Wedding taboos turn into marketing tools

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Wedding taboos turn into marketing tools

As bells ring in the spring wedding season, local retailers are playing on long-held traditions and taboos to promote sales of such disparate items as scissors and air conditioners.

At a typical Korean wedding, the groom provides the house and the bride and her family prepare the honsu, or products to be used in the new home. But there are several taboo items the bride’s family is not supposed to buy - instead that responsibility falls to the groom’s family.

If a bride buys knives, scissors or other utensils used for cutting things apart, for example, it’s considered a bad omen, foreshadowing eventual separation. Often, the groom’s mother buys these items, which is said to ensure that lovers’ quarrels are mended quickly.

Fans and air conditioners are also a strict no-no. If the bride buys these items, it supposedly predisposes the new husband to cheat on her, since the Korean word baram, meaning “wind,” is associated with the term barampida, which means “to be unfaithful.”

To take advantage of these little traditions, Shinsegae Department Store has embarked on a “taboo marketing” campaign, offering 20 percent off Henkel brand knives and scissors to grooms or their families with a copy of a wedding invitation. Next month, the retailer will offer grooms gift certificates worth 3 percent of the purchase price of a new air conditioner.

“There are customers who do not believe in these taboos or superstitions, but still, we are using them in marketing,” said Kim Ki-bong, head of marketing at Shinsegae. “Couples could utilize these promotions when preparing their honsu.”


By Lee Soo-ki [angie@joongang.co.kr]
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