How Corona Survived the Corona

The Corona beer brand has been around since 1925. Today, the Mexican lager is enjoyed in 120 countries worldwide. For two years in a row, Corona was named the second most valuable beer brand in the world by Interbrand in their list of 2020’s “Best Global Brands”.

In this post, we look at how the Corona beer managed to survive sharing a name with the novel coronavirus, a virus that has the world at its grip.

The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a disruptive impact to the world as we knew it. Economies around the world suffered a major blow, and the food and beverages industry was no exception. Soon enough lawful measures had to be put in place to combat the pandemic (such as curfews, capacity, restrictions and limits in trading hours).

However, alcohol bans in some regions of the world might have added some damage to economies, threatening the millions of livelihoods at stake throughout the alcohol industry’s value chain, and made leeway for illegal alcohol trading, which has devastating consequences from both a health and economic perspective

While the Corona brand or any company has not in any way been connected or responsible for the coronavirus outbreak, they have all had to adjust to the new measures put in place to minimise infections due to the outbreak. Now, add that to the unfortunate coincidence of sharing their name with an international pandemic.

At the start 2020, a market research firm, YouGov PLC, measured how likely consumers were to buy the Corona beer. Results from the report had fallen to a two-year low, from 75 to 51, which indicated a strong decline in sentiment towards the brand. Could bar owners be cautioned against launching promotional campaigns that link the beer with the virus? And how could the beer brand respond to misleading reports on social networks?

 

THE NAMING OF A NEW VIRUS

COVID-19 is a contraction of coronavirus disease-2019. Although another name for the virus was proposed as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Two, or Sars-CoV-2 for short, the World Health Organisation (WHO) wouldn’t use it in case the name ‘Sars” would cause extra panic. This follows the new guidelines released by the WHO on 8 May 2015, which call avoiding offensive names for human infectious diseases

These guidelines simply outline the best practices set out in naming a human disease. The scope of naming a new disease applies when:

  • That is an infection, syndrome or disease of humans;
  • That has never been recognised before in humans
  • That has potential public health impact; and
  • Where no disease name is yet established in common usage

CAN BRANDS REALLY BE THAT RESILIENT ?

How a brand reacts – or chooses not to react – on certain issues or topics in the public eye says a lot about how they position themselves. The Corona beer brand was no different regarding consumer beliefs between its association and the coronavirus epidemic. We live in a social world where one small comment or action can have drastic impacts on a brand. A tweet sent out could be retweeted by somebody and be looked at in a different light. That has the potential to yield bad publicity. Or would it have been another case of “not all publicity is bad publicity?” We surely don’t know.

But is all publicity also good publicity? Not always… as one brand in the 1980’s found itself in an unfortunate coincidence of sharing their name – or homonym, in this case – with an international virus. In the 1980s, sales of Ayds, a diet candy brand, started going out of business. Unfortunately, one of the benefits of the product was weight loss, which in this regard resulted in an unfortunate link with the AIDS disease.

So, how do I think the Corona survived the coronavirus? I personally think that premium beers are an affordable luxury that consumers should enjoy even during challenging times, and with the pandemic, it’s no different.