When Good Looks Kill: an Examination of Consumer Responses to Visually Attractive Product Design

Rishtee Kumar Batra, Boston University, USA
Frederic Brunel, Boston University, USA
Sucharita Chandran, Boston University, USA
In a time when companies are able to match each other on dimensions of quality and price, superior design is seen as a key to winning customers. But while design has been an area of growing concern, it remains unclear whether superior design should be a goal sought after by all. The present paper examines the effect of visually attractive design upon consumers’ perceptions of quality and argues that under certain circumstances, firms benefit from investing in superior visual design while in other circumstances companies might be adversely impacted in pursuit of highly attractive visual design. We develop and empirically test a model of visual information processing based on theories assimilation-contrast and implicit personality. It is shown that a U-shaped relationship exists between visual attractiveness and perceived performance but that this relationship is moderated by both brand information and access to processing capabilities. By understanding the boundary conditions and mechanisms involved in this process of performance-related trait inference, we can begin to outline implications for when and how to use a product’s visual design as a competitive tool.
[ to cite ]:
Rishtee Kumar Batra, Frederic Brunel, and Sucharita Chandran (2009) ,"When Good Looks Kill: an Examination of Consumer Responses to Visually Attractive Product Design", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 698-698.