Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why do people become attached to their products?

Factors influencing product attachment ...

"How can a designer increase the degree to which people bond with a product? This is the question researcher Ruth Mugge tackled, who has recently received her PhD degree on this topic at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.

During the doctoral research, Mugge investigated the topic of product attachment – the strength of the emotional bond a consumer experiences to a specific product (Mugge 2007). This definition implies that a strong relationship or tie exists between the individual on the one hand and the object on the other. If people feel strongly attached to a product, they are also more likely to handle the product with care, to repair it when it breaks down, and to postpone its replacement as long as possible (Mugge, Schifferstein, and Schoormans 2006a). Product attachment may thus increase a product’s lifetime. From the viewpoint of sustainability, it can be valuable for designers to influence the degree of attachment people experience to their products (van Hinte 1997). Nowadays, people dispose of products although they still function properly, for example, because these products look old-fashioned. Extending the psychological life span of durables could be instrumental to reduce the demand for scarce resources and the rate of solid waste disposal. Up to now, the role of the product and its design in stimulating the degree of attachment experienced toward this object remains quite obscure. As the product is under the designer’s direct control, understanding these issues is valuable for designers. Accordingly, this research contributes by establishing the role of the product for bringing about product attachment, and by proposing several design strategies to strengthen the emotional bond between a person and his/her product (Mugge, Schoormans, and Schifferstein 2005).

Factors influencing product attachment

Past research suggested that consumers become attached to certain products, because they convey a personal and special meaning over and above the product’s utilitarian meaning. Based on the literature, four factors were distinguished that can influence product attachment: self-expression (can I distinguish myself from others with the product?), group affiliation (does ownership of the product connect me to a group?), memories (related to the product) and pleasure (provided by the product) (e.g., Kamptner 1995; Kleine, Kleine, and Allen 1995; Richins 1994).

Although these factors are all relevant for stimulating the experience of attachment to products, they differ in the degree to which designers can influence them through product design. As a result, we focused particularly on the issue of self-expression, because this factor provides designers with the best opportunities to stimulate the degree of product attachment. Specifically, we explored product personality and product personalization as possible means to influence the factor self-expression and, consequently, affect the experience of product attachment."    (Continued via uiGarden)    [Usability Resources]

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