top of page

Why Do We Purchase Products That We Never Use?

“Consumer bias toward beautiful products can override more rational and normative judgement and decision-making processes”.


Some consumers purchase items they will never use, yet continue to purchase said products. But why?

Many articles and research papers have been published, exploring the effects of aesthetics in relation to product design and consumer purchasing behaviour. These studies have addressed the question of why consumers purchase aesthetically pleasing products, along with why they may refrain from consuming said products after purchasing.

“Consumers often give more importance to aesthetics than functional attributes when choosing a product”. This can often lead to products being purchased as they are aesthetically pleasing but are too pretty to use”.

"Aesthetic designs seem to trigger certain positive responses in consumers, such as an immediate desire to own the product, a higher willingness to pay for it and an increased inclination to show off and care for that product."

Aesthetic packaging significantly increases the reaction time of consumers’ choice responses. As the product is pleasing to the eye they are chosen over products with well-known brands in standardized packages, despite higher prices. They result in increased activation in the brain suggesting that reward value plays an important role in aesthetic product experiences. If your brain sees purchasing a beautiful product as a reward, you are more likely to partake in purchasing similar products again in the future.

beard balm

Highly artistic products elicit greater perceptions of effort in their creation, and consumers have an intrinsic appreciation for such effort. Because the consumption process indirectly destroys the effort invested to make the product beautiful, people reduce consumption of such products because usage would entail destroying something they naturally appreciate. This is why many will purchase products that will end up sitting on shelves for years, as opening said product would ruin the design.

“Products with aesthetic qualities may be treasured long after their functional value fades”.

For specifically non-durable products, consumers will indeed purchase said items but will then find themselves stuck in a dilemma. As they do not want to use the product for fear of ruining the aesthetic value, they will inevitably waste the non-durable product as said item will eventually spoil. It is this extremely important factor that will divide consumers into specific groups. One group will be content with the contents of the aesthetic packaging going to waste, as long as they are still able to appreciate the outer display. Whilst others will feel a sense of guilt if they do not consume the contents, as they will feel as though it is a waste of a perfectly usable product.

“Despite the excitement initially elicited by the purchase of highly aesthetic products, we argue that after purchase, consumers exhibit both decreased consumption of such products and reduced enjoyment if consumption does occur, precisely because of their beauty”.

This distinction will be the deciding factor as to whether specific consumers will continue to buy/collect these aesthetically pleasing items or if they will avoid them in future.


The location in which individuals purchase aesthetic products can have a sizable impact on how often they will take part in purchasing this type of item. For example, a group of researchers created an empirical study on the Chinese social commerce platform known as WeChat. In this study Chen and their team outlined that “half of all online consumers rely on social media to obtain recommendations and make their purchase decisions.” The results of their study indicated that the “urge to buy impulsively is determined by affective trust in the recommender and affection toward the recommended product.”.

If you are scrolling through Instagram for example and you come across an advert for a specific product, you are more likely to purchase that product if someone you follow has purchased it or if you recognise the brand. It is also more common for people to purchase products specifically for the beauty of it if they are introduced through social media, as it is extremely easy to purchase these products online without having to leave your house, or better yet your chair.


As limited-edition products are available for a limited time, or are sold in small quantities, this may change a consumer’s opinion on whether they should purchase the product. The perceived fear of not being able to purchase a product again will result in many feeling as though they can't pass up the opportunity. Even if they may not enjoy or use a product, consumers will feel the urge to purchase regardless. Along with this, the subject of limited-edition products plays a significant role in whether someone will hold onto a product and refrain from using it, due to the perceivable added value it may have.

rockstar energy

My personal consumer weakness is purchasing new flavours of Monster and Rockstar energy drinks. I really appreciate the designs of these cans and will purchase a new design regardless of whether I will like the flavour or not. This is a prime example of how I will personally value the packaging of the product more than the product itself. I have even brought cans back from my travels when I have found them in different countries as specific designs are not available in the UK. It may seem strange, but I'm sure everyone reading this will have something specific that gives them the same feeling. Some may purchase candles, soaps, stationary or even sneakers. Just having these products in our possession makes us feel happy and content that we own it, even if we only want the beauty of the item.

There are so many aesthetically pleasing products that are around us on a regular basis, it makes a lot of sense that we place a large amount of value on said products specifically for said aesthetics. As clear within the findings, the look of a product is extremely impactful within the consumer experience and will be the deciding factor when purchasing certain items. It is a very interesting fact that people will purchase a product for the packaging alone and sheds a light on just how important design is.


Bhadauria, A. (2016) Investigating the Role of Aesthetics in Consumer Moral Judgment and Creativity. [Unpublished dissertation] [online], University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Available from < > [August 2016]

Chen Y., Lu Y., Wang B., Pan Z. (2018) ‘How do product recommendations affect impulse buying? An empirical study on WeChat social commerce’. Information & Management [online] 56 (2019), 236-248. Available from < > [8 September 2018]

Coley A., Burgess B. (2003) ‘Gender differences in cognitive and affective impulse buying’. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management [online] 7 (3), 282-295. Available from < > [1 September 2003]

Le-Hoang P. (2019) ‘The Relationship Between Aesthetics, Perceived Value and Buying Intention: A Literature Review and Conceptual Framework’. Independent Journal of Management and Production [online] 11 (3), 1050-1069. Available from < > [2 October 2019]

Reimann M., Zaichkowsky J., Neuhaus C., Bender T., Weber B. (2010) ‘Aesthetic package design: A behavioral, neural, and psychological investigation’. Journal of Consumer Psychology [online] 20 (2010) 431–441. Available from < > [24 August 2010]

Townsend C., Sood S. (2012) ‘Self-Affirmation through the Choice of Highly Aesthetic Products’. Journal of Consumer Research [online] 39 (2), 415-428. Available from < > [18 January 2012]

Wiecek, A., Wentzel, D., Landwehr, R. (2019) ‘The aesthetic fidelity effect’. International Journal of Research in Marketing [online] 36 (2019), 542–557. Available from < > [11 April 2019]

Wu, F., Samper, A., Morales, A., Fitzsimons, G. (2017) ‘It’s Too Pretty to Use! When and How Enhanced Product Aesthetics Discourage Usage and Lower Consumption Enjoyment’. Journal of Consumer Research [online] 44 (2017), 651-673. Available from < > [30 March 2017]

14 views1 comment

1 Comment

Mar 04

This is so true. I have seen myself on many occasions purchasing a product I know I won't use, because I know it will be "ruined" if I do. But I will have total satisfaction knowing that I own the product. Might even put it away rather than having it on display. It gives me self satisfaction just knowing that I have it. We as a society are influenced by what our eyes see. Packing design is a major factor when we purchase items. We won't even realise we do this most of the time. Companies know this too which is why they design products in the way that they do.

bottom of page