Rats Could Mean Prosperity for Marketers

2008 Is a Most Auspicious Year for Chinese and Many Asian-American Consumers

By Published on .

Bill Imada Bill Imada
Feb. 7, 2008, ushers in the Year of the Rat, the first sign in the Asian Zodiac. While most in the Western world associate rats with filth and disease, according to Chinese culture they are traditional symbols of incoming wealth and prosperity. (Many Chinese feel a sense of relief over the conclusion of the Year of the Fiery Pig -- shamelessly promoted by retailers and financial institutions as the Year of the "Golden" Pig, an icon that is infinitely less controversial and more palatable than its often conflict-prone cousin.)

But other than the good fortune and wealth associated with the Year of the Rat, 2008 is considered to be a very lucky and special year in itself. How so?

Many Americans consider seven a lucky number. And because of this superstition, in 2007 Las Vegas casinos were packed with people trying their luck at the gaming tables, while others purchased lottery tickets with hopes of winning big.

Yet for many Chinese and Chinese Americans, the No. 8 is even luckier than seven because its phonetic pronunciation in some Chinese dialects is very similar to the Chinese word for prosperity or wealth.

So if July 7, 2007 (7-7-07), was lucky for many Americans, the biggest day for Chinese and Chinese Americans will be Aug. 8, 2008 (8-8-08). Three number eights in a row is considered luckier and even more auspicious because the number three is viewed as a road, route or pathway. And what better way to get to riches and prosperity faster than to have a direct route?

Even China, which has discouraged traditional beliefs and superstitions in the past, has embraced Aug. 8, 2008. The Beijing Olympics will officially begin on this date. And that was planned by Chinese officials!

So how might 2008 impact marketers in the Year of the Rat? People born in the Year of the Rat (and there are probably hundreds if not thousands of ad folks who are born rats), are said to be smart, crafty, good with other people, empathetic, a bit shrewd, entertaining and big on parties. If you aren't sure if you are a rat, anyone born in the following years can call themselves rats: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984 and 1996.

Expect more Asians of Chinese heritage (and a large number of other Asians including Vietnamese) to consider doing any or several of the following:
  • Get Hitched
    Even non-marrying types will consider tying the knot with their loved ones since saying "I do" in 2008 could offer newlyweds a life of financial bliss. Wedding planners will be busy. And so will alcohol companies, wedding dress designers, tuxedo companies and banks.

  • Invest in Real Estate
    A good time to buy? Absolutely. Real estate prices are expected to drop even further and many Chinese and Asian Americans won't have to look that far to find bargains on real estate -- both residential and commercial. Real estate purchases will be followed by strong consumer demand for architects, interior designers, landscapers and other types of contractors, along with retailers peddling furniture, plants and other home accents.

  • Take a Trip
    Rats are partiers. That means it will be a good time to find a place for friends and family to enjoy together. Likely destinations? Las Vegas. Macao. Monaco. China for the Beijing Olympics. Major resorts. Airline companies, cruise lines, major resorts (with golf and spas) and high-end restaurants should take note and start planning. Chinese and Asian Americans tend to spend more on their trips and often stay at nicer hotels and resorts. They also spend more on entertainment and shopping on average than most Americans.

  • Have a Child
    Having a child in 2008 is doubly good. Children born in the Year of the Rat will be smart, enterprising and quick. And being born in 2008 will increase their chances of being prosperous when they enter the workforce. Hospitals will be busy and so will healthcare providers. There is sure to be a run on baby clothes, accessories and furniture. Having a child also means that more Chinese and Asian Americans will purchase savings and investment products, especially to support their children when they enter a college or university.

  • Purchase Luxury Goods
    This year will see an increase in the purchase of luxury goods with high enduring value, including gold watches and jewelry, diamonds, and luxury cars.

  • Start a Business
    More Chinese and Asian Americans will take that leap of faith and start a new business enterprise or expand their business operations. Loans, lines of credit, and new credit card accounts will be in demand, as well as office products and services.
These are only a few things that marketers should consider when marketing to Chinese and some Asian-American consumer segments. I should note that not all Chinese, Vietnamese and Asian-American consumers follow the Asian Zodiac or consider certain numbers lucky or even unlucky. But for those of you who don't believe, watch what happens in Las Vegas and note how some corporate marketers behave when they target Chinese and Asian-American consumers this year.

It will be fascinating. And if you don't muster the courage to do anything this year, there is always 2009, which will be another important year for Chinese and Asian Americans.

You'll have to wait until the end of the year to learn why.
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