What's the Deal With Friday the 13th?

By Mike Werling

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Don't look now but it's Friday the 13th. The dreaded unluckiest of days--something to do with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. People still act weird when the 13th, which we have every month, lands on a Friday (but people are acting weirder all the time now, so it's getting harder to distinguish).

On the 13th, they go out less. They make fewer decisions. And they shop less. Estimates range from $800 million to $900 million on the hit the economy takes on Friday the 13th. That's a lot of inactivity for a centuries-old superstition to cause.

If modern medicine isn't going to come up with a cure for this consumer condition--and last I checked nobody was raising funds for that purpose--then maybe retailers should steal an idea from the hotel and airline people: Get rid of the number 13, at least when it falls on Friday.

Hotels do it. Check out the elevator buttons next time you're in a high-rise hotel. No 13. Just a 12 and then a 14. Now, the folks on the floor marked 14 are still on the 13th level, but there is some peace of mind in not being on Floor 13. I've seen it on planes, too. Row 12, row 14. Huh, no row 13? But guess what. Row 14 doesn't have the extra legroom one might associate with a missing row of seats. I'm 6'6" so I notice these things.

Anyway, my point is that retailers may have better luck if we subjected the calendar to some 21st century surgery. Women shave years off their look these days. Why can't we show the calendar a little love and shave off a couple of days a year? One group of enterprising show biz entrepreneurs might argue about excising Friday the 13th from our calendars and our collective conscious: anyone having anything to do with a certain movie.

The people behind the Friday the 13th movie franchise might frown on killing their $350 million cash cow, the latest version of which opens today. (How could it not?) The producers of this series seized on a superstition and rode it way past its logical conclusion--Jason has been to space, Manhattan, hell--much to their collective benefit by following their formula for success: hockey mask, machete, dead (sometimes nude) teenagers and fantastic scenarios for bringing Jason back from the dead.

In this version, the 12th, they revisit the story's beginning with a retelling of Jason's origins, which is probably just code for, "Jason vs. Michael Meyers isn't finished yet." I won't know whose side to take when that one comes out. Both psychopaths were a big part of my early movie-going days. Heck, I still watch Halloween every October.

The moral here is this: Friday the 13th has made a boatload of money by knowing its audience and its formula for success. Oh, and we've got a story from Jennifer Wang about marketing to superstitions and an interactive feature with 13 facts about Friday the 13th. Click it. I dare you.

Mike Werling, the managing editor of Sea Magazine, has written for Entrepreneur.com, Senior Market Advisor, Boomer Market Advisor and Broadmoor magazines.

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