The threat of COVID-19 is now a global pandemic that the world is not going to forget in a hurry. As healthcare systems across the globe struggle to cope with the burden of treating so many afflicted by the novel Coronavirus, the ripple effects are visible in several different areas of our lives.
Social distancing is the order of the day as more and more countries are forced to order lockdowns in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Many companies are coming up with ways for their employees to work from home. Things like stepping out of the house for a walk or catching up with friends for a drink now seem like privileges from a bygone era. In such a time, it is evident that the way we spend has also changed. Aside from boosting sales of products such as sanitizers and disinfectants, the pandemic has also caused an indirect impact on completely unrelated products in unexpected ways.
I'm talking about the Corona Beer brand. In February 2020, as news broke that the Coronavirus contagion in China was spreading to the rest of the world, spiking fears, there were a few reports in Western media highlighting the famous Mexican brand of beer. Suggestions were rampant that consumers were shunning the Corona beer as they were mistakenly associating the beer with the Coronavirus.
According to news reports, the Corona brand had experienced a steep decline in sales - an event which the headline blamed on the Coronavirus. Several other websites followed suit with entire articles claiming or implying that people were shunning Corona beer because the name was similar to the Coronavirus. The suggestion was that consumers were stupid enough to reject a ban simply because of its unfortunate name. From there, it didn’t take long before the line was showing up on WhatsApp and Facebook in the form of jokes and forwards.
With the development catching extraordinary attention, a few websites began to verify the authenticity of the claim, and whether Corona did, in fact, experience a drop in popularity and sales due to the virus. It was found that a survey first presented its findings in the form of a misleading statement along the lines that 38% of Americans said they stopped drinking Corona beer due to the Coronavirus. However, further investigation revealed that the study was more of a PR piece making misleading suggestions without context. The questions asked in the survey skewed results further as they implied a connection between the beer and the virus, where the responder may not have made one themselves.
At this point, Constellation Brands, the owner of Corona, had to issue a statement to fight the rapidly spreading misinformation. The CEO of Constellation Brands, Bill Newlands, showed empathy and acknowledged the gravity of the situation caused by the pandemic. His statement displayed an impressive quality of emotional intelligence as he put the focus where it deserved to be - the looming threat of the severe pandemic.
He further defended the company's position by rubbishing claims that the virus had impacted the Corona business. He strongly emphasized that there had been no impact on their people, facilities, or operations and that the business had continued to perform quite well, contrary to what the traditional and social media had been claiming. In fact, Corona sales had grown by 5% in the US over the four weeks ending February 16. The fact-based evidence was effective in quashing any false reports that may have questioned the intelligence of American consumers.
It was a classic case of unfortunate timing that caused unnecessary rumor-mongering from certain segments with questionable integrity. But the way Corona handled the issue with quiet dignity and empathizing with the people at the receiving end of the tragedy won them more loyal fans and admiration from the Internet. In the age of fake news and social media, it doesn't take long for a thought to go viral and spread misinformation. Sometimes the consequences may be much more catastrophic. Thankfully, this wasn't one of those cases. In the end, common sense won, and people are still having a good time with Corona.