Theories of aesthetic taste have been developed in the fields of philosophy, psychology, and sociology. But market and consumer research has not spent as much time developing theories of aesthetics taste to put into their different practices.
Wayne D. Hoyer and Nicola E. Stokburger-Sauer opened this discussion in their article, “The Role of Aesthetic Taste in Consumer Behavior.” They begin with a distinction between hedonic and utilitarian products. Hedonic products provide more experiential and emotional value, while utilitarian products provide more instrumental and functional value.
Sometimes people just need a product to perform a certain function, and it doesn’t really matter which product (as long as it works). But it has become increasingly clear that more consumers are being guided by their taste.
What is taste? I won’t give another overview here as these authors did a good job. Suffice it to say, they define taste for their purposes as:
Consumer aesthetic taste constitutes an individual’s consistent and appropriate response to aesthetic consumption objects through any of the five senses that is highly correlated with some external standard (p. 169).
They suggest that taste has subjective and objective aspects. Clearly, there are some principals that have guided design and have wide appeal. But, ultimately, it is up to an individual whether he or she actually likes a given object.
They proceed to discuss how taste plays a role in consumer decisions, but they admit that this article is a mere beginning for much larger research projects that they encourage others to develop. The last section of the paper explains five areas that should be researched. And they hope that someone will take up the challenge.