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Press Release From the Journal of Marketing: Gimmicky or Effective? The Effects of Imaginative Displays on Customers’ Purchase Behavior

Matt Weingarden

Researchers from Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, and Capital University of Economics and Business published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines the effects of imaginative product displays in retail stores on customers’ purchase behavior.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Gimmicky or Effective? The Effects of Imaginative Displays on Customers’ Purchase Behavior” and is authored by Hean Tat Keh, Di Wang, and Li Yan.

Imaginative displays are constructed using multiple units of the same product in a novel, yet aesthetically appealing, form. Results from six studies show that, relative to standard displays (i.e., non-novel and neutral aesthetics), imaginative displays can increase customers’ purchase intention, actual purchases, product sales, and ROI. 
Importantly, the effects of imaginative displays can be explained by the dual mechanisms of affect-based arousal and cognition-based inferred benefits. That is, an imaginative display increases customer arousal and a themed imaginative display leads customers to infer benefits from the display, which increases their purchase behavior. Moreover, the researchers identify a theoretically meaningful and managerially relevant moderator—congruence between display form and perceived product benefit, which can enhance or attenuate the core effects.
There are three major takeaways:  

  • First, an imaginative display represents a cost-effective way to enhance customers’ purchase behavior and increase product sales and ROI. This effect applies to both familiar and less familiar brands.

  • Second, effective imaginative displays have to be both novel and aesthetically appealing, which highlights the overlooked aesthetic element in innovative design.

  • Third, the inferred benefits of imaginative displays are context-dependent. For a themed imaginative display (i.e., has a particular shape mimicking an object), the retailer should ensure that the display form is congruent with the perceived product benefit to increase purchase behavior. Incongruence between display form and product benefit would backfire.

The authors observe that “Our findings not only explain why some retailers utilize ‘gimmicky’ imaginative displays, but also provide evidence on the processes and boundary conditions of these displays to favorably influence customers’ purchase behavior and increase product sales at relatively low costs.”

Full article and author contact information available at:

About the Journal of Marketing 

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what is coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

Matt Weingarden, Vice President, Communities & Journals, leads the diverse team that supports the AMA’s network of community leaders from its three broad communities and four scholarly journals.