The Social Utility of Feature Creep

Debora Viana Thompson, Georgetown University
Michael I. Norton, Harvard University
Consumers frequently choose feature-rich products that they then find themselves unable to operate (e.g., cell phones with 59 features). We investigate whether this seemingly suboptimal behavior may in fact maximize utility, when factoring in the value these unusable products provide as signal of social status. In a series of five studies, we manipulate the presence of impression management goals by varying priming tasks, type of product, product usage situation, and choice observability. As we expected, consumers engage in conspicuous consumption, choosing high-feature products more often when concerned about their public appearance.
[ to cite ]:
Debora Viana Thompson and Michael I. Norton (2008) ,"The Social Utility of Feature Creep", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35, eds. Angela Y. Lee and Dilip Soman, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 181-184.