“The ideal car” in the perspective of scientists

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The ideal car
This 2010 Ford Fusion may have been more popular with consumers because it mimicked the aesthetic features found on luxury car models.

In a new study conducted by University of California, Riverside, researchers explore “the ideal car” for customers.

Quantifying the physical appearance of real products is challenging.

But the researchers used a new morphing technique to construct the ‘average’ car in a particular market segment or brand from a series of individual pictures.

Once developed, the researchers determined the similarity of more than 200 car models from 33 brands sold in the U.S. between 2003 and 2010.

They examined the cars’ segment prototypicality (how typical a product is compared to other products in the same market), brand consistency (how much a product looks like the average product in a brand’s product lineup) and cross-segment mimicry (how much the design of an economy product mimics a luxury product), while controlling for other variables such as price and advertising.

Their results showed that the aesthetic design of a product could have a significant effect on consumer preference.

Consumers prefer products that are neither too similar to the average product nor drastically different.

When buying a luxury car, it is more important that the car looks consistent with the brand, and less important that it looks like other cars in the market segment.

On the other hand, cars in the economy segment can gain in popularity by mimicking the aesthetics of their luxury counterparts.

Researchers suggest that the results highlight the fine line between creating products that appeal to consumers because they stand out, but are not perceived as ugly.

In contrast to previous research, which has shown that consumers prefer a more prototypical car, this study shows the advantage of introducing some level of freshness into a new model, particularly if those unique design elements mimic those of a luxury car.

The findings will help marketing professionals make better decisions on aesthetic design, and can be applied to a wide range of product categories including electronics, wearable technologies and household appliances.

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Citation: Liu Y, et al. (2016). The Effects of a Product’s Aesthetic Design on Demand and Marketing Mix Effectiveness: The Role of Segment Prototypicality and Brand Consistency. Journal of Marketing, published online. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jm.15.0315.
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