Enhancing Sensory Branding in Luxury through Visual Design: An Abstract
Ferrari was inspired by the designer Pininfarina. Louis Vuitton relies on the know-how of designer Nicolas Ghesquière. Apple has become inseparable from Jonathan Ive. Through its “Mastery of Art” exhibition, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto draws a parallel between Van Cleef and Arpels products and masterpieces of Japanese design. Design and shape are nowadays at the core point when launching new luxury products. Appealing to consumers’ senses, and especially vision, product design triggers strong desirability. While product design is intrinsically linked to brand building and to the definition of luxury, consumers’ sensitivity to luxury products and the product design, especially through its visual dimension, is usually addressed separately. Yet, for optimal marketing-oriented decisions, they need to be brought together. Furthermore, while design is intrinsically linked to luxury, little research focused on the influence of its visual and sensory dimensions on the symbolic and the economic value of brands. This research specifically delves into the mechanisms behind how brand-level attitudes can be influenced by product-level sensitivity to product design. Building on the value theory, this research investigates to what extent the visual and sensory dimension of product design enhances luxury brands’ value. Based on a data set collected on 125 individuals, a partial least square analysis was used. In particular, it measures the influence of product design (aesthetic, functional, and symbolic dimensions), customers’ sensitivity to design (design acumen), as well as influence of social and individual drivers, in the consumers’ luxury brand love and on their willingness to pay a premium price. It contributes and extends literature on branding, design, and luxury in three distinct ways. Firstly, this research distinguishes two antecedents of the product design that are the social and the individual drivers. Secondly, it reveals the mediating role of the product design between social and individual drivers, on one hand, and luxury brands’ symbolic value (through brand love and brand equity), on the other hand. Thirdly, it confirms the creation of economic value through the positive influence on willingness to pay a premium price. In terms of managerial implications, this study reveals the importance for luxury brands to develop sensory branding through product design. It especially points out the added value of design for luxury brands’ equity, its role in fostering brand love and in increasing luxury brands’ turnover.
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