Corona- The Beer, Not the Virus

And you think you’ve got problems with your brand? Actually- and I say this with a certain amount of relief- apparently relatively few people are stupid enough to relate the beer to the virus.  Go take a look at this article on Snopes.com that discusses what’s happened to the brand in spite of some of the press it’s gotten.  Corona is owned by Budweiser along with a whole host of beer brands so I imagine it will be fine.

But the question for the Corona brand managers as the world changes around us is whether or not they have a problem or an opportunity.  Probably, it’s both.  Look at the image below.  Should the brand manager scurry around trying to scrub this image from the internet or run it as an ad with the caption, “The rest of your food is stupid.  You’re about to run out of Corona.” 

Well, the pandemic is serious, and I suppose it’s possible to carry humor about it too far.  But the world is changing with so far mostly unknown long-term consequences.  As gloomy as things may look right now, they will get better.  Right now, it’s about conserving cash, liquidating inventory, and trying not to lay off too many people.  If you’ve taken in recent years some of the steps I described in my March 22 article you may hope to look forward , when things turn around, to a stronger competitive position.

Look, I’m a finance guy with more experience with companies in trouble than most of you.  In and outside of our industry, I’ve had to let people go, negotiate with creditors, slash expenses, dump inventory and do all the gut-wrenching stuff that’s required.  I get it.  My two summary pieces of advice are do it fast and hard and be absolutely transparent with stakeholders (including customers) about what you’re doing and why.  This is about survival.

But when you’ve done everything you can, it’s time to think positive.  It’s become an article of faith that we want to give our customers experiences they can share with the brand.  Well, every person in the world is sharing an experience right now.  How can you and your customers mutually help each other get through this?  I feel hopeful every time I hear an anecdote about a company doing something not normally associated with their business to help fight the virus war.

I have the sense that when things improve those actions will have become part of the mythology of the brand, impacting the company’s culture in a positive way and improving its credibility with its customers.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer and put one in each order you shipped? I know- not available now.

I’d be doing some zero-based budgeting with my marketing dollars right now.  That is, I wouldn’t assume that any of your traditional advertising and promotional expenses are appropriate in the economic culture that’s going to emerge when we get through this.

  • Who do you think your competitors will be a year from now?
  • Where will you be sourcing your product?
  • How might your product line have changed given economic circumstances?
  • How are your customers’ shopping habits going to change?  Are those changes permanent?
  • How long are our economic constraints going to continue?  Hint- it will be longer than Easter.
  • Is it necessarily good to have more contact with your customers?  I’m not sure it is.
  • How is your personal mindset changing about what you need or don’t need and when?  Your customers’ are changing too.  Permanently? 

Let me expand on that last point for a minute.  Whenever this ends, I think our population is going to have changed it’s perception about the relationship between consumption and the quality of life.  To me, that’s really the big question.  Is buying more stuff (that, truth be told, we really don’t need so much of) still going to be a bedrock of the economy?

Keep Calm and Carry On. 

2 replies
  1. Charlie Ninegar
    Charlie Ninegar says:

    You wrote about a generation affected by the 2008 crisis looking like the generation the followed the Great Depression.

    I can only imagine how this event will ripple into my generation and my kid’s generation.

    On another note, that meme is gold for Corona (beer). It’s like the “icing” game that Schmirnoff Ice can’t acknowledge, but probably contributes 10-20% to their revenue and keeps them culturally relevant.

    Stay safe. And keep writing these columns. Thanks.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Actually Charlie, I kind of see this as almost a continuation of the generational changes that started with the Great Recession. Go read The Fourth Turning.

      Good point about the meme for the beer. Hope Nixon is doing okay.
      J.

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