Brands hit us where we live
Until a few decades ago, dieters provided a receptive market for an over-the-counter appetite suppressant candy called Ayds. The name carried no baggage when it was created in the 1930s. But by the 1980s, both the brand and the product were, for obvious reasons, on the way out.
Back in the early days of the coronavirus crisis—can that really have been just two months ago?—you would see stacked cases of Corona beer at the supermarket or bodega and wonder if that brand too might be doomed. It was an absurd notion on the face of it, of course—would any self-respecting beer drinker be scared off by a name?
Well, yes. Recently, an international research team published a paper entitled, “Aye Corona: The Contagion Effects of Being Named Corona During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” Among the findings: 38 percent of 737 surveyed U.S. beer drinkers said they would not buy Corona beer under any circumstances; 16 percent admitted they were unsure if there was a link between the beer and the disease.
By now, we’ve all heard the jokes about Corona beer, but the implications are no laughing matter for the brand and for other like-named companies. According to the study, both Corona Corporation, a Japanese home appliances manufacturer, and Coronation Managers, a South African investment firm, experienced reputational damage and a decline in share prices attributable to the outbreak.
Around the same time those brands were struggling to hold things together, the BBC ran a story about an eight-year-old Australian boy named Corona de Vries, who had written to Tom Hanks to wish him well following the actor’s recent recovery from the virus. He also confided that he’d been bullied and mocked about his name at school and that it made him sad.
Hanks replied with a letter to “Dear friend Corona,” pecked out on an ancient Corona typewriter, which he also sent. “I thought this typewriter would suit you,” Hanks wrote the boy. “Ask a grownup how it works. And use it to write me back.”
Aye typewriters! The Corona Company, later to merge with L.C. Smith, made great ones in its day, as Hanks, a collector of vintage typewriters, attests. As the machines drifted into extinction, Smith-Corona got out of the business long before the name might have proved problematic.
Diet pills, beer, appliances, typewriters—none have anything to do with viruses and contagion, nor did the names Ayds or Corona bear the slightest taint until they were blindsided by history. In a way their creators could never have foreseen, they speak to the power of brands to resonate at the deepest levels of our fears and aspirations. For better or worse, brands hit us where we live.
About Brand Acts of Kindness®
Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.
About Carpenter Group
Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.