Corona beer vs. the Coronavirus
What impact will the novel Coronavirus have on the Corona beer brand? Will the well-known beer need to undergo a rebrand, or will consumers have enough emotional intelligence to mindfully discern between the two? To be clear, NO, Corona beer does not have anything to do with, nor is it in any way related to the Coronavirus. That being said, the strikingly similar names could cause unfortunate associations for the beer brand.
Bill Newlands, the CEO of Constellation Brands, has held strong to claims that the beer brand is doing just fine, and that any information suggesting otherwise, is just another case of “unfortunate misinformation” during these tough times. However, we’ve all seen the stats floating around on the internet claiming, “38% of Americans wouldn't buy Corona ‘under any circumstances’ due to the outbreak, and another 14% said they wouldn't order a Corona in public.” According to the independent poll conducted and released by 5WPR, the survey encompasses polling from 737 beer drinkers in the United States.
To add insult to injury, Constellation Brands has been gearing up to launch its new Corona brand sister product, a hard seltzer meant to compete with market leaders like White Claw and Truly. According to CNN, the company has shelled out roughly $40 million in preparation for the launch. So, what’s really going on?
Is it possible that Newlands’ statement about not being affected is meant to keep shareholders at bay and calm any consumer concerns? One thing is for sure - the timing is absolutely awful. Despite what may, or may not be going on behind closed doors at Constellation Brands, the situation presents the unique opportunity for a good ol’ fashioned brand study.
A few suggestions for how the brand might navigate the unfortunate turn of events:
Conduct your own survey to change the narrative
So far, the claim that consumers are distancing themselves have all come from third parties, who are not associated with Constellation Brands. What’s worse, the only response to the claims, has been in the form of a statement from the company’s CEO; aimed at reassuring folks that they are ill-informed.
Here’s the thing - the independent survey responsible for the claims was unscientific at best. The survey was conducted by a PR firm, and there’s no telling how they came to those numbers. The only info we have is, “38% of beer drinking Americans”, and that it was based on a poll involving 737 “beer drinkers”. This could have very well been nothing more than a simple poll on social media. Not to mention, how are we defining “beer drinker”? Are we talking about drinking a beer at least once in your life, or are we talking about craft connoisseurs? Unfortunately, we don’t have that information, and since the PR firm who released the survey isn’t actually associated with the brand, it’s highly unlikely that they invested too much of their time into actually conducting it.
One way Constellation brands could take control of the narrative is by conducting and releasing their own numbers. Speaking of controlling the narrative..
Get ahead of the curve by addressing it
During the third quarter of the 2013 Super Bowl, there was a power outage which caused fans to sit in the dark for 34 minutes. Someone at Oreo, brilliantly jumped on Twitter, and produced a light-hearted, winning tweet that later went viral. It featured a lone Oreo cookie, sitting in the dark with a caption that read, “No power? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”
Oftentimes, making light of a situation can be a game-changer. The key is to jump on the coattails of the news break immediately in order to capitalize on it. Obviously, the Coronavirus is nothing to scoff at, and anything making light of the situation isn’t likely to be well-received. However, if it’s something that you know people are talking about, and it directly impacts your brand, you might as well take your lemons and make lemonade. When it comes down to “beat ‘em, or join ‘em”, how can Constellation Brands get back in the driver seat?
One way of doing this, is to partner with a big name brand toilet paper company, along with your major retail carriers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of toilet paper aisles swept clean in a panic. Even worse, we’ve seen the photos of Corona beer fully stocked and untouched amidst the chaos. By pairing toilet paper sales with a case of Corona beer, you are not only able to move the product, but you’re also able to position your brand in a positive light. This combats any unfortunate, negative word association between Coronavirus and Corona beer, but also creates the opportunity for social media sharing, only this way, folks are sharing about the deal, rather than the fact that no one will touch it.
Another way to clear up any negative connotation, is to mobilize efforts on the streets. This would be the perfect time for Corona to conduct in-store tastings, especially while the big box stores are flooded with people, maintaining social distancing, of course. The brand might even roll out a cool new way to deliver in-store taste tests by implementing some sort of conveyor belt that shares samples with consumers from a safe distance of six feet. (News angle alert: "how this beer brand is helping shoppers relax by offering free samples while practicing social distancing")
In addition, Constellation Brands could partner with a public health or disaster relief nonprofit to launch a campaign highlighting their efforts to give back during this difficult time. The goal is to clear up any negative associations for the brand by bathing in a positive light, while also increasing visibility for all the right reasons - steering clear of any misinformation or unflattering connotation.
With these tactics in place, Corona beer would have a much better chance at tackling this head on. Some would say the unfortunate name association presents a full-blown PR nightmare, but at the end of the day, how you respond, and what you do next, is what really matters.
What are your thoughts? Should the beer brand stay quiet, or should they take the risk and face it head on?