• March 14, 2022

American Consumers Support Russian Boycott

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has produced a humanitarian crisis and a massive backlash from multinational companies doing business in Russia. And it would seem U.S. consumers are on board, with the huge majority, 84 percent, indicating that they would boycott Russian brands as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine.

To reach that conclusion, Brand Keys, a New York-based brand loyalty research consultancy, surveyed 1,209 Americans March 9-12, roughly two weeks after Russia began its military campaign against its neighbor.

"It's a nice sentiment, but problematic," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, in a statement. "The reality is there aren't many well-known Russian brands readily evident in American stores."

Only 8 percent of respondents could correctly name Russian consumer brands. Many brands that consumers named sounded Russian but were, in reality, only positioned to evoke a Russian heritage but weren't based in Russia.

"The survey results demonstrate the power of branding," Passikoff explained. "But in this instance, it's both a blessing and a curse. What was once a sought-out value is now a scourge."

For example, Smirnoff is produced in Illinois and hasn't been a Russian company for nearly 150 years. Stolichnaya is produced in Latvia. Zirkova isn't Russian either; it's a Ukrainian vodka company that has pledged 100 percent of its profits to Ukrainian humanitarian relief.

The annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index includes among its 1,000-brand database eight Russian consumer brands that U.S. consumers can boycott: Baltika (beer), Bosco Sport (sportswear), Faberge (luxury jewelry), Lukeoil (gasoline), and Beluga, Russian Standard, and Zyr (vodka).

Already,pressure from consumers and investors have resulted in nearly 300 companies stopping or suspending business operations in Russia, including big companies like: Apple, McDonald's, Starbucks, UPS, Goldman Sachs, Pepsico, Netflix, American Express, Sony, and Google.

More than half of Russia's $30 billion exports to the United States are gas and oil. Eighty-six percent of respondents agreed with a halt to buying Russian oil. Three quarters of that group (76 percent) felt paying more for fuel and gas was worth it to help defend a democratic country like Ukraine.

"So, President Biden's ban on Russian oil imports and announcements by BP, Exxon, and Shell exiting Russia will have dramatic effects on the both the Russian and U.S. economies, despite recent (and anticipated) increases at the gas pump and contributory spikes to inflation," Passikoff said.

"Boycotting Russian brands available in the U.S. may not bring down the Russian economy, but it is symbolic. The thought and the deed responds to greater consumer needs; a sense of participation through collective action and a feeling of efficacy in relation to the political and humanitarian issues related to Russia’s attack on Ukraine," Passikoff added. "And a consumer-based boycott of brands, when combined with national policy, can be extraordinarily effective."

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