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Consumer Response to Overstyling: Balancing Aesthetics and Functionality in Product Design


  • Both authors contributed equally to this research.


Aesthetic design, or styling, is an important product attribute in today's retail environment, especially when functional demands have been met (Chitturi, Raghunathan, & Mahajan, 2007; Hoegg, Alba, & Dahl, 2010). This research note, however, focuses on consumer responses to products when perceived functionality is low. Ideally, high styling is combined with high functionality, but perceived trade-offs may arise when styling appears to conflict with functionality. This research highlights some implications of these trade-offs and emphasizes that they depend on usage context. Specifically, the authors demonstrate that styling can compensate for minor, but not major, flaws in functionality (Study 1). Further, the influence of styling on perceived functionality and product evaluation is less (vs. more) favorable in a utilitarian (vs. hedonic) context (Study 2). Key insights for managers based on this research are discussed.