Elusive intangibles : Exploring the experience of authenticity in product development

Abstract: When consumers buy a new product, they have expectations about what that product will deliver. The consumer’s rational reasoning may try to ascertain whether the technical performance of the product will be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the final word is often subjective. Does it feel right? Is the product attractive, is it worth paying that much for? It is well established that human perception is highly subjective and elusive in nature. Although reason might tell us to go for the “sensible” choice, if the product is not experienced as attractive or exciting enough, the choice might go to something else or lead to dissatisfaction with the chosen product. This is why intangible experiences are important to consider when developing highly valued consumer products.The research in this thesis represents a journey. Along its path, it has been studied how one might understand, elicit and capture intangible product value. How are intangibles relevant to industry, and how might they support product development in the quest for developing products that are highly valued on the market? The initial research, when this thesis began, was concerned with a new way to elicit, capture and assess this type of value. The value of this research lies in the development and validation of a new type of internet tool for the elicitation and assessment of product intangibles that are intended to capture consumer response in a different way from traditional internet tools for product assessment. The latter and greater part of this research has attempted to describe what intangibles are, how professionals talk about them, and what significance they have for product value and product development. What type of value are product developers trying to integrate into the products they develop, and how do they reason? This research has particularly focused on describing and understanding the intangible quality of product and brand authenticity. One contribution of this thesis is its review of how authenticity is described by literature in the fields of product development, branding and marketing management. Thus, it describes the ongoing debate on authenticity as a leading determinant of market value. However, it remains unclear what saying that a product or a brand is authentic means within product development. This has been analysed in this thesis. The thesis also gives an account of what qualities different professions within product development and industrial design have found to be important when developing highly valued consumer products. This thesis also makes a contribution by proposing a new, multidimensional construct for authenticity that explains how market value relates to authenticity. This multidimensional construct of authenticity is a framework that explains how different fields related to product development may be used for companies in creating and maintaining product offerings with a high market value.