Perfect imperfections

Jerry Olson is fond of saying that the value of a handmade rug comes as much from its beauty as from its flaws. Small imperfections suggest something made by hand and, ironically, with care. And that is worth a premium.

Research recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests he is right. Imperfections can be a positive attribute for consumers, especially when they are interested in finding something unique.

We see this with collectibles sometimes. Baseball cards and stamps that contain printing errors often are worth much more than the corrected versions of those items. In the study, Taly Reich and her collaborators found that consumers have an extra longing for a batch of chocolate left in the over five minutes too long, which created a new flavor of chocolate, compared to chocolate that was cooked properly.

Photographs that were blurry or partially obstructed by a finger received a premium on eBay versus those with no such negative qualities. (That is one I found extremely counterintuitive.)

Also, artwork that contained a blemish was valued higher when they blemish was described as unintentional versus when it was described as intentional.

The researchers hypothesize that “intentionality bias” makes these flawed works seem unique. “That is, people assume that others to what they intend to do, and thus deviations from intention (or mistakes) are deemed more improbably.”

I am really struggling to think of brands that proudly advertise their mistakes and take advantage of this kind of a creation story.  Maybe part of Bob Ross’ brand was/is built on this. (“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”)  Perhaps UGG and Crocs do this, to an extent, by making their ugly appearance a part of their appeal, but that isn’t quite the same. 

Can you think of any examples? I am sure there are some.