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Study: will people actually pay more for “cute” products?

(Business Marketing) Will consumers today choose “cute” over function when given the choice? A new study answers the question for us.

cute stuff

cute stuff

Buyers’ preferences may lean toward “cute” stuff

When given the choice between something sleek, modern, and a little plain, versus something overly glitzy, bling encrusted, and a bit tacky, I am choosing glitter every single time. Other than a statement about my own personal taste, does my choice of something a bit more whimsical say anything about my future spending habits?

According to a new report by the Journal of Consumer Research, “So Cute I Could Eat It Up,” the answer is “yes.” It found that consumers are more likely to spend more money on items they perceive to be cute or playful, as opposed to their plain counterparts.

The first study examined the actual effect of whimsical products on consumption. Participants in the study were given either a whimsical ice cream scoop or a plain, neutral scoop, and were then invited to scoop as much ice cream as they wanted. The study found that participants who used the cute scoop ate more ice cream than those who were given the plain scoop.

Whimsy versus plain was tested again in the second study, only this time with staplers. Consumers were given a plain stapler, or an alligator-shaped stapler, and most participants said they would use the alligator stapler for crafting or other at-home purpose (considered to be indulgent) while using the plain stapler for work. Now whether this is truly a personal preference, or simply fear of being judged at work for using this alligator stapler, the study does not say.

The final study gauged the use of a gift card. Participants were given either a brightly decorated Amazon gift card or a plain one, and asked to purchase a movie; participants with the brightly colored cards were more likely to purchase indulgent videos. Again, I wondered if this could just be their genuine preference in videos and have nothing at all to do with the card, but the study states, “because we were interested in participants’ willingness to consider a variety of movies, we excluded 10 participants who indicated that they only watch fun and entertaining or serious and thought-provoking movies.” So the brightly colored Amazon card did indeed seem to have an effect on the participants’ choices.

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This could impact more than just retail

The authors of the study state, “even though we examined the effects of playful products on indulgence in the domains of eating, shopping, and product usage, we expect that exposure to whimsical products could have similar effects on helping people focus on having fun and rewarding themselves in other important life domains like savings, debt repayment, or time management.”

In essence, a little whimsy never hurt anyone, but be wary if the cuteness starts to become addicting. And for marketing purposes, consider adding a bit of cute to your next promotion and see what affect it has on your consumers; you might be surprised.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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