Lots of companies offer add-ons for their products. (Think: a carrying case for a digital camera or a memory card for a computer.) But does that practice always have a positive effect? Or could offering an add-on actually cause consumers to question the intrinsic value of the base product? ("Why do I need something extra to make this item worth buying?")

To determine how add-ons influence consumers' evaluations of certain products, researchers conducted a series of experiments that categorized the add-ons in two ways:

  • Alignable: the add-on enhances an existing feature of the product.
  • Nonalignable: the add-on introduces a new capability to the product.

In one experiment, prospective buyers were shown a "new" digital camera, and the "sellers" focused briefly on four of its attributes, such as the zoom ratio. They then offered the customers a choice of alignable or nonalignable add-ons based on those attributes.

The researchers found that:

Alignable add-ons, which upgraded the camera's existing capabilities (e.g., a zoom lens), actually had a negative effect on the consumers' evaluations of the camera.

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