Do people like an unexpected design of a product?

burger king

We often meet a product with a unique form and find it difficult to guess how it works. Examples include a donut-looking tape by 3M, a burger/fries/coke-looking USB key by Burger King, or a chocolate-looking mirror by Meiji, a Japanese chocolate manufacturer. One of my Japanese friends even pointed me a website in which a designer keeps posting his/her design prototypes (Prototype 1000).

I wonder whether consumers like a product more when its form and function are inconsistent than when they are consistent.


Noseworthy, T. J., & Trudel, R. (2011). Looks Interesting, but What Does It Do? Evaluation of Incongruent Product Form Depends on Positioning. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(6), 1008–1019.

Marketers struggle with how best to position innovative products that are incongruent with consumer expectations. Compounding the issue, many incongruent products are the result of innovative changes in product form intended to increase hedonic appeal. Crossing various product categories with various positioning tactics in a single meta-analytic framework, the authors find that positioning plays an important role in how consumers evaluate incongruent form. The results demonstrate that when a product is positioned on functional dimensions, consumers show more preferential evaluations for moderately incongruent form than for congruent form. However, when a product is positioned on experiential dimensions, consumers show more preferential evaluations for congruent form than for moderately incongruent form. Importantly, an increase in perceived hedonic benefits mediates the former, whereas a decrease in perceived utilitarian benefits mediates the latter. The mediation effects are consistent with the view that consumers must first understand a product’s functionality before engaging in hedonic consumption.

2 thoughts on “Do people like an unexpected design of a product?”

  1. I think it’s both. Most of the time, people tend to see something beyond their expectations and also love to own it when there are not a lot of people that have the item. It does not seem like there is some kind of connection between Burger King and USB memory sticks; however, it does seem like lots of consumers will find it interesting to see that those memory sticks do not look like regular ones in the past. Not to mention they will probably want to keep it just because it looks fancy and unique, well, at least I would love to keep one of those. Now I’m pretty sure you won’t easily find a USB memory stick that is donut-shaped. I’ve concluded that no matter how irrelevant two brands are, consumers will positively respond to the outcome as long as the final product looks cute and fancy enough to draw their attentions. I really like the idea how Burger King has promoted itself by having USB memory sticks represent their brand! It’s really cute! 🙂

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