Earlier this week, Corona posted an innocuous tweet to announce the launch of its new line of hard seltzer. "Four delicious flavors. One splashy entrance," it wrote, adding a six-second clip of the new cans sitting on a sun-drenched beach.
Like we said, innocuous—but it got brutal in the @CoronaExtraUSA mentions. "Unfortunate brand name moment," one person responded. "EXTREMELY POOR TASTE," another wrote. "Not your fsult [sic] but this? Seriously? [Because] btw, now you've ensured that I'll never buy it ever again." And one of the most-liked replies was a picture of 15 bottles of Heineken huddled behind a face mask, trying to avoid a single bottle of Corona Extra.
The coronavirus has continued its worldwide spread—as of this writing, there have been 82,000 confirmed cases and almost 3,000 deaths—which may not be the best news for completely non-communicable Corona beer, or for its parent company, Constellation Brands. Last month, Google results for "corona beer virus" started to spike, because a distressing number of people seemed to be making a connection between the booze and the virus, and things don't seem to have improved for either corona in the weeks since.
Market research company YouGov recently conducted a survey of 357 adults to ask them about Corona beer, and to calculate its Buzz Score, a number that represents whether "they have heard anything negative or positive about the brand." The last time it conducted a similar survey was in early January, and Corona had a score of 75. As of this week, that score had slipped to 51.
"YouGov data also shows purchase Intent for the brand is at the lowest it’s been in two years, though the summer-y beverage which is closely associated with beach holidays does see substantial seasonal fluctuation," the company explained on its website.
A second phone survey, conducted by 5W Public Relations, also asked 737 American beer drinkers for their thoughts about Corona beer. (At this point, if a strange number shows up on your phone, there's probably a good chance that it's a nameless marketing coordinator who wants to know if you can tell the difference between a light beer and a respiratory infection).
Assuming that the survey respondents weren't just trolling whoever dialed them up, 38% of them said that they would not buy Corona "under any circumstances now." Fourteen percent of those who said they "usually drink Corona" said they wouldn't order it in public, and 16% of those surveyed admitted they were "confused" about whether there was a connection between the coronavirus and Corona beer.
“There is no question that Corona beer is suffering because of the coronavirus. Could one imagine walking into a bar and saying 'Hey, can I have a Corona?' or 'Pass me a Corona,'" Ronn Torossian, the CEO of 5WPR said in a statement.
“While the brand has claimed that consumers understand there's no linkage between the virus and the beer company, this is a disaster for the Corona brand. After all, what brand wants to be linked to a virus which is killing people worldwide?”
Torossian is right: Constellation Brands doesn't seem to be worried about its customers—not even about those poor "confused" idiots.
"There’s a lot of misinformation being shared across the media that doesn’t match consumer behavior," Maggie Bowman, a Constellation Brands spokesperson, told VICE in an email. "Corona sales continue to be strong. By and large, our consumers understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our beer business."
But still… maybe the Corona account should stay off Twitter for a minute.
In a statement released on Friday, Bill Newlands, president and chief executive officer at Constellation Brands said:
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this terrible virus and we hope efforts to more fully contain it gain traction soon. It’s extremely unfortunate that recent misinformation about the impact of this virus on our business has been circulating in traditional and social media without further investigation or validation. These claims simply do not reflect our business performance and consumer sentiment, which includes feedback from our distributor and retailer partners across the country. We’ve seen no impact to our people, facilities or operations and our business continues to perform very well. Unlike many of our competitors, sales of our beer brands are focused almost entirely on the U.S. market. Our company does not have much exposure to international markets such as China that have been most impacted by this situation. I’m extremely proud of the efforts of our team. We’ve built good momentum as we gear up for the upcoming summer selling season."