Geopolitics

In Today’s Russia, Geopolitics and Consumer Preferences Align

Western companies shouldn’t expect a warm reception on their return to Russian markets post-crisis

Graphic including an image of a Europ being cut with scissors and a map of Russia
  • Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russians have turned their backs on foreign companies that withdrew from Russia. But they also soured on the Western brands that remained, suggesting some of the drop in net favorability is due to anti-Western bias.

  • These commercial preferences mirror Russians’ souring views of Western countries in general, in contrast to buoyant opinions of countries like China, which has stopped short of condemning the invasion.

  • This is bad news for any Western businesses hoping for a quick “return to normal” for their business operations in Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion.

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

Russian net favorability for 20 Western brands dropped, with large declines for companies that withdrew from the country’s market and smaller but still substantial declines for those that stayed

Net favorability is the share of respondents who have a favorable view minus the share who have an unfavorable view
Morning Consult Brand Intelligence interviews about 200 adults per brand daily and over 12,000 adults around the globe every day through multiple online survey panel providers. Interviews are conducted among a representative sample of adults in the world’s emerging and largest economies.

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

Western countries’ net favorability ratings plummet as Russians turn their backs on Western companies

Net favorability is the share of respondents who have a favorable view minus the share who have an unfavorable view
Morning Consult Brand Intelligence interviews about 200 adults per brand daily and over 12,000 adults around the globe everyday through multiple online survey panel providers. Interviews are conducted among a representative sample of adults in the world’s emerging and largest economies.

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.