Crazy-Funny-Cool Theory: Divergent Reactions to Unusual Product Designs
AbstractConsumer research suggests that cool products demonstrate autonomy by diverging from the norm. However, many products that diverge from the norm seem funny or simply bad rather than cool. What distinguishes products that look cool from those that look funny? We integrate prior research to propose a theory of how consumers respond to unusual product designs. Four experiments provide converging evidence that the design of cool products diverges from the norm in ways that make sense (i.e., seem appropriate), whereas the design of humorous products diverges in ways that do not make sense (i.e., seem violating). Results from a neuroimaging experiment support our psychometric findings by revealing that cool (vs. humorous) products are more likely to activate the anterior cingulate cortex. We discuss how coolness has the potential to transform society by rewarding products, brands, and people who figure out how to be different in a way that makes sense.