Selling voyeurism: How companies create value from the taboo (guilty fashions)

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EXCERPTS: What do reality television, slum tourism, erotic webcam and mixed-martial arts have in common? They all rely on voyeurism to entertain their audiences. Voyeurism provides a glimpse into the private life of another person to give audiences a revealing and entertaining experience.

[...] In most societies, voyeurism is taboo. Yet a growing number of businesses across a wide range of industries are successfully selling voyeurism to a growing audience.

As management researchers, we study the intersection of organizations and society. In our recently published research, we explain how businesses use two key dimensions - authenticity and transgression - to create a commercial opportunities from voyeurism.

Authenticity emerges from seeing the “real life” of another person and transgression appears from viewing something forbidden. What differentiates erotic webcam from most pornography is the perception that the audience is getting a live and interactive glimpse into the private bedroom of the cam model.

Authenticity and transgression work together to generate entertaining experiences for the audience. In doing so, businesses that commodify authenticity develop devoted and returning customers.

Delivering value to customers based on something taboo is no easy task. The mixed emotions that draw us into the voyeuristic experience can easily overwhelm us - there is a very fine line between creating entertainment value and creating too many negative emotions (such as anxiety and guilt) that push customers away.

It doesn’t take much to turn reality shows from a guilty pleasure to something that makes the audience feel too guilty to watch. In this way, the authenticity and transgression draw audiences in and create value, but can also push audiences away and destroy value.

For these businesses to be successful, they have to walk a fine line. How do they do it? (MORE - details)

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