What to Do When the Coronavirus Impacts Your Brand
Brand StrategyMarch 5, 2020

What to Do When the Coronavirus Impacts Your Brand

March 5, 2020
Joy Corkery Prof Pic
Joy Corkery
Head of Content Operations

There’s only one topic on the minds of everybody right now and that’s the coronavirus. Not only has it sent the world into a state of fear regarding personal health, marketing managers are now worrying about their brand health too.

Burberry has taken a hit in sales after temporarily closing 24 of its 64 stores in China, and the Corona beer brand just can’t get away from its attachment to the virus. On the other hand, brands like Campbell Soup are prospering thanks to mass stockpiling of canned food. The question now is, what should brands do next in the wake of this crisis?

This article will look at some of the different brands affected by the coronavirus and provide advice on how they can keep their brand health as stable as possible.

Work on Improving Positive Brand Associations

Unfortunately for Mexican beer brand, Corona, drinkers worldwide are confusing its product with the coronavirus. According to Google, since the virus began to take on global proportions in the middle of January, online searches for the phrase " beer coronavirus" surged over 3,200% globally while "corona beer virus" rocketed 2,300%. A spokesperson for the brand believes that customers understand there is no linkage between the two, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What would provide Corona with the answers they need regarding the actual state of their brand health is brand tracking data based on brand associations. Corona needs to know if positive associations with their brand have fallen and, more importantly, if negative associations have risen. Based on the results, it would be worthwhile for Corona to raise their status as a brand that cares about its customers by incorporating information on how to deal with the coronavirus into web pages that are performing well because of increased search results.

Corona just need to be careful that they don't create marketing campaigns in bad taste, like the picture below, which has already raised some eyebrows.

As Amit Raj, Founder of “The Links Guy", told us: "There’s a tendency for marketing “juices to flow” when there’s a big topic, but what any brand needs to be mindful of is if it is a serious topic. Some things can be made light of but coronavirus is not one because of the serious risk of fatality. Corona Beer‘s marketing team have tried to capitalize off the back of this, with but this “Coming Ashore Soon” image tweet was perhaps in poor taste and they quickly came under fire on social media for that one."

Spend Your Brand Budget Wisely

The outbreak of the coronavirus could cost airlines $113 billion, and British airline, Flybe, has already crashed due to drops in the number of people willing to travel. Who knows how smaller companies in the travel industry will be affected? No doubt all travel brands will experience a loss of profit, so it’s important to keep as much money within the company as possible.

That means cancelling all marketing campaigns promoting travel, at least for the time being.

But it’s not just about the money. Encouraging people to travel, especially to areas that have been badly affected, will be seen in bad taste. No matter how witty or memorable your campaign might be, the buzz you create may not be worthwhile in the long-term. Remember that TV spot Pepsi ran with Kendall Jenner that was seen to be making light of the Black Lives Matter movement? It took more than nine months for the brand to recover its brand perception levels among millennials and younger generations, from the lowest brand perception they had seen in three years. And that was a brand well-known and loved worldwide, and with a massive marketing budget.

Brands should follow this advice from Alice Corner, Content Marketer at Venngage: "Brands need to be wary of tacky marketing, especially when coronavirus is so serious. We see brands co-opting major news stories all of the time to try and sell their products, but when a virus has killed thousands of people, maybe take a step back. Provide advice and direction in an authoritative voice if it's relevant to your brand or product. Otherwise, don't. It's tacky and people will think less of you."

Photo by Ja San Miguel on Unsplash

Keep an Eye on Brand Awareness Levels

Campbell Soup made the decision to increase production in certain areas as their product is flying off the shelves as people stockpile canned food. In fact, the brand closed on March 4th up 10% after its second-quarter earnings topped estimates. Whether this increase in production derived from a genuine want to help customers or it is purely financial motive, who knows? Brands who are experiencing an uplift because of the coronavirus just need to make sure they are handling things in a sensitive manner, like we mentioned before.

But there is one thing that these brands can start doing now that will benefit them in the future: track brand awareness.

While the coronavirus is in the news, the brands it is impacting will also be in the news. That means more awareness for these brands. While it might not be ideal to act on a rise in awareness now, smart brands will gather data that can be used when this crisis finally comes to an end. What would be especially interesting for brands to dig into is if they have reached any new audiences during this time. Brands can then determine how they can continue to reach these audiences and work on making them loyal customers over time.

Regardless of how the coronavirus has affected your brand, now is the time to act responsibly. Use your reach, no matter how big or small, to educate people on the best way to deal with this outbreak. Keep the profit-increasing campaigns for later down the line. Your brand health will thank you for it.

For more information on how you can help contain the coronavirus, please check out the WHO website.

Brand Strategy

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