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The Potential and Risks of Using Product Metaphors to Influence Consumers’ Comprehension of Really New Products

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Driven by innovative technology, really new products (RNPs) incorporate new functions that provide significant benefits for consumers. Consumers, however, often experience difficulty understanding RNPs, which hinders their further adoption. To facilitate consumers’ comprehension, the use of product metaphors in RNPs is a promising strategy because it relates a target RNP to a source product/concept familiar to consumers. By using knowledge from the familiar source, consumers could gain better comprehension of the RNP. However, product metaphors can also carry risks that hinder consumers’ comprehension of RNPs, such as consumers’ misidentification of the source and their inability to use the relevant knowledge to comprehend RNPs. This research investigates the potential and risks of using product metaphors for RNPs through a mixed-methods approach. Specifically, an experiment and in-depth interviews were conducted to examine the effects of product metaphors on consumers’ comprehension. Results revealed that consumers encounter difficulty in detecting the similarities between source concepts/products and target RNPs, meaning product metaphors may not necessarily enhance consumers’ comprehension. Accompanying a product metaphor with a textual clue can help consumers detect the similarities between source concepts/products and target RNPs, leading to enhanced comprehension. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.