Is Coronavirus Really Hurting Corona’s Brand?

Mar 10, 2020

Companies of all shapes and sizes have spent the last few weeks figuring out the right response to the coronavirus threat.

One organization that’s had little choice but to respond to the growing outbreak is Constellation Brands, parent company of Corona beer. 

Corona faces one of the worst brand associations in history as it’s geared up for a $40 million launch of hard seltzer beverages. Part of that campaign included the unfortunate tagline “Coming ashore soon.”

Survey Implies Connection Between Coronavirus and Corona Beer

To make matters worse, a dubious survey suggested consumers were mistakenly associating the brand with the virus. News outlets reported a spike in searches for “Corona beer virus” and suggested sales were suffering as a result. The survey found that 38 percent said they “would not buy Corona under any circumstances now.”

Here’s how The Atlantic describes the tenuous connection. “By presenting this finding in the context of other questions that are explicitly about the coronavirus, the press release creates the impression that Americans’ reluctance to drink the beer is due to the coronavirus.”

What’s more, global sales of many beer brands had dropped due to the virus’ impact on Chinese New Year celebrations this year. The data didn’t single out Corona specifically.

Yet publications were all too happy for a connection between Corona beer and COVID-19. The stories practically write themselves. Plus, the reports can be self-perpetuating. As negative articles echo this unproven connection, algorithms measuring consumer sentiment register an uptick in unfavorable brand reactions.

Corona Offers a Measured Response

What’s missing from this equation is what customers are actually thinking and doing. That has created a challenge for Corona and all companies facing unwanted brand connections. React too strongly, and you actually risk reinforcing the very connection that may not be impacting your business in the first place. 

Corona opted to combat those “unfounded claims” with hard numbers in a press release. Corona sales are actually up and outpacing last year’s numbers, the release reports. The summer beer is in good shape for the coming summer sales season. 

There’s no doubt the release was a risk. It offered another news hook for the connection between the beer and the virus. It also gave Constellation a chance to tell its side of the story and focus on those suffering from the virus and efforts to contain it.

In the end, Corona’s response worked because it didn’t rush to react to a story before it understood its real impact. 

Long story short: Brand perception and sales are closely connected. But what affects one does not automatically affect the other in equal measure.

Click here for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resources for Businesses and Employers on Coronavirus Disease 2019.

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