Destructing Taboos Through Atmospheric Cues: How Certain Atmospheric Cues Can Affect Consumer Perceptions towards Sex Toys, eventually Destructing the Perceived Ambivalence

Viveka Gezelius & Emilie Sunde

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis was designed to explore how atmospheric cues currently employed by two distinct sex toy brands, both having the mission to destruct taboo and legitimize sex toys, are effecting the emotional and cognitive state of an ambivalent consumer group. The specific research goal was to identify a potential link between atmospheric cues and taboo destruction from a consumer perspective. The sex toy industry has grown in recent years, and while incumbents are still dominating the market, new start-ups are disrupting the industry with innovative technology, design, marketing and business strategy (Grand View Research, 2021). Despite an ongoing liberalisation and mainstream acceptance of the industry a preresearch revealed that a majority of respondents felt ambivalence towards the products and industry (See appendix 15). Following the modified S-O-R framework of Eroglu et al. (2001), we designed a conceptual framework of social, high- and low task online atmospheric cues to investigate the effects of online atmospheric cues on consumer's already existing ambivalent feelings and perceptions towards sex toys. Based on a qualitative method design, 10 in-depth interviews with an explorative design were conducted. Through a thematic analysis, following an abductive approach, online atmospheric cues were detected to have a positive effect on consumers’ perceived ambivalence towards sex toys where ambivalence where removed through social, low and high-task online atmospheric cues. We were able to prove that the atmospheric cues can have a positive impact on the perceived taboo. It thereby seems to exist a link between atmospheric cues and taboo destruction. By showing a link between online atmospheric cues and taboo, we propose a contribution to Kotler’s (1974) research on the value of atmospheric cues on the consumer. We suggest that his 4 propositions where atmospherics are of importance extends to a fifth proposition; Atmospherics is a relevant marketing tool for practitioners that aims at destructing taboos around stigmatized products. Conclusively, we encourage practitioners to prioritize iterative customer involvement (Elias et al., 2018) through the design and development process and open up for aesthetic co-creation (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004) where practitioners and consumers can build services and products that benefit both parties.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages214