an inside look at Ukraine’s marketing communications landscape
Despite the ongoing war, life has not come to a complete halt in Ukraine. In fact, effectively communicating and identifying new ways of getting the right messages across – through the right channels and with the right impact – is, in a way, more important than ever.
Yaroslav Makarevych, country manager of Action Ukraine, gives a rare inside look into what working in communications and marketing in Ukraine is like, and how brands and organisations can engage local audiences and make an impact in these extraordinary times.
Over the past year, life has utterly changed in Ukraine. Nevertheless, organisations and brands remain committed to the country and maintain operations as much as possible. What are the most significant topics dominating the Ukrainian communications and marketing landscape at the moment?
Y.M: The public sector – communication on behalf of the state and international institutions, with a strong focus on internally displaced persons (IDP), remains a priority. Currently, more than 8.5 million people have left and are refugees in Europe. But there are also almost 7 million internally displaced people in Ukraine, so IDPs are also a challenge within our borders which we are helping to address.
The logistics industry is also very important at the moment because all supply chains have to be restructured. Out of all the transport channels that were available before the war, including air and sea, only road and rail options remain now. Currently, we see that all over Ukraine, even in places that are several kilometers away from the active front line, all critical goods are available, and the system works very well. Even public service institutions continue to operate just a few kilometers from the front.
Brands have adapted to the situation and readjusted not only their internal processes, production procedures, and other aspects of their operations but also their marketing strategies and the way they communicate with their audiences. Most of all, patriotic motifs, themes, and jokes familiar to every Ukrainian are being used to resonate with audiences, create a genuine connection with them and show support. Companies also place an emphasis on helping the army as well as ordinary Ukrainians in their own ways, which significantly strengthens loyalty towards them and prompts a positive immediate impact. One that will certainly be remembered even after the war.
Of course, in these extraordinary conditions, there are topics that supersede all others and are always top of mind for the audience. Military news from both the front line and across the country remains a priority, however, the energy situation, international aid to Ukraine, and developments in healthcare are also of great interest.
What are the most effective channels used by organisations and brands to communicate with Ukrainian audiences?
Y.M: Since the start of the war, various instant messaging applications and Telegram channels have replaced traditional media. These give real-time news and updates that are often easier and faster to agree on and post as opposed to traditional channels.
For example, for one of our clients, we managed to generate more than 1 million views with one single post in a strategically selected Telegram chat.
Even before the war, Ukrainian brands had already begun to use Telegram channels to reach their target audiences both by creating their own channels and by placing advertisements in national, regional, and thematic channels, with the second tactic being more popular at the moment. From February 2022 onwards, advertising in Telegram has shown sharp growth, especially through regional channels. After all, many Ukrainians now closely follow the news of their city or region.
In light of this, brands now develop special ad copies and visual materials, create media placement plans and actively communicate with channel managers to maximise the power of Telegram. One of the great benefits of this medium is that little to no restrictions apply to industries and thus a diverse range of brands, from IT to food or beauty salons and electrical appliances can secure thousands or even millions of views through strategic content plans.
Messages must be developed with care and local understanding though. Any carelessly selected word can trigger a negative reaction. To effectively communicate and form a genuine connection with audiences, it is more important than ever to have solid local, on-the-ground insights. Connecting emotionally with audiences goes beyond flashy slogans and requires the knowledge of local experts who thoroughly understand the people here and can engage them in a genuine way.
Local audiences are currently in a very tense state, so every word matters and has the power to either build or break relations.
To help our clients navigate this challenging landscape, at Action Ukraine in March 2022, we were already adopting the strategies of international brands while also supporting local and national aid projects.
Our team has continued to serve clients on the ground throughout 2022 and we remain committed to supporting them in Ukraine. We act as our clients’ eyes and ears on the ground.
This approach is crucial because brands following a global narrative, without adapting their messaging to local audiences can be negatively perceived. And hence key messages must not only be translated but also tailored in a way that creates a positive sentiment.
In this extraordinary situation, what are the main aspects that can win the minds and hearts of local audiences?
Y.M: Acknowledging and actively supporting the current social situation is fundamental. We are uniting. Ukrainians join forces to support each other. In the same way, brands – both Ukrainian and international – are actively looking for ways to demonstrate their values and make an impact here. If a brand’s approach is to simply promote a new service or product, it won’t land with audiences since the strategy lacks a genuine connection with audiences.
Over the past year, the Ukrainian marketing communications landscape has transformed completely. Being informative is no longer enough. Brands need to form and cultivate an authentic emotional connection with Ukrainian audiences.
With comms professionals playing such a crucial role in connecting organisations and Ukrainian audiences, how have agencies like Action Ukraine adapted to the new reality? How are marketing and comms professionals finding ways to work and implement impactful projects in these unprecedented times?
Y.M.: In a crisis period, a communications professional’s main role is to foresee risks in advance and act accordingly with efficiency and impact.
Action Ukraine has set up a workflow that ensures that external circumstances have no effect on the work delivered to our clients. All our processes are being executed online by utilising a mix of tools that allow us to have a secure Internet connection even without electricity and work simultaneously on the same project or creative assets.
Our team is structured in a way that allows us to involve experts from specific fields at any time, thereby making our work more effective and ensuring that all of our projects get delivered on time and at the highest quality.
Despite the challenges, international and Ukrainian companies continue to operate in the country and see opportunities here. The key is to thoroughly know and understand the local audiences, their priorities, and their principles. And only those who do will gain trust and loyalty and secure their success not only today but long after the war has ended.
Discover more about our work in Ukraine HERE