The Effects of a Product's Aesthetic Design on Demand and Marketing Mix Effectiveness: The Role of Segment Prototypicality and Brand Consistency

Yan Liu, Krista J. Li, Haipeng (Allan) Chen, and Subramanian Balachander
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Key Takeaways

​Consumers prefer a product whose aesthetic design looks neither too typical nor too different from the average look of products in the category.

An aesthetic design that is neither too similar to nor too different from the average look of the brand's products is also ideal to maximize consumer preference

Luxury product aesthetics should be less typical of the luxury category and more consistent with the brand, whereas products in the economy segment of a market can gain by mimicking the aesthetics of luxury products.

​Ar​ticle Snapshots: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Marketing​​

​We investigate the effect of product design aesthetics on consumer preference and find that consumer preference peaks at moderate levels of segment prototypicality and brand consistency and that economy products benefit from mimicking luxury product aesthetics.

Research

Recent findings that consumers favor prototypical aesthetic designs merit further research because they run counter to anecdotal evidence that consumers prefer attractive, differentiated product aesthetics. Further, previous research does not consider the optimal level of brand consistency in aesthetics or cross-segment aesthetic mimicry by products. Our main hypothesis is that consumers prefer moderate levels of typicality and brand consistency in aesthetic design and that economy products gain by mimicking luxury products.​


Method

We use a unique, large data set consisting of 202 car models from 33 brands sold in the United States from 2003 to 2010. We compute the aesthetic design variables of segment prototypicality, brand consistency, and cross-segment mimicry from 50 coordinate point measures of a car’s aesthetic design generated using a morphing technique. We then incorporate these aesthetic design variables in our empirical choice model, which is a random-coefficient logit model.


Figure 1: Conceptual Model

 

Findings

Our empirical results from the U. S. passenger car market establish that the aesthetic design of a product can have a significant effect on consumer preference.  We find that consumers prefer moderate levels of segment prototypicality and brand consistency in a product’s aesthetic design and that products in the economy segment of a market can gain by mimicking the aesthetics of luxury products. Moreover, a consumer's response to price and advertising also varies across designs.  

Implications

Aesthetic design is important in many product categories, such as cars, laundry appliances, mobile devices, wearable technology (e.g., smart watches), or wearable accessories (e.g., handbags). Should aesthetics match what is typical or be different, and how much so? How similar should a brand's products be aesthetically? Managers can derive conceptual guidance on aesthetic design from our findings. They can use our quantitative demand model to forecast sales and profit of alternative aesthetic designs.


Questions for the Classroom

  • What is an optimal aesthetic design for a new product?
  • Is the most typical design most preferred by consumers?
  • How important is brand consistency in product design?​



Full Article

Yan Liu, Krista J. Li, Haipeng (Allan) Chen, and Subramanian Balachander (2017), “The Effects of a Product's Aesthetic Design on Demand and Marketing Mix Effectiveness: The Role of Segment Prototypicality and Brand Consistency,” Journal of Marketing, 81 (1), 83-102.

Yan Liu is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University (e-mail: yliu@mays.tamu.edu).

Krista J. Li is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Department of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (e-mail: kjli@indiana.edu).

Haipeng (Allan) Chen is John E. Pearson Associate Professor of Marketing, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University (e-mail: hchen@mays.tamu.edu)

Subramanian Balachander is Albert O. Steffey Chair and Professor of Marketing, School of Business Administration, University of California Riverside (e-mail: balachan@ucr.edu).



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Yan Liu, Krista J. Li, Haipeng (Allan) Chen, and Subramanian Balachander
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