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Consumers More Likely to Buy Products that are Highly “Gendered” Says Study from School’s Marketing Department

May 28, 2015
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Consumers are more likely to buy products that are highly “gendered” – whether masculine or feminine – than they are to buy products that are not as “gendered” according to a new study by Claudia Townsend, an assistant professor of marketing at the School. The study, in Psychology & Marketing, found that consumers place a higher value on products that have been assigned a gender using aesthetic attributes like color, texture, weight and tone. For instance, if a product appears more “female” - shiny, smooth, colorful and light-weight- or “male” - angular and bulky with a dull texture- a shopper is more likely to perceive it as more functional and is more likely to buy it.

“We found that this was the case for both male- and female-gendered products regardless of the gender of the consumer,” said Townsend, who conducted the research with professors from the University of St. Gallen. “The findings offer real design guidelines for product makers.”


Two studies were conducted along with interviews with designers. First, close to 150 people identified the impact of the aesthetic dimensions of form (proportion, shape, and lines), color (tones, contrast, and reflection), and material (texture, surface, and weight) on defining a product's gender, by looking at three gender-neutral products (shoes, fragrances and glasses) designed in eight different ways and offering their preferences. 

Next, 1,600 people were asked to rate these products each in terms of their affective attitude toward the object, its visual aesthetic value, their perception of its functionality, and their purchase likelihood of the product. The findings revealed that the products that were strongly gendered, in both the masculine and feminine dimensions, resulted in positive affective and behavioral responses, regardless of whether the “buyer” was male or female. Gender-designed products were perceived as more functional and attractive to the study subjects than the same products designed in an androgynous way.

For a look at the full study, visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mar.20789/epdf.

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