The Secret Ingredient Is Me: Customization Prompts Self-Image-Consistent Product Perceptions

Anne-Kathrin Klesse*, Yann Cornil, Darren William Dahl, Nina Gros

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Companies frequently allow customers to customize products by assembling different product features or ingredients. Whereas existing research has demonstrated that customers assign greater overall value to customized products, this research focuses on the effect of customization on customers’ perceptions of specific product attributes (e.g., how healthy a product is). The findings of six studies—in the field, laboratory, and online—demonstrate that customizers and noncustomizers differ in their product perceptions even if the product is objectively the same. This is because customization leads customers to perceive the product in line with their own self-image (e.g., as an unhealthy eater), a phenomenon that the authors term “self-image-consistent product perceptions.” essentially, customization may influence product perceptions depending on the product and individuals’ self-image; this can have downstream consequences on recommendations and social media communication. The authors test this theory for different product categories (clothing, food, and vacation packages) and attributes (fashionable, healthy, and adventurous) and demonstrate that framing customization as a simple choice or strengthening product positioning through labeling mitigates negative effects of customization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-893
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • customization
  • product perceptions
  • product recommendations
  • self-image

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