Cute designs can be frequently found in products, brands and advertisements. Scholars have paid close attention to cuteness, and yet the existing literature scatters throughout sociology, biology, psychology and marketing. Due to the absence of integrated theoretical framework, some of the findings remain contradictory. This paper therefore seeks to provide a complete overview of the literature on the topic of cuteness perception. It discusses the methods, consequences, mechanisms and moderators in provoking cuteness. This paper starts with a discussion of the definition and manipulation of cuteness. Cuteness refers to a set of favorable and adorable characters originally found among children and females. In marketing, companies create cuteness perceptions through manipulating the offerings’ color, size, personality, etc. Based on prior literature, this paper categorizes two ways to create cuteness, namely impression cues and interactive cues. Impression cues include using visual designs such as round shape and bright color, or texts that generate baby associations. On the other hand, interactive cues include demonstrating warm or whimsical personalities. Cuteness comes with mixed consequences. Cuteness strengthens the products/brands in many ways. It not only helps to create intimate customer relationship, but also increases customer patience, carefulness and self-efficacy. But in the meanwhile, cuteness lowers customer trust and perceived competence of the products, and increases the possibility of excessive usage, which in the long run, damages the brand/product image. Literature on the mechanism and moderators of cuteness exists in different fields including sociology and biology. Researches in respective fields prove that caring mental set, escapism, identity extension and physiological responses can all be used to explain the effect of cuteness. The consequence of perceived cuteness depends on the customers’ demographic characteristics. For example, comparing to the male, the female are more sensitive towards cute stimuli. Also, the context of the event plays an important role in deciding the effectiveness of cuteness. For instance, during brand crisis, or in competitive industries, cuteness does more harm than good. Based on the existing literature, it is safe to identify cuteness as a multidimensional concept. Its value in marketing is far from being fully understood. The authors of this paper propose several possible research questions related to cuteness: for starters, there still lacks a scientific measurement for cuteness. The researchers can therefore fill in such a gap by identifying different types of cuteness, and their presentation. The existing literature has proved the association between fluffiness, softness, warmth and cuteness, and yet cuteness can also be demonstrated through body gestures, facial expressions and so on. Moreover, definitions of cuteness vary across culture, and it is interesting to observe and examine such variety from a cultural perspective. In addition, in the future, researchers should examine its moderators based on contextual or customer-based variables, for example, will cute products/brands fit more creativity industries or certain brand personalities? These questions are of utmost importance for product/brand designers who are interested in cute elements. The new technology provides companies with brand new insights into brand/product design. Cuteness in the modern market, as a result, can be demonstrated and generated in ways so innovative that we cannot yet foresee. It carries countless possibilities and rich potential for further researches and discussions. This paper hopes to serve as a foundation for future theoretical development.
A Literature Review of Cuteness in Marketing
Foreign Economics & Management Vol. 40, Issue 05, pp. 56 - 68 (2018) DOI:10.16538/j.cnki.fem.2018.05.005
 Wei Hua, Wang Tao, Zhou Zongkui, et al. The effect of repeated two-syllable brand name on consumer’s perception and preference[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, (11): 1479-1488.
 Xie Zhipeng, Wang Tao. Is “he” frowning on me? The impact of facial expression on customer attitude[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, (5): 680-691.
3 Aaker J L. Dimensions of brand personality[J]. Journal of Marketing Research, 1997, 34（3）: 347–356. DOI:10.2307/3151897
4 Argo J J, Popa M, Smith M C. The sound of brands[J]. Journal of Marketing, 2010, 74（4）: 97–109. DOI:10.1509/jmkg.74.4.97
5 Babin B J, Darden W R, Griffin M. Work and/or fun: Measuring hedonic and utilitarian shopping value[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 1994, 20（4）: 644–656. DOI:10.1086/jcr.1994.20.issue-4
6 Baumeister R F. Yielding to temptation: Self-control failure, impulsive purchasing, and consumer behavior[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2002, 28（4）: 670–676. DOI:10.1086/jcr.2002.28.issue-4
7 Bellfield J, Bimont C, Blom J, et al. The effect of a cute stimulus on personally-initiated, self-administered surveys[J]. Marketing Bulletin, 2011, 22: 1–9.
