Many years ago, when I was very young and you were even younger…
I was working for a Big Corporate on a Big Product. We were negotiating launch dates. It was the sort of thing where you have to book TV advertising months ahead. We were all set to go, when someone on our team said “Is this really the date when we want to launch?”
The Big Scary Manager looked down at them and said “Yes. The second Friday in September is perfect. It avoids most major sporting fixtures and neatly primes us for the Christmas market. It gives us plenty of time to get stock to stores, and it is at least a week before we think our competitor will launch their offering. Why? What do you think is wrong with it?”
“Well… it’s just… Do we really want to do this on September the 11th?”
There was an interesting pause. We were several years out from the attacks on the World Trade Centre – but it was still fresh in people’s memories. We were all in the UK – and I don’t think we had any Americans on the team. Was it in bad taste to launch a domestic product on the anniversary of an overseas atrocity?
Reluctantly, we began casting around for another date. Is it acceptable to celebrate a launch on the anniversary of someone’s death? Or a significant day of religious observance? What about the birthday of a global superstar – would their rabid fans think we were upstaging them? Will people be upset if we look like we’re associating ourselves with the birthday of a genocidal maniac?
In the end, I think, we shifted it back one day. The product was a flop – not because of the launch date – and faded into obscurity.
But the event stayed with me. Recently, I was asked to take part in a conference – when suddenly the organisers started having jitters about the significance of the date. It was the “International Day of …” and they just didn’t want to be seen to be appropriating it.
Every date is significant. Take a look at Wikipedia’s On This Day. Every day has a dozen anniversaries or important causes associated with it.
The world is littered with significant events – and it’s up to us to make new history.