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Competitive through design: “Consumers like to buy products that are similar to them”



Competitive through design: “Consumers like to buy products that are similar to them”


Customers often choose a product with a design that suits them and then recommend it to others. The Institute for Market-Oriented Management (IMU) has now examined the relationship between brands, product design and the consumer’s self-concept

The design of a product can explain its function and make it different from competitive products. Bosch Power Tools, for example, relies on this effect of product design. Henning von Boxberg is chairman of the divisional board of this division and he describes the design of Bosch Power Tools as follows: “We thought about how our tools are used and adapted the design in such a way that the user intuitively knows how to use the tool must start optimally. “

The role of product design is also strengthened by the fact that more and more people buy products for symbolic reasons. They then choose a brand that suits them. The IMU has investigated whether this effect also occurs with a correspondence between the self-concept of a consumer and the product design.

Design has the stronger effect

Co-author Dr. Martin Schwemmle explains: “Consumers like to buy products that are similar to them. So far, science has shown that this is especially true of the similarity to the brand. We are now showing for the first time: Consumers prefer products with a design that suits them. “

The study examines the effect of the correspondence between brand and self-concept of the consumer on the one hand and the correspondence between design and self-concept on the other hand using multimedia and household devices. For this purpose, data from 1088 German-speaking and 1048 American consumers were used. The authors state: The design and brand-self-congruence has a positive effect on the purchase intention and word-of-mouth, with the design-self-congruence being the stronger effect.

Form interdisciplinary teams

The recommendation for action for managers is to adapt the product design so that it fits the self-concept of the buyer. This can usually be changed easier, faster and cheaper than a brand image. By creating sub-brands for certain consumer segments, however, managers can influence both congruence effects in a targeted manner. According to the study, this applies analogously to the offer of product variants with high and low design requirements or a reduction in the complexity of the product design in order to influence the design self-congruence effect.

Christian Homburg

“Taken together, the results show that product design, brand and the consumer’s self-concept are closely interwoven. Companies should therefore work with interdisciplinary teams in which employees from the research and design department, brand experts and market researchers are represented, says Professor Dr. Christian Homburg, co-author of the study and director of the IMU.