Who would launch anything during a pandemic?
A view from Ravi Amaratunga Hitchcock

Who would launch anything during a pandemic?

I'm not only helping brands launch their own products, but also launching my own business during the coronavirus crisis. Will it be a recipe for disaster?

You’ve seen the posts on LinkedIn.

"Now’s a weird time to launch anything, but…"

"Here is some slightly good news amongst the bad…"

Launching anything right now feels like a dangerous game.

I would know. I agonised over my own awkward post: we officially launched our own creative business, Soursop, into the world last week. A massive life moment that right now feels downright stupid.

With confirmation that we’re on track for the new great depression and predictions that spending in our industry will shrink by $20bn, the stakes are really high. Launching our own business into this oblivion feels like the ultimate Nietzschean act of nihilism.

Alongside this doubt, at times it also feels like we’re doing it in bad taste, like we haven’t got enough self-reflection to realise what’s happening around us.

Our usual chest-beating industry has been well and truly put back in its box, rightly eclipsed by the heroic efforts of key workers keeping society functioning now across the world.

Yet, somehow, we have to accept the dramatic situation we’re in and keep the train moving through the sludge. 

How do we keep the show going – especially while being able to live with ourselves as human beings in a global crisis, knowing more important messages have to take priority over our own?

To add fuel to this fire, it’s not just about launching into the abyss, but it’s also about avoiding crash landing during this pandemic.

There have been quite a few of those in the past few weeks. 

Take Quibi, the much-hyped short-form streaming service aiming to take on Netflix. To date, it has burned on entry, failing to resonate with audiences on lockdown for reasons yet to be determined.

Likewise, a few brands have crash-landed when trying to communicate something during the pandemic. Some have adapted campaigns poorly. Others made up new ones with stock footage or user-generated content and adapted "heartfelt" voiceovers. The dirge has landed on deaf ears, all brilliantly parodied by New York-based copywriter Samantha Geloso in this video

It’s enough to talk yourself out of launching anything. You’re damned if you do. You’re damned if you don’t.

I’m sure there are going to be many more bumpy, embarrassing and disastrous arrivals during this period.

But then you realise (or at least hope) that people are also going to be more forgiving and supportive, if you’re coming from a good place.   

The "good place" addition to that last sentence is really important. Heineken shoving a ton of pack shots on to the end of a "we’re all in this together" commercial might come across as tone-deaf to some.

But if the approach is earnest, honest and thought through… well, the very worst that people can be is indifferent. 

Everyone deserves a break. It’s a tough time.

And I guess that’s the message I wanted to get across, having gone through this experience myself over the past few weeks, both for our brand partners and for ourselves.

If you’re willing to accept you might have a crash landing, then in a sense that takes fear out of the equation, leaving you with a solid "Why not?". 

After I write this, I’m probably going to hit "post" on LinkedIn. I might get no responses or feedback, maybe some passive-aggressive comments and even direct criticism on why we decided to go ahead with it.

Then, in a few months' time, business might dry up as the recession hits in full force and we’ll have to go back to the drawing board, tails between legs. 

Maybe I’ll even have to find another career or downgrade my career expectations altogether.

Even in this "worst case", I could at least say that we tried, in the toughest possible climate. I did what was in my control. That in itself is something I can already post-rationalise and be positive about. 

Weirdly, I’ve found that if you can visualise your own crash landing, then launching something feels less intimidating. Something useful for me during this pandemic, but perhaps even beyond it too. 

This feels really important at a time when I imagine a lot of you are thinking of doing similar things for your brand, your clients or even yourselves. 

This pandemic has accelerated our decision-making and forced us to question what it is we really want from life, as I talked about in my last column.

So maybe start with the most dramatic, monumental fuck-up of a crash landing you can possibly imagine. 

Yeah… even more full-on than that.

And then plan your launch from there.

I’ll let you know how it worked out for us in a couple of months. 

Ravi Amaratunga Hitchcock is co-founder of Soursop (pictured, top, with co-founder Lucy Hitchcock)