Russians punish Western companies, including the ones that stayed
Morning Consult Brand Intelligence, our state-of-the-art brand research and analysis technology, tracks Russian consumer sentiment toward 20 brands that took different approaches to their operations in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Using this data, we group companies based on their withdrawal status and examine Russian consumers’ average favorability toward each cohort, both before and after the invasion.
While Russians punished Western companies that withdrew from Russia, they also soured on those that stayed: Ten Western brands tracked by Morning Consult that withdrew or mostly withdrew from the market saw their net favorability rating (the share who have a favorable view minus the share who have an unfavorable view) among Russian consumers drop by 12 percentage points on average between Feb. 1 and April 30, bookending the Feb. 24 start of the invasion. But another 10 companies that stayed took a smaller yet still consequential hit of 5 points on average. That indicates that some of the drop in favorability could be the result of anti-Western bias, rather than a response to companies’ policies toward Ukraine (and specifically their withdrawal status). In contrast, Russian attitudes toward three Chinese companies still doing business in Russia have remained steady.
Russian Consumers Soured on Western Brands in General, Including Those That Stayed
These commercial preferences mirror a recent shift in Russians’ geopolitical attitudes, which have become increasingly anti-Western in recent months. In a striking trend, net favorability among Russians toward European countries, the United States and the European Union dropped by around 40 percentage points on average between December 2021 and April 2022. In the same period, positive sentiment toward China, which has stood by Russia during the invasion, has steadily increased.
Russians’ Consumer Tastes Mirror Their Political Preferences
This data throws cold water on any hopes for a quick “return to normal” in the commercial relationship with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Even if sanctions were to be lifted tomorrow (which they won’t be), this drastic change in how Russians perceive Western countries — and, by extension, the brands associated with them — is unlikely to rebound overnight. For consumer brands that merely suspended operations and are hoping for a warm reception among Russian consumers when they re-enter the market, the message is clear: Don’t hold your breath.