Kevin Sample, a doctoral candidate studying marketing in the Terry College of Business, explains how he incorporates his design background into his research.

Kevin Sample, a doctoral candidate studying marketing in the Terry College of Business

What elements of product design will ensure commercial success or lead to failure? How does the design of the built environment influence consumer attitudes toward a product or firm? Do consumer attitudes toward a product change solely by subtle changes in how products are visually perceived?

Kevin Sample, a doctoral candidate studying marketing in the Terry College of Business, is working to find answers to these questions regarding consumer’s thoughts and behaviors when purchasing products or services.

Under the direction of his advisor, Dr. Julio Sevilla, Sample researches how typical people behave when purchasing products or services and the role of design in marketing.

In a series of three essays, Sample’s doctoral dissertation studies the minute changes to design that can influence consumer behavior toward a product or service.

A licensed architect, Sample explains how he incorporates his design background into his research.

“For my first essay, I’m developing a seven-part design scale intended to pick up what matters most to consumers when deciding whether or not to purchase and how much they might be willing to pay.”

Sample thinks marketers will be able to utilize this scale alongside designers to make more useful and sustainable products for consumers.

In his second essay, Sample investigates the impact of visibility on how we behave in both retail and restaurant settings.

“With this research, I have found that people generally tend to prefer much more openness and visibility in their surroundings.”

However, if someone feels like they are being viewed by others, suddenly they prefer a lot less visibility.

This finding is the reverse when consumers are involved in a more mundane activity such as purchasing milk. In this case, they revert to preferring more visibility.

“Thus, it is important to design places of business in such a way that consumers can see inside, but won’t feel as though they have become part of the display once inside,” Sample explains.

Sample’s third essay focuses on the role of lighting in promoting products.

Sample explains how when a product is lit from above it appears closer to us, but when a product is lit from below it appears further away.

Expanding on that knowledge of how consumers perceive items, Sample found that lighting a product from above that claims to eliminate bad elements (such as toxins or teeth stains) instead of providing good elements (such as nutrients or whiter teeth) made a consumer have stronger feelings of the product’s efficacy and also contributed to the consumer being willing to pay more for the product.

Conversely, products that provide health benefits are demonstrated to perform better when they are lit from below.

At this point in his research, it appears that when a product appears close to someone, they think it would do better getting rid of things, i.e. moving away, than coming closer. The opposite is true when a product appears further away.

Collectively, these dissertation essays provide needed insight for both researchers and marketers interested in the crucial role design plays in consumer behavior.

Sample hopes his research helps firms make more sustainable and beneficial products for consumers and the environment. He also hopes it helps marketers and designers work together to make longer-lasting and more preferred architectural design.

After graduation, Sample plans to take a faculty position at a research university where he can continue conducting research and teaching.