8 Berry D S, McArthur L Z. Some components and consequences of a babyface[J]. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1985, 48（2）: 312–323. DOI:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
9 Berry D S, Brownlow S. Were the physiognomists right? Personality correlates of facial babyishness[J]. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1989, 15（2）: 266–279. DOI:10.1177/0146167289152013
10 Beverland M B, Farrelly F J. The quest for authenticity in consumption: Consumers’ purposive choice of authentic cues to shape experienced outcomes[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2010, 36（5）: 838–856. DOI:10.1086/615047
11 Brosch T, Sander D, Scherer K R. That Baby caught my eye: Attention capture by infant faces[J]. Emotion, 2007, 7（3）: 685–689. DOI:10.1037/1528-3518.104.22.1685
12 Brown S. Where the wild brands are: Some thoughts on anthropomorphic marketing[J]. The Marketing Review, 2010, 10（3）: 209–224. DOI:10.1362/146934710X523078
13 Brownlow S. Seeing is believing: Facial appearance, credibility, and attitude change[J]. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 1992, 16（2）: 101–115. DOI:10.1007/BF00990325
14 Bryant C D, Forsyth C J. The complexity of deviant lifestyles[J]. Deviant Behavior, 2012, 33（7）: 525–549. DOI:10.1080/01639625.2011.636694
15 Chang C T, Yeh W C, Lin Y. Is cute design good for green products? Influences of green appeals and baby-face schema: An abstract[A]. Stieler M. Creating marketing magic and innovative future marketing trends[C]. Berlin: Springer, 2016: 32–40.
16 Cheok A D. Art and technology of entertainment computing and communication[M]. London: Springer, 2010.
17 Chitturi R. Emotions by design: A consumer perspective[J]. International Journal of Design, 2009, 3（2）: 7–17.
18 Cuddy A J, Fiske S T, Kwan V S Y, et al. Stereotype content model across cultures: Towards universal similarities and some differences[J]. British Journal of Social Psychology, 2009, 48（1）: 1–33. DOI:10.1348/014466608X314935
19 Desmet P, Overbeeke K, Tax S. Designing products with added emotional value: Development and application of an approach for research through design[J]. The Design Journal, 2001, 4（1）: 32–47. DOI:10.2752/146069201789378496
20 Dijksterhuis A, Smith P K, Van Baaren R B, et al. The unconscious consumer: Effects of environment on consumer behavior[J]. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2005, 15（3）: 193–202. DOI:10.1207/s15327663jcp1503_3
21 Epley N, Waytz A, Cacioppo J T. On seeing human: A three-factor theory of anthropomorphism[J]. Psychological Review, 2007, 114（4）: 864–886. DOI:10.1037/0033-295X.114.4.864
22 Fausto C. Feasting on people: Eating animals and humans in Amazonia[J]. Current Anthropology, 2007, 48（4）: 497–530. DOI:10.1086/518298
23 Ferreday D. Becoming deer: Nonhuman drag and online utopias[J]. Feminist Theory, 2011, 12（2）: 219–225. DOI:10.1177/1464700111404288
24 Fullard W, Reiling A M. An investigation of Lorenz’s " babyness”[J]. Child Development, 1976, 47（4）: 1191–1193. DOI:10.2307/1128462
25 Garg N, Wansink B, Inman J J. The influence of incidental affect on consumers’ food intake[J]. Journal of Marketing, 2007, 71（1）: 194–206. DOI:10.1509/jmkg.71.1.194
26 Gerbasi K C, Paolone N, Higner J, et al. Furries from A to Z （anthropomorphism to zoomorphism）[J]. Society & Animals, 2008, 16（3）: 197–222.
