Sixty percent of US consumers believe that brands should reconsider doing business in Russia or partnering with Russian companies in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Gartner.

A Gartner survey of 281 consumers based in the US between 25 February and 1 March 2022 found that nearly three-quarters of US consumers are concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and as a result, see several potential actions for companies that operate in the US to take.

“This is a signal that chief marketing officers (CMOs) who focus on the U market must consider consumer expectations for corporate response,” saus Kate Muhl, vice-president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “Doing so will provide a roadmap for protecting their companies’ reputations.

“It will also surface opportunities to demonstrate core values and build brand trust at a time of heightened awareness and sensitivity.

“However, our findings also show that, while US consumers want businesses to take concrete action, they’re not eager to hear about it directly from those businesses yet. Marketers should focus first on developing a compelling storyline about company activities, so teams are ready to take action when consumers do become more open to hearing from brands about actions they’ve taken.”

Consumers are much more sophisticated now in their thinking about the way that business operations impact society. Most of them see multiple paths for corporate response, in categories that line up with top, specific consumer worries about the war.

After reconsidering doing business in Russia, or with Russian companies, consumers’ top priorities for actions that companies should take include ensuring the safety of their employees and personnel who are in the war zone (55%), preparing emergency plans to ensure that anybody connected to their organization is safe (46%) and minimising disruptions that would lead to consumer good shortages or price increases (46%).

Seven out of 10 consumers rated their level of concern about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a four or five, where five is extremely concerned. Four out of 10 consumers rate their concern for potential personal impact of the conflict with a four or five (where five is extremely concerned).

Consumers identified fuel or energy prices going up as their top concern (60%), followed by safety/wellbeing of people outside the US (56%) and cyberattacks against US entities (56%).

While consumer expectations are likely to shift as the crisis continues to unfold, now is the time for marketers to assess the Ukraine-relevant exposure, and any actions their companies are taking.

In addition to building compelling storylines about company activities, Gartner suggests the following near-term actions for marketers to consider in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine:

* Review and pressure test existing plans, especially in relevant categories like travel or whose brands have associations with the region. Few consumers say they want brands to stop or reduce advertising at this stage of the conflict.

* Direct teams to vary the topics and tone of social posts and other messages. The smartest brand strategies acknowledge and accommodate this diversity of concerns.

* Consider the brand’s audience: differences in degree of concern and key concerns can be seen along demographic lines, which may warrant differentiated strategies.