Product Design, Consumer Evaluations, New Product, First Mover Advantage


This paper is about the central role of product design on consumer evaluations. While the design literature has articulated two different types of design, i.e. form-based design and function-based design (Khalid 2004), most extant marketing literature has mostly focused on the impact of functional design on performance (see Chitturi, Raghunathan, and Mahajan (2007) for a notable exception). In this paper, I examine the individual and joint effects of the two design dimensions: form design and functional design on consumer evaluations of new products. In the first essay, employing theoretical underpinnings from processing fluency theory, I investigate four major research questions. First, all else equal, does form design matter? Second, how does form design interact with functional design? Third, does the interaction between form and functionality change in an innovation context? Specifically, given a certain level of functionality, what type of form is more advantageous for a radically new product (RNP) or an incrementally new product (INP)? Fourth, is there an individual difference in consumer evaluations to innovative products with various form designs? Results from the four experiments conducted demonstrate that (1) more typical form design leads to more positive attitudes toward the product than less typical form design, (2) a more typical design compensates for the average functionality of the product and hence a product with average functionality is evaluated as well as highly functional products in the more typical design condition. In a less typical design condition, a product with high functionality leads to much lower consumer attitudes towards the product, (3) whereas the form design for incremental innovations must be closer to the incumbent products for favorable evaluations, less typical form is evaluated as good as more typical form for radical innovations. (4) Form design of an innovative product matters more to the technologically more sophisticated consumers (experts) than technologically less sophisticated consumers (novices). In the second essay, I examine the issues involved in using form design to nullify first mover advantage. Pioneers or first movers can be defined as the first firm to sell in a new product category. Despite the proliferation of the pioneering advantage research, there are few empirical studies which examined how the product design enables the later entrants to nullify the first mover advantage. Employing theoretical underpinnings from categorization theory, I investigate the following research questions. First, what type of form is more likely to enhance consumer evaluations and nullify first mover advantage when the follower's product is featured with higher or lower functionality? Second, how does form design interact with functional design for the follower's product? Results from the experimental study conducted demonstrate that (1) if the follower's functionality is not superior to the pioneer's, follower had better focus on design differentiation which can compensate for the lower functionality of the follower (2) if the follower's functionality is superior to the pioneer's, follower had better follow the pioneer's design for the better product evaluation. The managerial implication is clear: Form design is a critical determinant of consumer evaluations. Form design helps create and appropriate value for firms.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date



Echambadi, Raj


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration



Degree Program

Business Administration








Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Marketing Commons