Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Leveraging Brand Equity for Effective Visual Product Design

Heitmann, Mark
Schreiner, Thomas F.
van Heerde, Harald J.
Volume: 57
Number: 2
Pages: 257 - 277
Month: 04
ISSN-Print: 0022-2437
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2020
Keywords: aesthetics; branding; car industry; processing fluency; product design

For many consumer goods, the visual appearance is a vital determinant of market success. Although there is an emerging literature on how objective design characteristics drive consumer preferences, this literature has not yet taken into account that product design happens in the context of a brand’s equity. This research addresses the question of how to leverage brand equity when designing the visual appearance of a product. Specifically, it investigates the role of two key strategic visual design decisions: brand typicality (similarity within the brand’s range) and segment typicality (similarity to the competitive set). Drawing on fluency theory, the authors argue that high-equity brands benefit more from brand typicality but less from segment typicality than low-equity brands. Using data from the U.S. car market tracking market shares of 456 car models of 39 major brands operating in seven market segments across 13 years, the study provides empirical evidence for this conjecture and, thereby, implications for strategic product design and visual design theory.