Perhaps the above companies based their decisions on cold financial calculations. However, they take a lot of risks. In this case, we do not deal with it image crisisIt can turn into a success in the future. In the pages of history Western brandsthat did not withdraw from RussiaThe spots will remain visible forever, says marketing specialist Norbert Aruba.
A large part of the companies of the so-called letters of shame it French fearsNow faced with a very difficult choice: to withdraw from Russia And it becomes big as a result Financial losses whether to stay, risk ruining the image of the brands that have been created over the years and the flow of customers abroad in countries that are staunchly opposed Russian aggression.
All the above companies have one thing in common – they invested a lot in it RussiaTherefore, to resign from participation in the domestic market is more painful for them than competitors who decided to do so.
Leroy Merlin employs 45,000 people in this country. People. Danone has three factories in Russia. Auchan sells its products there in 230 stores and employs 30,000 people there. People. rotation? Bagatela 3.2 billion euros.
It is difficult to move Renault factories (which have just suspended operations in Russia), large-scale Leroy Merlin stores or Danone factories to another country. Selling it can be more difficult – making such a deal in such a turbulent period is a very high risk. Besides, there is hardly any talk of potential buyers from countries that have publicly condemned the aggressive actions of Putin and the company. Large companies declaring to remain in Russia should bear in mind that with the current social upheaval, they are exposing their employees (in other countries) to very unpleasant social repercussions – says business and brand expert and founder of design and strategic studio Iskrzenie, Mikowaj Nowak.
According to the expert, perhaps these companies rely on the fact that customers will forget their policy very quickly. But they forgot that it was real warcosting innocent lives. It is incomprehensible that the victims are turned into profits and losses. We will remember her for a long time – she confirms. However, he mentions that many Western brands, which are valued today for their ethical stance, have a dark history. – The companies that supplied the army of aggressors during World War II are successful in the modern world and few people think about their previous activities – says Novak.
Companies on the “List of Shame” are taking specific and controversial measures to reduce image loss. However, they are operating on uncharted territory.
– It seems that no public relations expert on our continent has been trained in the event of a war. The Polish brand’s decision-makers were torn on the “list of shame”; They take careful steps and try to limit the scale of the repercussions. Unfortunately, not subtly. Public relations are pure and ethical, not propaganda. Nowak says conservative measures can sometimes be effective, but not in the face of a war across neighboring borders.
In his opinion led Nestlé or Leroy Merlin The strategies are also inconsistent – I recently read many statements of companies that are not going to withdraw from Russia, but their representative offices (even in Poland) announce assistance to Ukraine. The “eat the cake and get the cake” approach in PR, there is no room for manipulation that customers are intuitively aware of – he notes. Effect? They stay away from the brand.
Some corporate decisions are downright bizarre. Leroy Merlin DIY store chain cut its Ukrainian employees from the company’s contacts. This situation was reported on her LinkedIn profile by Ludmila Dziuba from the HR department of Leroy Merlin Ukraine. In her opinion, all employees of the company working in Ukraine have lost the ability to communicate with colleagues through the company’s communication channels. This made it impossible to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to many of them. The company’s policy may come as a surprise, since so far it has taken care of its image as a reliable and valuable employer.
Nestle It did not take a clear position on the status of its activities in Russia. However, it decided to block the ability to add comments on Twitter or Instagram and on the Facebook pages of its brands. One of the worst tactics used is to block comments. The public perception of this measure is unambiguous – the company does not engage in dialogue, which strengthens the accusations of the public, even allowing them to limit freedom of expression. And this evokes feelings that, along with despondency and bitterness, give an explosive mixture. The bottom line – the brand itself is digging into the field it’s going to have to get into in a moment – says Nowak.
The company suspended sales in Russia Some of the lesser known products have announced that advertisements in this market will be suspended, but they still sell basic necessities such as cereal, baby food and pet food. Nestlé owns several brands, including Winary (décor mayonnaise, ready-made meals), Nescafe, Lyon or Nesquik.
According to Norbert Aruba, companies seemed surprised by the situation. – They did not expect that in the face of the tragedy occurring outside our eastern frontiers and the accompanying media hype, someone might notice that Subject X or Y was withdrawing or staying – he says. He also notes that the issue is being made public by a “list of shame” compiled and updated by Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his researchers at Yale University, and the collective. UnknownWhoever listens to it among the people has a great driving force.
So far, none of the many boycotts of products or companies have succeeded enough to force them to radically change their policy. The situation is similar to current online boycott campaigns. It carries media and is clearly visible in some outlets and channels, but it does not translate into actual sales in stores. I note that most of those companies that want to take advantage of the war and the withdrawal of others in protest have many other crimes against their customers on their conscience, and have often shown at least ambiguous situations, always bypassing the agenda. Why should it be different now? – asks Piotr Czarnowski in an article on Virtual Media.
Silence, ignoring the media, or withholding comments is taboo and ineffective in crisis communication. The theory has its way, while the consumer reality is the same. It is not yet clear that the Internet boycott will translate into interest in the products of “at-risk” companies, such as Leroy Merlin. It seems that companies with several brands in their portfolio can be more calm. Many customers do not know which brands belong to Nestlé, and besides, they will not bother to think about the ownership structure of the producers in the store.
It is difficult to cite examples of an effective boycott that would translate into a clear reduction in turnover or deterioration of firms in the industry. However, there are opposite examples – companies that have been in a serious image crisis due to unethical actions. examples? The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which belongs to BP. A few years after this event, the company achieved better financial results than before. Another notable example is the fake Volkswagen exhaust emissions scandal. A few years later, the auto giant achieved record results. How many people today remember the scandal and is Volkswagen associated with a “false” brand?
war in ukraine However, this is an exceptional case. Besides, consumers are changing. The epidemic has forced us to change our habits and shopping habits. The Poles are now more willing than in the past to abandon products that have been brought to market by companies that have a value system other than their own. If the boycott continues to increase, much will be learned about it that the companies on the “list of shame” will feel a real decline in their profits. Aruba says it could take years to rebuild the current level of profits.
We already note some symptoms of this phenomenon. Data on payments with PKO BP cards indicate that the networks still operating in Russia have lower turnover dynamics than the competition.
What then? – It’s time for consistent action. There’s no room for half-measures, but I’m convinced that they’re in the development stage and brands would rather take the consensus route than respond harshly. It is this acute reaction that has the ability to change. The consensus on the aggressor is strange – says Nowak.
Artur Patrzelas, March 25, 2022
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