When the Coronavirus pandemic started I thought (like many other marketers around me): "this is 100% going to hurt Corona beers".
Then in April 2020, a New York Times article was published titled "Corona Beer to Halt Production Amid Coronavirus Outbreak".
Similar headlines were published in other news outlets announcing a sudden shut down in production for Corona and a decrease in purchase intent.
This kind of headline confirmed the shortcut we all took.
We immediately thought that consumers stopped buying the brand because they were confusing it with the new virus.
After all, coronavirus and Corona Beer share a similar name and consumers could associate the two.
We even joked about it, thinking: "well... it's time for them to change their name!".
Surprisingly, after many months of silence the owners of the Corona brand (Constellation Brands) announced that 2020 was one their best years yet.
This was a surprise to me and many people around me.
I expected Corona beers to be rebranding or announcing major changes in 2020 and certainly not having one of their "best years yet".
So why did the pandemic not harm the beer brand as much as we thought?
1. Headlines are misleading
Just like the New York Times article many media outlets talked in April about Corona shutting down their production. It made for a nice clickbait headline.
However, if I had read the article instead of just reading the headline I would have seen that the halt in production had nothing to do with people not buying Corona beer anymore.
It was due to a government measure temporarily closing non-essential businesses in Mexico.
Lesson here is: read the articles not just the headlines! (> note to myself).
2. Silence as a strategy
We didn't hear much from the Corona team. No public announcement, no campaign to address this. Just a short statement in March saying that the sentiment towards the brand was not impacted.
It all just seemed shy and quiet.
Strange for a brand sharing the same name as a global pandemic.
This silence was obviously designed.
Communicating about this issue could have probably made things worse for the brand.
It would have given a reality to something that had no reality.
Consumers were not confused so why address it?
Plus, it would have probably created more headlines associating the brand name and the virus. So why take the risk of making things worse?
The lesson here is: when there is no issue based on facts don't make it worse by addressing it.
3. Consumers are smarter than we think
We can easily (and mistakenly) assume that consumers are not rational.
This is why we assumed that consumers would confuse the beer and the virus because they share the same name.
After all, a lot of people still think the Earth is flat so confusing Corona beer and Coronavirus was plausible.
The lesson here is: don't underestimate consumers and their rationality. They can make sensible choices (sometimes).
4. Beer is a product of habit
Buying beer can be a ritual, a habit, something you do regularly and usually with the same brand.
Especially when we are talking about buying in supermarkets, which stayed open during the lockdown.
There is no data to support my point here. It's just an intuition. But again, intuition can be misleading sometimes.
The lesson here is: don't underestimate brand loyalty and the power of habits.
6. Being top of mind
The word Corona has never been more out there.
Marketers know how being top of mind is crucial.
One could make the case that this pandemic is actually helping the beer brand.
"We’re all constantly hearing the word ´Corona´, and regardless of whether it prefaces the word 'virus' that’s going to keep the brand front of mind." says marketing professor Mark Ritson.
So maybe the lesson here is that if you can put your name out there (even by taking the risk of being confused with a global pandemic) then maybe it's worth it. So maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity...
For 2021, Corona is more of the same.
As we are seeing a potential end to the pandemic in 2021 with the vaccine, Corona launched a campaign with Snoop Dogg called: "La Vida Más Fina".
You will find no mention of the pandemic in the ad, just a white sand tropical beach and the usual Corona brand universe.
For Corona, this whole pandemic thing is just something we need to forget about.
They just want to go back to business as usual.
And they won't be even joking about this whole thing.