27 Glocker M L, Langleben D D, Ruparel K, et al. Baby schema in infant faces induces cuteness perception and motivation for caretaking in adults[J]. Ethology, 2009a, 115（3）: 257–263. DOI:10.1111/eth.2009.115.issue-3
28 Glocker M L, Langleben D D, Rupare K, et al. Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women[J]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2009b, 106（22）: 9115–9119. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0811620106
29 Gorn G J, Jiang Y W, Johar G V. Babyfaces, trait inferences, and company evaluations in a public relations crisis[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2008, 35（1）: 36–49. DOI:10.1086/529533
30 Guido G, Peluso A M, Mileti A, et al. Effects of background music endings on consumer memory in advertising[J]. International Journal of Advertising, 2016, 35（3）: 504–518. DOI:10.1080/02650487.2015.1037233
31 Gunasti K, Ross W T. How and when alphanumeric brand names affect consumer preferences[J]. Journal of Marketing Research, 2010, 47（6）: 1177–1192. DOI:10.1509/jmkr.47.6.1177
32 Hassanein K, Head M. The impact of infusing social presence in the web interface: An investigation across different products[J]. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 2006, 10（2）: 31–55. DOI:10.2753/JEC1086-4415100202
33 Healy M J, Beverland M B. Unleashing the animal within: Exploring consumers’ zoomorphic identity motives[J]. Journal of Marketing Management, 2013, 29（1-2）: 225–248. DOI:10.1080/0267257X.2013.766233
34 Hellén K, Sääksjärvi M. Development of a scale measuring childlike anthropomorphism in products[J]. Journal of Marketing Management, 2013, 29（1-2）: 141–157. DOI:10.1080/0267257X.2012.759989
35 Herzog Jr H A, Betchart N S, Pittman R B. Gender, sex role orientation, and attitudes toward animals[J]. Anthrozoös, 1991, 4（3）: 184–191. DOI:10.2752/089279391787057170
36 Hirschman E C. Consumers and their animal companions[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 1994, 20（4）: 616–632. DOI:10.1086/jcr.1994.20.issue-4
37 Hofstede G. Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind[M]. London: McGraw-Hill, 1991.
38 Holak S L. Ritual blessings with companion animals[J]. Journal of Business Research, 2008, 61（5）: 534–541. DOI:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.026
39 Holbrook M B, Woodside A G. Animal companions, consumption experiences, and the marketing of pets: Transcending boundaries in the animal-human distinction[J]. Journal of Business Research, 2008, 61（5）: 377–381. DOI:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.06.024
40 Huddy L, Gunnthorsdottir A H. The persuasive effects of emotive visual imagery: Superficial manipulation or the product of passionate reason?[J]. Political Psychology, 2000, 21（4）: 745–778. DOI:10.1111/pops.2000.21.issue-4
41 Jones D. An evolutionary perspective on physical attractiveness[J]. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 1996, 5（3）: 97–109. DOI:10.1002/(ISSN)1520-6505
42 Kaspar K, Wehlitz T, Von Knobelsdorff S, et al. A matter of font type: The effect of serifs on the evaluation of scientific abstracts[J]. International Journal of Psychology, 2015, 50（5）: 372–378. DOI:10.1002/ijop.2015.50.issue-5
43 Keaveney S M. Equines and their human companions[J]. Journal of Business Research, 2008, 61（5）: 444–454. DOI:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.017
44 Kinsella S. Cuties in Japan[A]. Skov L, Morean B. Women, media, and consumption in Japan[C]. Honolulu: University Hawaii Press, 1995: 220–254.
45 Kivetz R, Simonson I. Self-control for the righteous: Toward a theory of precommitment to indulgence[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2002, 29（2）: 199–217. DOI:10.1086/341571
46 Klink R R. Creating brand names with meaning: The use of sound symbolism[J]. Marketing Letters, 2000, 11（1）: 5–20. DOI:10.1023/A:1008184423824
47 Kouabenan D R. Occupation, driving experience, and risk and accident perception[J]. Journal of Risk Research, 2002, 5（1）: 49–68. DOI:10.1080/13669870110036577
48 Lobmaier J S, Sprengelmeyer R, Wiffen B, et al. Female and male responses to cuteness, age and emotion in infant faces[J]. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2010, 31（1）: 16–21. DOI:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.05.004
49 Locher C. The cult of cuteness in Japanese youth culture[M]. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag, 2007.
50 Madzharov A V, Block L G, Morrin M. The cool scent of power: Effects of ambient scent on consumer preferences and choice behavior[J]. Journal of Marketing, 2015, 79（1）: 83–96. DOI:10.1509/jm.13.0263
51 Marcus A. The cult of cute: The challenge of user experience design[A]. Marcus A. HCI and user-experience design[C]. London: Springer, 2002: 229–234.
52 May F, Monga A. When time has a will of its own, the powerless don’t have the will to wait: Anthropomorphism of time can decrease patience[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2013, 40（5）: 924–942.
53 McVeigh B J. How Hello Kitty commodifies the cute, cool and camp: " Consumutopia” versus " control” in Japan[J]. Journal of Material Culture, 2000, 5（2）: 225–245. DOI:10.1177/135918350000500205
54 Miesler L, Leder H, Herrmann A. Isn’t it cute: An evolutionary perspective of baby-schema effects in visual product designs[J]. International Journal of Design, 2011, 5（3）: 17–30.
