Pitch Ambiguous Value


What happens when a product’s attributes, such as ingredients or manufacturing method, imply a particular benefit but customers lack the information to understand it? Instead of ignoring the attribute as one might expect, researchers found that customers may actually treat it as valuable, creating a competitive advantage for the brand promoting it. Winter coats that included “alpine class fill”, pasta sauce made in “authentic Milanese style” and audio players with “studio-designed signal processing” were all valued higher in experiments than competing products that didn’t contain the same type of meaningless attribute.

If a product experience is successful, consumers may view the outcome as a specific result of the attribute – reinforcing their viewpoint. But, researchers also found that the effect was strong enough to persist even if consumers discovered that the attribute was meaningless all along.

As price plays a strong role in the buying process, it must be aligned with the customer’s valuation of the product’s attributes. At a low / average price, customers may recalibrate their perspective and this unique behavior is not observed. If you decide to experiment with this opportunity, try simply pricing above your competitors, avoiding anything extravagant that could trigger deeper evaluations.


Carpenter, Gregory & Glazer, Rashi & Nakamoto, Kent. (1994). Meaningful Brands from Meaningless Differentiation: The Dependence on Irrelevant Attributes. Journal of Marketing Research. 31. 339-350. 10.1177/002224379403100302.