It's too pretty to use! When and how enhanced product aesthetics discourage usage and lower consumption enjoyment

Freeman Wu, Adriana Samper, Andrea Ketcham, Gavan J. Fitzsimons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Marketers invest a lot of resources in product aesthetics and design, but does this strategy always lead to favorable consumer outcomes? While prior research suggests enhanced aesthetics should have a uniformly positive influence on pre-usage evaluations and choice, the present research examines the downstream effects of nondurable product aesthetics on consumption behavior and post-consumption affect. First, we document an inhibiting effect of aesthetics on actual consumption. We find that highly aesthetic products elicit greater perceptions of effort in their creation, and that consumers have an intrinsic appreciation for such effort. Because the consumption process indirectly destroys the effort invested to make the product beautiful, people reduce consumption of such products because usage would entail destroying something they naturally appreciate. Second, we show that in cases where individuals do consume a beautiful product, they exhibit lower consumption enjoyment and increased negative affect. These negative post-consumption outcomes are mediated in parallel by concerns over having actually destroyed the effort that made the product beautiful as well as the decrements in beauty that become visible when aesthetic products are made less attractive through consumption. Across a series of studies, we challenge the common assumption that enhanced aesthetics always lead to positive consumer outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-672
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Aesthetics
  • Consumption enjoyment
  • Effort
  • Implicit self-theories
  • Predicted vs. experienced utility
  • Product usage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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