3 Asian Superstitions That Can Affect Businesses

asian superstitions

Superstitions are deeply weeded inside Asian cultures. Find out about the top three superstitions that can affect your business.

Superstitions can sometimes be harmless – like stopping when a black cat crosses the road. But at other times, they can be downright weird and affect the way a company does business. If you are an entrepreneur in Asia – whether you are superstitious or not – superstition is all around you. Some believe in ‘lucky’ shoes or dresses, others plant bamboo shoots for luck. Even if you are not one to believe in superstitions, if your customers are superstitious, it is bound to affect your business.

For instance, in the U.S. there is a fear of the number 13 called triskaidekaphobia. Around 80% of high-rise buildings in the world do not have a 13th floor, airports a 13th gate, and planes a 13th isle. This is also why around $800–$900 million in business revenue is lost on Friday the 13th.

Like culture, language, and cuisine, superstitions also vary from place to place. When your business is operating in Asia, it is crucial that you are aware of the regional superstitious beliefs. These beliefs can drive customers away in case you make a mistake. Research indicates that knowing about superstitious beliefs in a region is important for international business expansion.

Here are the top weird superstitions in Asia that affect businesses.

Fear of four

In China and Japan, the number four is a homonym of ‘death’ and is therefore viewed negatively. The fear of four, or tetraphobia, is fairly common across China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Most customers in this region consider April 4th (04/04) as unlucky. Asian companies try to avoid this number entirely – whether in their phone numbers or in their prices.

Tetraphobia can also drive real estate prices. Neighbourhoods that have removed four from their street names have become profitable. Similarly, buildings with multiple fours lose value by up to $30,000.

In consumer goods branding, too, the importance of this superstition is palpable. Companies like Canon and Nokia introduced different model serial numbers for the Asian market, just to avoid the number four.

Good or bad numbers

Four is not the only number that commands superstitious beliefs in the East. In Japan, the number nine is considered unlucky because its pronunciation sounds like ‘suffering.’ Therefore, a price of $9.99 would be considered negative, and could make you lose customers.

In Chinese, the number eight sounds like ‘wealth’ and ‘prosper,’ which makes it a lucky number. In Taiwan, a study found that customers are willing to pay more for fewer products just to satisfy their superstition. In the study, customers were willing to pay almost 50% more to buy a pack of 8 tennis balls rather than buying a pack of 10 balls for a lower price.

Similarly, the number 666 is not considered evil in Asia like it is in the U.S. and other Western countries. In China, 666 pronunciation sounds like “things going smoothly” and is, therefore, considered to be lucky.

Learning about your target customers’ beliefs regarding numbers can help you avoid faux pas that can cost your business a pretty penny.

Careful with colors

Countries sometimes favor one color over another. For instance, red is considered a lucky color in China, which is why most brands use it in their logo or branding. The color is also favored as lucky in Vietnam.

But the important thing to ensure is that you do not use a color on your product or brand that is viewed negatively. For example, black is associated with evil in China and Japan. In Chinese, ‘black’ stands for bad luck. Similarly, brands should avoid all-white packaging in China since the color is associated with mourning.

Doing business in the East can be daunting given the differences in culture, habits, and beliefs from the West. But superstitions are ingrained in Asia and because you cannot root them out, you need to be able to use them to your advantage. For instance, companies now do Friday the 13th sales to lure customers. Ultimately, you have to ensure that your business makes the superstitions work for it rather than against it.

Header image by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

SHARE THIS STORY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Monika Ghosh
Monika Ghosh is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart

RELATED POSTS

Why Your Brand Needs to Think About Unique Value Propositioning

Why Your Brand Needs to Think About Unique Value Propositioning

When you start a business, you want to stand out from the crowd and show your customers how your product is different from others in the market. This is where a unique value proposition (UVP) comes into play. UVP is a statement that tells your customers exactly how your product or service will benefit them.

How the “Value Overflow Incident” Could Have Ended Bitcoin as We Know It

How the “Value Overflow Incident” Could Have Ended Bitcoin as We Know It

As of September 2021, Bitcoin’s market capitalization was US$782.65 billion. The cryptocurrency has been gaining massive ground, with over 2,300 US businesses accepting it as a form of payment and Paypal launching crypto services in their U.K. app. However, in spite of the surge in Bitcoin adoption, the currency isn’t quite as safe as one might think it is.

DABUS An AI Fighting for Its Rights as an Inventor

DABUS: An AI Fighting for Its Rights as an Inventor

As technology becomes more and more innovative, it is becoming easier and easier to imagine that soon artificial intelligence (AI) would be able to make things all by itself. Already, we have seen a rising concern over AI making its own creative works by recognizing patterns in art styles and structures.

Why Your Startup Needs Ethnic Diversity in the Workplace

Why Your Startup Needs Ethnic Diversity in the Workplace

In 2018, footwear giant Nike released an ad campaign to celebrate their 30th anniversary. One of the faces of their campaign was Colin Kaepernick—the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who, before a match, kneeled in solidarity with African-American people who were being wrongly targeted by the American police force. Kaepernick had faced backlash for his public protest against racism; Nike faced backlash for supporting him. Nevertheless, Nike won more hearts than it lost.