Pass Me A Corona… Or Not?

Pass Me A Corona… Or Not?

One would think the recent COVID-19 outbreak would be having massive effects on the local beer giant’s brand. But the truth may be a little more complicated.

Is Coronavirus Affecting Corona Beer Sales?

Google Trend data shows that searches for “Corona Beer” have increased by over an order of magnitude in just the last two weeks. This type of search volume increase is firmly unprecedented. But whether or not this translates to increased beer sales, we’re not sure yet — there are simply too many variables at stake.

For example, the majority of liquor stores are practicing social isolation themselves, decreasing their hours, letting fewer staff work simultaneously, and so on. This negatively impacts all liquor sales.

On the flipside, restaurants in my city (Vancouver, BC) are now allowing direct liquor orders through takeout — a move which could very well help Corona’s local sales efforts.

It’s a mixed bag.

One thing is for certain: there have been significant efforts made to rebrand the recent viral outbreak from Coronavirus to COVID-19. Whether that’s due directly to the monolithic liquor company, or simply because COVID-19 fits better on small news headlines and text-boxes, we don’t know. But it’s certainly helping insulate Corona’s brand from further negative association.

If I were the CEO of Corona, I would much rather hear “COVID-19” than “coronavirus” — especially in reference to the catastrophic deaths, social isolation, and suffering felt worldwide because of it.

Corona Publicity Is Good Publicity

People (myself included) often say that “all publicity is good publicity”, but in this case, I’m not so sure. After spending decades on careful brand building, associating their beloved beer with fun nights, beautiful women, and calm waves, the dramatic shift to hospital gowns and morgues probably isn’t doing Corona any favors.

In light of this, I much prefer Oscar Wilde’s quote:

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

His subtle wording reframes the conversation: now, being talked about (negatively, like coronavirus) is only slightly better than not being talked about. It encapsulates the fact that brand association is real, and that big companies don’t spend billions of dollars cleverly marketing their product just so SARS can come along and 10x their sales growth.

Asa moniker, coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. The virus is already having incredible effects on the economy, and it’s long-lasting impacts will likely be felt for decades. People will be talking about coronavirus for years — at college cafeterias, dinner tables, living rooms, and more.

Because of their linguistic similarities, this will no doubt have an effect on Corona’s brand.

My outlook, however, is optimistic. I think centuries of consumption have taught young and old consumers alike to compartmentalize — brands are no longer just collections of letters, but actual living, breathing entities. I have faith that the modern consumer, with some prodding, will easily detangle and differentiate the former from the latter.