A mistake in symbolism, ignorance of local beliefs, not understanding the local meaning of colour and numbers can very quickly lead to trouble. It can cause poor or no sales, in some rare cases riots have jeopardised the very existence of a business within a country!
A very common mistakes for a company entering a new foreign market is assuming that you can simply take a successful product logo, packaging, mottos and marketing campaign directly from your country into another. Not so.
The portrayal of animals that the local culture considers, unlucky, death, unlucky, evil or morally unclean. Dogs are unclean in Muslim countries, three stripes in the shape of a "Y" or "U" distinguishes Shiva and Vishu worshippers in India. Superstitions can be become a problem due to local taboos and beliefs. For example, If you showed an advertisement in Thailand where the person enters a house by stepping on the doorsill, it would upset Thais. Many Thais believe spirits live in the doorsill and stepping on the doorsill will bring bad luck. Local superstitions may also mean it is wise to employ a priest and / or numerologist in choosing the location of the business, blessing of your offices, choosing the most harmonious opening date and even consulting with you on the orientation and design of the building, etc .
Colours can similarly be a problem in packaging and marketing. What is a lucky or a "neutral" colour in one country can be associated with death in another. Black is associated with death in many countries but death is associated with white in India and both black and white are associated with death and mourning in Thailand. In China, gold is associated with wealth, but in Italy, gold is associated with funerals. In a foreign country you may have to consider different packaging numbers, the numbers in your telephone number and your street address. All could imply either good luck, bad luck, evil, wealth, prosperity, happiness depending what they are and what country you are in. In Japan, odd numbers are lucky, except the number nine is considered unlucky as the sound of the word is like another word associated with bad luck. In Thailand any number associated with three is considered lucky, 9, 99, 999, etc. Consequently, a package of three items may be more preferable to Thais than a package of two items.
The lesson to learn from these examples is that you need to do your homework when planning to enter a new foreign market.
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