Research: Consumers Prefer Products with Imperfections Because They Feel More Unique

by MR Magazine Staff

Mistakes occur more frequently than we’d like. And generally, when they happen, we often don’t go about advertising them to others. But companies can benefit from letting consumers know when they make mistakes with a product. Consumers perceive these products as more unique, because they think mistakes in product creation are more improbable than there being no mistakes. And the perceived rarity of mistakes increases their value. To explore the preference for products made by mistake, we conducted a series of experimental studies and examined market sales data. In our first study, we gave consumers a choice between a new flavor of chocolate and extra money. Before making their choice, consumers learned that a chef — either mistakenly or intentionally — left a batch of chocolate in the oven for an extra five minutes, which led to the creation of the new flavor of chocolate. Consumers were more likely to choose the chocolate than extra money when they learned that the chocolate was made by mistake rather than made intentionally. But did consumers choose the chocolate born from a mistake because the mistake happened to have turned out well — a case of serendipity or a happy accident? What about when a mistake makes the product worse? To test this, we presented consumers with a work of art that contained a blemish that detracted from its appeal. When the detracted artwork was framed as having been made by mistake (the artist accidentally blemished the artwork by dropping his pen on it) versus intentionally (the artist decided to add the blemish with his pen intentionally), consumers were more likely to purchase the artwork made by mistake and were willing to pay more for it when they decided to purchase it. This taught us that consumer attraction to products made by mistake is not just limited to cases in which a mistake enhances the product. Read more at Harvard Business Review.