since March 14 because of the recent policy change and to control the flow of information about the war. Check out what Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri says about this move by the Russian government.


Instagram has made encrypted chats available for people in Ukraine and Russia and has encouraged users to adjust their profile privacy settings to limit visibility. The social media platform has also raised $75 million, and its users raised $30 million for similar efforts.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Adam Mosseri (@mosseri)

Other Ways Brands are Helping

Brands have found other ways to help individuals in need. Here are some of the heartwarming gestures big companies have made:

Fighting Disinformation Online

Social media is a double-edged sword: it has the power to spread (mis)information. For example, platforms like Facebook have made it possible to spread awareness about COVID-19 and the importance of getting vaccinated. However, it has also become a platform where people can peddle fake news about the 2020 Presidential elections in the US. 

It is challenging to discern real, old, fake, or manipulated content, which could confuse and mislead readers. But misinformation can spread like wildfire and cause more harm than good. In one instance, a video went viral on TikTok after showing a soldier parachuting, causing alarm to its many viewers. While it shows a soldier “parachuting into war,” it is an example of misinformation. NBC News reporter Ben Collins has debunked the video stating it was posted seven years ago.


According to Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy, Twitter is trying to identify and disrupt attempts that amplify false and misleading information. The platform has also shared a thread of account safety tips in Ukraine and Russia and launched a feature where users can attach a sensitive content warning to their media content. 

It’s not just on social media that misinformation runs amok. Doing a quick Google search can place you in the hands of propaganda.

As a writer, I do my research first before writing blogs and other content. My go-to search engine is Google, and the first few entries are usually the most reliable. I only dive into the endless sea of search engine result pages (SERPs) when I need more information.

In the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the SERPs are dominated by a handful of Russian pro-Putin propaganda publications, such as Russia Today, RIA News, and Izvestia. Twitter even received a tweet from the verified account of Ukraine to help stop the spread of propaganda.


The problem? Russians need to learn the truth instead of getting isolated into disinformation bubbles that justify their government’s actions. Rather than learning about the crisis from credible publications and news sites, they learn about the events that unfold from the Russian point of view. 

And this type of exposure is dangerous because the Russian government calls the war a “liberation” and “peace-keeping” mission, giving it a 70% approval rating.

Why are these pages ranking?

SEO plays a significant role in how these pages rank up the search results, and some good SEO practices to maintain include noindexing archive pages. While many other sites strive for journalistic content, these high-ranking pages deliberately promote and link build to their archived pages. 

It’s high time that Google holds itself accountable and upholds the same standards as media and news publications. Users need reliable and trustworthy content from reputable sources, after all. 

Serhii Serbin & Olla Kuzovkina

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ukrainians say: ДЯКУЮ* (@ukrainianssay.thankyou)


Two creatives from Ukraine have started a project to respond to the efforts and support brands responding to the Ukraine war. Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam motion designer Serhii Serbin collaborated with Kyiv-based friend and fellow designer Olla Kuzovkina to create a series of downloadable posters and other social media collaterals that say “Дякую” or “Thank you” for all the help they’ve received. These materials are available in 16 languages and come in the Ukrainian flag’s colors, blue and yellow. 

You can visit their website and Instagram page dedicated to the campaign, where you can find donation details and other tangible ways to support Ukraine.

Final Thoughts

Several events and phenomena, such as global warming, COVID-19, and the Black Lives Matter movement, have urged brands to take a stand.

The war between Russia and Ukraine is more than just business — it’s a matter of morality and humanity. Brands want to avoid having their name associated with acts of violence and aggression, as it reflects their principles and beliefs.

Adapting to these changes and being part of the conversation may not directly impact your brand’s revenue, but it contributes to the cause. 

Check out the Growth Rocket blog for more articles on industry-related current events.

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