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.
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.