TitleObjects of Desire: The Role of Product Design in Revising Contested Cultural Meanings
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsWilner, SJS, Huff, A
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Date Published2017

We explore the link between product design and market legitimation by examining the evolution of a product market that has been shrouded by cultural taboo. Conducting media analysis and selected visual audits of sex toys over a recent 25-year period, we find that innovations in the design of these products – materials, form and function – can facilitate evolution of a mainstream market. Producers can facilitate legitimation by introducing innovative designs that significantly contradict existing cultural meanings associated with the category. Furthermore, when the aesthetic and functional aspects of a new product design are aligned with cultural norms, we find that mainstream media reframe the products in ways that signal social acceptance.