Corona Picked a Bad Week to Launch a Hard Seltzer

A dubious new survey states that 38% of those polled wouldn't buy Corona right now because of — you guessed it — coronavirus.

Bottles of Corona beer
Photo: Scott Olson / Staff/Getty Images

It's easy to flip through 24-hour news channels or scroll through social media and complain that the world's gone wild — but it's rare that we get bona fide proof that some Americans have gone wild. That said, if the truth did come out, I always assumed we'd find it at the bottom of a beer bottle: New statistics show that people are avoiding drinking Corona — the beer from Mexico — due to fears over the coronavirus — the deadly illness that broke out in China.

Yesterday, 5W Public Relations released the results of a phone survey it conducted this week of American beer drinkers. A sigh-inducing 38% of the 737 respondents said they "would not buy Corona under any circumstances now," 5W wrote. And in an oddly contrasting finding, only 16% said they "were confused about whether Corona beer is related to the coronavirus." Of course, 700 people who picked up a call from an unknown number isn't a substantial or, arguably, nationally representative sample size, yet the report was even picked up by the likes of CNN.

Look, I'm not a statistician, but if only 16% were confused but 38% said they wouldn't buy Corona, that leads to a number of troubling possibilities. The scariest scenario is that a good chunk of people are not confused because they truly believe that the beer and the virus are connected. However, another possibility is that drinkers understand the two things are not related, but they don't want to buy Corona for fear that other people might judge them — which still puts very little faith in the rest of the country.

Another one of 5W's findings would seem to point to that latter scenario being the more accurate one. "Among those who said they usually drink Corona, only 4% said they would stop drinking Corona, but 14% said they wouldn't order Corona in a public venue," the PR firm wrote. So at the very least, this demonstrates that at least some people are self-conscious of how others might judge them.

And yet, despite all this irrationality, COVID-19 is having real-life ramifications for the Corona brand. On Wednesday, the public opinion and data company YouGov released its own report stating that purchase intent for Corona hit its lowest level in two years. Additionally, their research shows Corona's "buzz score" — which follows positive versus negative talk about brands — has plummeted since the first case of the illness was discovered.

Rational or not, it's terrible timing for the brand which is in the midst of introducing what was supposed to be one of its biggest products in quite some time: Corona Hard Seltzer. In an unfortunate choice of words tied to the brand's beachy image, Corona has been promoting the four new flavors of the product on social media as "coming ashore soon."

Though pulling the tweet to avoid social media pitchfork mobs would seem easy enough, Corona instead stood by the campaign. "Our advertising with Corona is consistent with the campaign we have been running for the last 30 years and is based off strong consumer sentiment," a spokeswoman told CNBC. "While we empathize with those who have been impacted by this virus and continue to monitor the situation, our consumers, by and large, understand there's no linkage between the virus and our business."

So might I suggest that we all stay calm about this? If you want to drink a Corona, go drink a Corona. It's one of the few times where drinking beer and acting more rationally actually go hand in hand.

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