, . (2015), "Executive summary of “The coherence and congruence of convergence in consumer electronics”", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-07-2015-904Download as .RIS
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Executive summary of “The coherence and congruence of convergence in consumer electronics”
Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume 24, Issue 4
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of this article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefits of the material present.
Consumers are often highly attracted to devices which have several functional capabilities. Advancements in digital technology have seen various offerings of this nature appear in the category of consumer electronics. Such devices are labeled “convergence products” or “hybrid products” and offer both opportunities and challenges to manufacturers.
Determining what sort of additional function should be incorporated into the original product is one of the most important tasks facing companies involved. The now routine inclusion of cameras within cell phones is a perfect illustration of convergence product success. Another example is the presence of game applications on tablets. But the relative failure to persuade consumers with TV-enabled mobile phones is testimony to the fact that development of new hybrid products requires a degree of caution.
Convergence products are typically designed, so that the different functionalities incorporated fit closely with each other. This need to achieve congruence is also acknowledged as fundamental to the success of brand extensions. The aim there is to ensure that consumers perceive that the new extension is similar to its parent brand.
Similarity can be based on either concrete or abstract attributes. Previous work in this area has examined the assimilation of utilitarian or hedonic functionalities into the basic product. The addition is deemed congruent when it shares the same “consumption goal” with the original function. Such goals can be either utilitarian or hedonic in nature, respectively, concerning practical or more experiential consumption forms. But when the two consumption goals are different, the addition is an incongruent one and results in what is termed “contrast effect” because of its asymmetrical nature.
In the case of brand extensions, congruence with the parent brand is seen as critical if favorable consumer responses are to be obtained. With hybrid products, the impact of congruence is typically positive in the situation where both additional and core functionalities are hedonic. But when the base product is functional, evidence suggests that consumers perceive that extra value is greater when the added function is incongruent. Essentially, adding hedonic functionalities has a more positive impact on consumer reactions regardless of the type of basic product. The premise here is that the additional of hedonic functionalities increases the pleasure in using the utilitarian product. Incorporating a utilitarian functionality does not generate this effect though because utilitarian is not ordinarily associated with fun.
The role of “structural alignment” has been identified as important in helping develop convergence products. Identifying such alignment helps to assimilate product functionalities which are physically dissimilar. Analysts point out how the focus is on “commonalities and differences”, with the latter being either “alignable” or “non-alignable”. A comparison between cars and motorcycles is cited to illustrate the concept. Wheels represent an alignable difference because both modes of transport have that feature, albeit not the same number. An example of a non-alignable difference is a stand, which only motorcycles have. In addition to structural alignment, “goal-derived categorization” is suggested as further helping to enhance perceptions of coherence. The essence of this is prompting users to identify situations in which a hybrid product could be successfully used. Such situations are external, and goal coherence emerges from the link between base product and any additions.
Other research has noted the significance of different forms of similarity, which is relation based. The work defines “taxonomic similarity” as entities sharing tangible or abstract features that identify them as members of the same category. The motorcycle-car comparison is again used for illustration purposes with taxonomic similarity evident as both have such as wheels and engines. It is mooted that “thematic similarity” might offer greater opportunities for business as the link between items is somewhat looser and, thus, less constrained. Relationship of this type involves things which “perform different roles” in the same situation or event. An example would be motorcycles and helmets. Taxonomic and thematic relations are correspondingly referred to as being internal and external with regard to the object. However, thematic similarity also includes scope to connect different products that do not currently work together. In the view of certain scholars, business opportunities may arise when thematic similarities are evident for two products which are “taxonomically dissimilar”.
To ascertain factors which most enhance the appeal of convergence products, Azhari & Afiff conduct a study involving 253 undergraduates from an Indonesian university. Pretests were carried out and an external hard disk was selected as the functional basic product and an MP3 player as a basic product reflecting hedonic goals. For both of these basic products, further pretesting to identify utilitarian added functionalities resulted in selection of anti-virus software as a coherent goal and a digital dictionary as goal incoherent. With regard to hedonic added functionalities, “group play” was deemed goal coherent and a culinary guide goal incoherent.
Subjects were exposed to one condition combining utilitarian or hedonic basic product functionality with utilitarian or hedonic additional product functionality and coherent or incoherent consumption goal of the addition. Subjects read a description of a new product and were informed that it would be introduced into the market. They then answered questions pertaining to the issues under examination.
Data scrutiny confirmed predictions that:
For both utilitarian and hedonic basic products, adding a new hedonic functionality increases value perceptions of the convergence product more than would adding a new utilitarian functionality.
Convergence products are perceived more favorably when the utilitarian or hedonic functionality added to the utilitarian or hedonic base product has a coherent as opposed to an incoherent goal.
The increased value of a convergence product is greater for both utilitarian and hedonic base products when the additional functionality reflects utilitarian and coherent goal rather than hedonic and incoherent goal.
In view of the latter findings, the authors conclude that goal coherence has a more profound impact than the congruence or incongruence between hedonic and utilitarian functionality.
Findings here prompt Azhari & Afiff to recommend a greater focus on goal coherence by looking beyond the resemblance between concrete or intangible internal factors. In their opinion, such a focus can better facilitate development of convergence products that succeed. Some consideration of the different effects of goal congruence of the utilitarian or hedonic concept is also advised though. As the importance of goal coherence implies fewer limitations on combining different products, the authors believe that firms may have greater scope to develop hybrid offerings. Identifying a consumption goal that connects the different functionalities incorporated into the convergence product is seen as a key factor.
Additional exploration of the relationship between goal congruence and goal coherence is a suggestion for future studies. Conducting this work from a product/brand perspective is another option. Researchers might also provide insight on ways to communicate goal coherence.
To read the full article enter 10.1108/JPBM-07-2014-0658 into your search engine.
(A précis of the article “The coherence and congruence of convergence in consumer electronics”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)