Ambiguously Described Products Preferred Over Un-Ambiguous
Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn and Elizabeth G. Miller, a marketing professor at Boston College recently conducted a study which found marketers that name products with ambiguous or surprising descriptions for flavors or colors are likely to see increased sales over conventionally described products. With studies involving the selection of jellybeans and sweaters, the study found showing an example of a strangely named sweater color actually decreased the satisfaction upon respondents seeing the actual sweater.
The study findings elaborate on this further. "We find that the revelation of the color shade (through a picture of the color) prior to viewing the name decreases preference for ambiguous color names, but increases preference for unexpected descriptive color names," the paper states. "These results support the notion that when consumers encounter a surprising name (because it violates beliefs about informativeness), they engage in additional elaboration about the name to try to understand why it was provided. The type of elaboration will depend on how the name violates expectations: If the name is uninformative in a literal sense, consumers will engage in a Gricean process to determine the meaning of the communication; if the name is uninformative because it is atypical, consumers will search for the reason the particular adjective was selected as described by incongruency theory. The result of this additional elaboration is increased satisfaction with the product."
The study reveals online merchants may see better sales for products with uncommonly named colors if a sample of the color is not shown.