When Bad Things Happen to Good Brands.

May 5, 2020

When Bad Things Happen to Good Brands.

May 29, 2023

Happy Cinco de Mayo! In this era of social media, a good brand can go south in a heartbeat. Remember, the cell phone video of a passenger forcibly being dragged through the aisle and removed from a plane because the airline was oversold.

Thirty seconds of video led to a few billion-dollars reduction in United Airlines valuation. And who can forget the Academy Awards Best Picture mix-up a few years back, and the toll it took on PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reputation and bottom-line profits? And, of course, Chipotle (a company name I appreciate) took a nosedive when their food handling practices led to E-coli outbreaks.



In most cases, the sensible corporate crisis-management playbook suggests you take responsibility, distance the brand from the unique mistake or problem, publicize what you’re doing to solve the problem, and then keep moving on hoping time will heal this PR wound.

But what do you do if your brand is called Corona Beer? None of these crisis-management strategies make sense as Corona did nothing wrong (except the fact their beer tastes like flavored water). And, yet a recent report shows that 38% of Americans “would not buy Corona under any circumstances” due to virus fears. You think you have problems?! Try being the Chief Marketing Officer of Corona who wasn’t alert enough to extinguish a new marketing campaign for their new Hard Seltzer beverage, which had a marketing tagline of “Coming Ashore Soon.” No one wants to import Corona. Can you say “shot myself in the foot” ten times fast? Good news for him is that Coronavirus is now officially called COVID-19, but the damage has been done.

So, if this anxiety-producing era has you agitated and sad, remember you’re not the poor CMO of Corona Beer who has no playbook for how to solve for a global pandemic named after their prized product. No one has ever had to navigate this branding minefield.

So, what’s the lesson for all of us? When you come to a crisis in your life—pause, take a breath, and allow yourself time for reflection before taking any ill-advised course of action. And, maybe, pull out a Corona and support a brand that could use a little positive karma these days.


P.S. Join me and my Happy Hour co-host David Stewart, as we unlock wisdom with special guest MEA faculty member Barbara Waxman. Barbara is THE authority on “Middlescence” and a passionate advocate for aging, wisdom, and thriving in midlife. Join us in support of her mission to shift cultural norms around aging, by establishing Middlescence as a new life stage. Tune in tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6 at 5:00pm PST / 8:00pm EST. Tickets are free and limited, so reserve today.

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