55 Morreall J. Cuteness[J]. British Journal of Aesthetics, 1991, 31（1）: 39–47. DOI:10.1093/bjaesthetics/31.1.39
56 Nenkov G Y, Inman J J, Hulland J. Considering the future: The conceptualization and measurement of elaboration on potential outcomes[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2008, 35（1）: 126–141. DOI:10.1086/525504
57 Nenkov G Y, Scott M L. " So cute I could eat it up”: Priming effects of cute products on indulgent consumption[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, 41（2）: 326–341. DOI:10.1086/676581
58 Nitschke J B, Nelson E E, Nelson B D, et al. Orbitofrontal cortex tracks positive mood in mothers viewing pictures of their newborn infants[J]. NeuroImage, 2004, 21（2）: 583–592. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.10.005
59 Norman D A. Emotional design: Why we love （or hate） everyday things[M]. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
60 Rule N O, Ambady N. The face of success: Inferences from chief executive officers’ appearance predict company profits[J]. Psychological Science, 2008, 19（2）: 109–111. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02054.x
61 Sanders J T. On " cuteness”[J]. British Journal of Aesthetics, 1992, 32（2）: 162–165. DOI:10.1093/bjaesthetics/32.2.162
62 Scott M L, Nenkov G Y. Using consumer responsibility reminders to reduce cuteness-induced indulgent consumption[J]. Marketing Letters, 2016, 27（2）: 323–336. DOI:10.1007/s11002-014-9336-8
63 Shaffer D R, Kipp K. Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence[M]. Wadsworth, US: Cengage Learning, 2009.
64 Sherman G D, Haidt J, Coan J A. Viewing cute images increases behavioral carefulness[J]. Emotion, 2009, 9（2）: 282–286. DOI:10.1037/a0014904
65 Sherman G D, Haidt J. Cuteness and disgust: The humanizing and dehumanizing effects of emotion[J]. Emotion Review, 2011, 3（3）: 245–251. DOI:10.1177/1754073911402396
66 Sherman G D, Haidt J, Iyer R, et al. Individual differences in the physical embodiment of care: Prosocially oriented women respond to cuteness by becoming more physically careful[J]. Emotion, 2013, 13（1）: 151–158. DOI:10.1037/a0029259
67 Shiv B, Fedorikhin A. Heart and mind in conflict: The interplay of affect and cognition in consumer decision making[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 1999, 26（3）: 278–292. DOI:10.1086/jcr.1999.26.issue-3
68 Sprengelmeyer R, Perrett D I, Fagan E C, et al. The cutest little baby face: A hormonal link to sensitivity to cuteness in infant faces[J]. Psychological Science, 2009, 20（2）: 149–154. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02272.x
69 Sprengelmeyer R, Perrett D, Young A. Reproductive hormones modulate cuteness processing[J]. Psychological Science, 2010, 21（5）: 753. DOI:10.1177/0956797610368065
70 Ulbricht J. J. C. Holz revisited: From modernism to visual culture[J]. Art Education, 2005, 58（6）: 12–17.
71 Vandenbos G R. APA dictionary of psychology[M]. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.
72 Warren C, Campbell M C. What makes things cool? How autonomy influences perceived coolness[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, 41（2）: 543–563. DOI:10.1086/676680
73 Winterich K P, Haws K L. Helpful hopefulness: The effect of future positive emotions on consumption[J]. Journal of Consumer Research, 2011, 38（3）: 505–524. DOI:10.1086/659873
74 Yano C R. Kitty litter: Japanese cute at home and abroad[A]. Goldstein J, Buckingham D, Brougère G. Toys, games, and media[C]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004: 55-72.
75 Zebrowitz L A, McDonald S M. The impact of litigants’ baby-facedness and attractiveness on adjudications in small claims courts[J]. Law and Human Behavior, 1991, 15（6）: 603–623. DOI:10.1007/BF01065855
76 Zebrowitz L A, Tenenbaum D R, Goldstein L H. The impact of job applicants’ facial maturity, gender, and academic achievement on hiring recommendations[J]. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1991, 21（7）: 525–548. DOI:10.1111/jasp.1991.21.issue-7
Cite this article
Xie Zhipeng, Wang Tao, Zhao Jing. A Literature Review of Cuteness in Marketing[J]. Foreign Economics & Management, 2018, 40(5): 56-68.
Previous: A Literature Review of the Conflicts between Entrepreneurs and Investors and Future Prospects