Over the past weeks, the world has been carefully monitoring news about a new strain of “coronavirus” respiratory infection, which has sickened thousands, caused dozens of deaths, and resulted in a virtual shut-down of China.

While coronavirus is understandably eliciting concern from international travelers, public health officials, and epidemiologists, another group is taking close note – beer drinkers. Yes, apparently some people are worried that the coronavirus outbreak is related to… CORONA brand Mexican beer. USA Today reported an interesting reveal from Google Trends on January 29th, as searches for “Corona beer,” “Corona beer virus,” and “beer virus” have all recently skyrocketed in frequency on the search engine.

For brands, even though the bad press isn’t your fault, it is still your problem. So what’s a brand to do when it gets caught up in a negative viral news cycle? A carefully designed/quick acting PR campaign can work to clarify the facts and help the brand gain control over its own memes, and perhaps enhance its own brand cache at the same time.

An analogous situation occurred over the recent holidays when Peloton was called out for an ad portraying a husband who gifted his already-fit wife a stationary bike. While Peloton itself hasn’t addressed this apparent disconnect between its message and its audience (or, perhaps, it is profiting from the old adage that any press is good press), the quick response by Aviation Gin is a case study in brilliant real-time marketing. For those who haven’t seen it, the Aviation ad featured the same actress from the Peloton ad, drinking gin martinis at a bar with her friends after presumably leaving her controlling husband.

The timely delivery of Aviation’s response, not to mention its hilarious content and execution, made it an instant sensation. And while Aviation’s brand was not the one subject to a negative viral news cycle, its tactic is a textbook example of how to capitalize on a viral moment – even when not of your own making.

So, it is good news that the coronavirus is not caused by drinking CORONA beer. And hopefully, there will be a resolution to the coronavirus situation very soon. In the meantime, we are staying tuned to see if Corona is able to find a way to turn a negative viral moment for their brand into a positive.