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Sepideh Nassabi's article "Beer company takes high road amid pandemic" published in Lawyer's Daily

Mar 17, 2020

Registered trademark agent and litigation lawyer Sepideh Nassabi’s article "Beer company takes high road amid pandemic” was published by The Lawyer’s Daily, and discusses how Corona beer is managing how its name is unfortunately linked with the name of the coronavirus. 

The article was published on March 11, 2020. To read the article in The Lawyer’s Daily, visit: https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/18106/beer-company-takes-high-road-amid-pandemic (subscription required).​

Beer company takes high road amid pandemic

Image: Sepideh Nassabi A successful brand strategy creates a particular image and drives peoples’ buying decisions. Every component of a successful brand strategy is carefully planned and consistently executed. But there are just some things that you cannot plan for and the makers of Corona beer know that just too well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus was first detected in China and has now been detected in almost 90 locations internationally, including Canada. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Who is responsible for naming this virus?

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is the committee that describes, names and classifies every virus that affects living organisms, announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” as the name for this virus.

Apparently, coronavirus is named after the crown-like spikes on their surface. In fact, “corona” means “crown” in Spanish, hence the crown on the Corona beer label.

The chances of having the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses name a virus very similar to your brand are slim and I can assure you that this is definitely not something the makers of Corona beer considered when they were developing their brand strategy or applying to register the various Corona trademarks all around the world.

Unfortunately for the beer maker, it is something they are dealing with today. In fact, stories have popped up online about people being unwilling to drink Corona beer because they think it is somehow linked to the virus. Online searches for “corona beer virus” spiked in February and the hashtag #CoronaBeerVirus had, at one point, over 1.5 million impressions.

What to do when your brand sounds similar to a deadly virus?

Being associated with an undesirable illness or situation because you share a similar name can cripple any brand. Take for example the popular diet candy in the 1970s and early 1980s called “Ayds.” By the mid-1980s, public awareness of the disease AIDS caused problems for the diet candy brand. In fact, sales dropped by as much as 50 per cent and it was eventually withdrawn from the market.

While some think that the coronavirus situation might be a public relations disaster for the famous beer brand, the CEO of the company recently released the following statement:

“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.”   

While the beer maker has avoided making any public statements about the name similarities, the approach of the company thus far has been to separate myth from reality. This seems to be working for the company. The company’s CEO stated that he is seeing positive sales trends for the brand thus far this calendar year.

Time will tell how Corona’s bottom line will be impacted from this negative buzz. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy your refreshing cold beer.

Re-printed with permission from The Lawyer's Daily - originally published on March 11, 2020.

If you have any concerns or questions regarding an infringement of your intellectual property rights contact Sepideh Nassabi at snassabi@mindengross.com

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