Russian-Ukrainian crisis: when brands should rethink the marketing of the moment

In 2016, three days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Texas-based mattress brand Miracle issued an apology to victims and families. Why? What does a brand of mattress have to do with the terrorist attack?

Miracle was aggressively promoting its “twin tower sale”. As if that weren’t enough, he also ran an ad that spoofed the falling towers. Naturally, these tasteless marketing tactics caused a massive backlash against the brand. So much so that the company had to close shop soon after.

In the same year and month, when the Indian Army carried out a surgical strike on terrorist camps across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Kashmir – in response to a deadly terrorist attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers, several brands took advantage of India’s surgical strike. But there is one that stood out.

Gurgaon-based burger brand Burger Singh has come up with a celebratory offering. When social media users slammed the move, brand co-founder Kabir Jeet Singh said, “Why should we apologize for celebrating the success of the Indian Army?” He insisted it was not a marketing gimmick.

Cut to February 24, 2022. Bajaj Allianz Life’s chief marketing officer posted a video of the brand’s latest outdoor ad on LinkedIn. The ad talks about how the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine is not fair – “yeh sahi nahi hai”.

However, if people are “worried about market volatility” due to the dispute, the ad says “get the security of guaranteed return plans.” Yeh sahi hai. The post was well received by users of the professional networking site, except for a few.

Some critics think it could have been avoided. A leading advertising executive at a leading agency told Storyboard18, “It’s sad to see brands take advantage of wartime news to sell a product. Especially an insurance company.

Amul, a brand known for its topical advertising, launched an “advocacy to defuse the Russian-Ukrainian conflict”. The Gujarat-based dairy brand shared a news announcement that urged the two nations not to go “from evil to wars”.

Experts say brands should avoid using wars or conflicts to subtly or more overtly push brand communication and marketing.

Shruti Chaturvedi, founder of media platform Chaaipani, believes that “marketing during the outbreak of war is okay, as long as brands don’t market on the back of war. It’s not a running train.” step on which brands should climb.

She further adds, “There is an absolute thick line between sensitivity and dull insensitivity and for anyone with adequate empathy that line is hard to miss. The misery of someone in any scenario is not marketing material.

The only thing we expect from brands in these times is “solidarity”, says Chaturvedi.

Nine times out of 10, Ahmed Aftab Naqvi advises brands and his clients to refrain from commenting on sensitive political topics or wars.

The global CEO and co-founder of independent digital marketing services company Gozoop, said: “However, if a timely message could make a positive difference in the world while being true to its brand purpose without having a direct or indirect allusion to a product push or a sales game, then after careful planning and consideration, it could be considered.

Recently, the country’s global brands went into crisis management mode as some neighborhoods of Indians threatened to boycott their cars and fried chicken. Brands like Kia Motors, Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki, Isuzu and a handful of others have sent out clarifications and apologies for Kashmir Day solidarity creatives, which have not gone down well with many on social media.

Senior digital agency executives Storyboard18 spoke to said that the official Ukraine Twitter account is a great case study to refer to when brands want to get their instant marketing in the air.

Since November last year, when the conflict between the two nations erupted, @Ukraine started tweeting humorously in an offensive against Russia. One of the first tweets described “living next to Russia” as the worst headache.

Naqvi says Ukraine’s official Twitter account “feels stubborn, it feels angry and it feels human. It’s like the voice of a united country and less like a ‘government’. It’s well planned , well executed and does a great job of getting his point across.

Chaturvedi has similar views. “They were able to reach the masses about their country’s situation with their original message that engages young people and everyone. I’m sure they didn’t see it getting worse so fast.

(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)

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