Where product design meets investor behavior : how do individual investors' evaluations of companies' product design influence their investment decisions?

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (monograph)
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Publication series of the University of Art and Design Helsinki A, 99
Design management research has increasingly advocated strategic perspectives to product design. However, one important, strategic business aspect has been rather completely ignored in extant research. That is, the role and behavior of investors in respect to a company’s product design. The purpose of this dissertation is to address this research gap by examining, in particular, the following research question: How do investors’ subjective perceptions and evaluations of a company’s product design influence their investment decisions towards the company’s stock? My theory and hypothesis development concerning the underlying psychological and behavioral mechanisms are based on (social) psychological theories of personal relevance and involvement, identification and self-expression, and affect – as related to products and product design. The theory development is also supported by recent notions from behavioral finance research on investor behavior. The focus is on individual/ private investors, who actively invest in the stock market (rather than institutional or professional investors). In order to test a set of hypotheses developed, I conducted three studies by gathering quantitative (survey) data on investors who are active investors in the Finnish stock market. Two of the studies involved a correlational survey dataset (n approx.300), analyzed with causal (path) modeling. The third study was a conventional randomized experiment (n approx.190). As to the results of the dissertation, my theoretical analysis and empirical evidence reveal two important, product design -related factors that influence investors’ willingness and decisions to invest in companies’ stocks. The first factor is (1) the personal relevance or importance that an investor attaches to “life domains” that the company’s products represent or support. Such life domains can be various activities or areas of interests (e.g., road traveling, gardening, sport) – or more abstract themes or ideas (e.g., healthcare, mobility, environment-protection). The second factor is (2) the investor’s overall affect or liking for a company’s product design. This factor reflects the degree to which the investor perceives the company’s products to be pleasant, attractive, good, and likeable overall. The results show, first of all, how these two product design -related factors have positive effect on an investor’s optimism about the company’s financial returns and negative effect on the consideration that he/she gives to alternative investment targets. Moreover, the results suggest that the two factors also contribute to investors’ investment decisions beyond the financial returns expected from companies. Indeed, the two product design factors are found to have positive effect on investors’ determination to invest in the focal company rather than in other companies that have approximately similar expected financial returns. And even further: the factors are found to elicit preparedness to invest in the company with lower financial returns expected from the company than from other companies (i.e., by easing up on financial return requirements on the company). In sum, the findings suggest that the more personally relevant a company’s product domain is to an investor – and/or the more overall liking the investor has for the company’s product design – the greater is the investor’s willingness to invest in the company. The results considerably extend the design management notion of the strategic benefits that a company can enjoy from designing pleasurable and personally meaningful products – especially by showing that product design will not only create strategic distinction for the company in the product markets, but also in the stock markets. In so doing, the present findings have implications for (design) management practice when it comes to attracting investments (especially from investors who are appealed by the company’s product design) as well as creating hybrid business models (that take into account, already at the outset, certain investors’ potential fondness of the company’s current or future product design).
Supervising professor
Koskinen, Ilpo
design management, product design, investors, product markets, financial markets, design management, tuotemuotoilu, sijoittajat, tuotemarkkinat, finanssimarkkinat
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