Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Numbers Have Different Meanings

Numbers carry different connotations in different parts of the world. An interesting article was written by Natalie Kelly of Smartling Corporation.  In this article she points to a several places around the world where numbers have meanings other than their numerical values.

For people who live in United States the number 13 carries with it a meaning of bad luck. For this reason, many buildings do not have a 13th floor nor do airplanes have a row 13. On the other hand, there are some numbers that carry with them a positive connotation rather than negative. For example, a product priced at $6.66 would be considered lucky in China because that number sounds like the phrase “things are going smoothly" when spoken.  In fact, many Chinese companies will hang 666 above their door. The Christian world, on the other hand, considers the number 666 to represent Satan and hence carries a very negative connotation.

The number nine is a bad luck number in Japan because when spoken aloud it sounds like “suffering”.  For that reason it is unlikely to see a product priced at $9.99 in Japan.   The number four also carries some negative connotations in Asian languages. The number four is spelled the same as the word “death”.  Hence, it is unlikely to see an Asian company using this number or combinations of this number, such as 4444 in a telephone exchange.  The Japanese filmmaker Fuji has taken steps to avoid using the number four in its marketing and goes from a series 3 to a series 5 for its products.

There are two numbers in Mandarin Chinese that have very negative connotations. The address 7456 sounds like “to make me angry” and the number 250 when spoken can mean “imbecile".

The number 17 is considered very unlucky in Italy.   The Vietnamese consider it bad luck to have three people in a photograph.

The bottom line is that numbers often have meanings other than their numeric value and hence when presenting numbers to your customer base you should do your homework and make sure that the numbers do not carry negative connotations.

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