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December 23, 2014
Consumers Pick Looks Over Function
 
When we shop for others, we are regularly put at a crossroads when we have to narrow a list of things we think a person will want. What do they need? What will they use the most? Will they like how it looks? We use these questions to figure out what the best good or service might be. 

Consumers like to believe that their choices are grounded in logic and reason. Indeed, when we talked amongst friends, rarely would we hear, "Oh, I just buy the shiniest thing in the room."

However, research published in the Journal of Product Innovation Management suggests that the shiny object mentioned above is quite hard to pass up.

Product developers and marketers must be on the same page when it comes to bringing new and improved goods to the marketplace. It is a combined effort to make sure the consumer gets what they want — a well-designed, functioning product that satisfies their need or want.

Unfortunately in recent times, product managers and marketers have not been the best of friends. The study explains it — more consumers are appreciating the design of the product, rather than the functionality of it. So marketers are clamoring for the bells and whistles so the product will sell, while product managers are basically saying bells and whistles add no function to the product. 

Who's right?

It's not that easy. The researchers saw that the extra aesthetics made the brand more appealing, creating more loyal customers. The report suggests that if brands invest more in design than functionality (though function is still important), the end result will be a boost in brand loyalty from their customers. Again, when boiled down to rational motives versus emotional motives and social proof, the rational motives will lose nearly every time. Consumers care so much about how others view them, their social status, and the personal pride of owning things, rational decisions like price, function, quality are all second chair.

The question isn't, then, who is right between the marketer and the product manager. The question is: How can the product be designed in a way to make it incredibly useful and incredibly appealing?

Perhaps product managers and marketers can get along again after all.

Photo courtesy of Trendhunters. A glass toaster by Inventables.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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