Selected PhD Abstracts
Strategic Response to Predicted Events: The Case of the Banning of CFCs
The field of strategy has grown rapidly in the last twenty years, reflecting increased levels of academic interest in the subject. Numerous research studies have focused on topics as varied as managing strategic change, the structural analysis of industries, or effective strategic planning. The strategy process literature is concerned with the nature of the formation of strategy to environmental change. However, the view of a single organisation as the strategic actor is common. The 'markets as networks' perspective emphasises the embeddedness of an actor within a series of exchange relationships with other actors. In this view co-operative relationships are considered as the norm as exchanges and adaptations take place over time. A key theme in the industrial networks field is that of stability-change. This thesis is the output of doctoral research that aims to explore further this theme by studying the dynamics of strategic response in the situation of a single, predictable, yet discontinuous, environmental change. The empirical context for the research project is provided by the situation of the banning of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), one group of the chemicals responsible for the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. The methodology used to study the UK industrial sectors affected has involved a longitudinal, historical, comparative, embedded case study approach, informed by a critical realist epistemology. The unit of case analysis is the focal net, i.e. the network of relationships surrounding a former CFC producer or industrial user organisation. Ten cases were selected, which resulted in examples of focal nets from all five of the relevant affected sectors. The cases are examples of patterns of strategic response to an event which required parallel adaptations where the timing and resource concerned were held in common.
In combining a strategy process and 'markets as networks' perspectives, the thesis is centred around the question of how and why organisations and networks adapt to predictable, yet discontinuous, change in their environments. A variety of patterns of transmission and transformation reveal the differing location of the dynamics of change within the nets studied. Some relationships between the different schools of strategic thought have been found. In the thesis the role of different configurations of contexts and mechanisms provides an explanation of differences in the observed response outcomes of multiple industrial nets.
Multi-Firm Temporary Networks: A Study of Process
This thesis investigates change and ordering processes in organisational settings. It focuses on the particular setting of multi-firm, temporary networks (MFTNs), because change is especially endemic in this context, and because such networks have received scant study in the literature. MFTNs - which are unique, transitory constellations of corporations organised around a significant task - are a defining feature of project environments, typified by the construction, filmmaking and software development sectors, but they are also characteristic of ""post-Fordist"" forms of organising. The dominant theoretical frames in the management and marketing literatures seem ill suited to understanding their dynamics, largely because they rely on organic metaphors which tend to emphasise stability over change. For this reason, actor-network theory, which stresses process over stability, was used as a primary conceptual frame. Variants of the ethnographic method were used to study and describe three multi-firm, temporary networks in the pharmaceutical/software development, film, and fertiliser industries.
Network change is depicted as centring on five moments of change. Problematisation is a multi-vocal, sense-making activity that constructs, both retrospectively and prospectively, competing and alternative narratives. Transcendence describes how local practices are related to more global phenomena through (a) the operation of recognisable objects, termed boundary objects, that act as portals between 'global' and 'local' networks, and (b) replicating assemblages which are actor-networks that fabricate a sense of the global through producing a set of self-similar entities. The third moment of interessement describes how protected spaces are created and maintained in networks to enable identity creation, calculation, and play, and to counter opportunistic behaviour. Punctualisation is the fourth moment. This describes how all entities, including firms and projects, are fabricated through the incessant and inventive connection of disparate events and actors across time and space, and through the subsequent abbreviation or blackboxing of these connections into 'centres'. The case studies show that the greater the degree of prior punctualisation (or the more robust the black boxes) the greater the need for a ""projectised"" approach if change is to be effected. The fifth moment misrepresentation, which is central to network dynamics, arises through three distinct processes: conversion, chelation and composition.
Development of Manufacturer-Retailer Networks
This thesis deals with contemporary developments in manufacturer-retailer networks. Its empirical basis is defined by 15 embedded case studies of interorganisational networks in the markets of fast-moving consumer goods in Germany. Following a theoretical review, the study employs a conceptual framework for the study of network developments that differs from the traditional models used in the marketing channels literature. The framework presents the network developments from three different perspectives. The first perspective is related to the development of business processes, the second is linked to the development of competitive and co-operative relationships, and the third includes the development of organisational structures. The three perspectives do not exist in isolation. Instead, there is an inherent dynamic interplay among processes, relationships and structures. The conceptual framework creates a new meaning which is not simply content-based, but has epistemological and ontological underpinnings.
The epistemological foundation of this study can be defined as critical realism, while its ontology is determined by the network approach that treats markets as interconnected networks of organisations buying and organisations selling. This allows us to emphasise change dynamics and interdependence among manufacturers and retailers. In emphasising the interdependence between vertical and horizontal relationships in manufacturer-retailer networks, we depart significantly 1) from traditional open systems studies that emphasise the mirroring external complexities in the organisation's environment, and 2) from the recent trend in the management studies literature to study interfirm rivalry as the sequence of tactical and strategic moves and countermoves. Instead, the thrust of the thesis lies in the consideration of network developments as the outcome of an ongoing process by manufacturers and retailers as they relate to each other. The actors construct the forms in which the environmental information appears; they interpret and react to a set of contingencies differently, implement pilot projects in dyadic relationships to test the feasibility of new ideas and attempt to mobilise other actors in their initiatives, thus diffusing the changes in the network.
Women and Addictive Consumption in the UK
Addictive consumption is an extreme form of consumer behaviour still relatively understudied. Feelings of great anticipation and excitement prior to and during the shopping experience are replaced by guilt and shame afterwards. Addictive consumers buy for motives unrelated to the actual possession of the goods, and most purchases remain unused. The goods, money spent and the behaviour itself are developed and maintained in secret over a period of time. This thesis presents the results of a study of 46 women identified as addictive consumers. Through phenomenological interviews, they describe their thoughts and experiences both within the shopping environment and in their everyday lives. A rich picture of the reality of being an addictive consumer emerges, not only in terms of the consumption activity but also of the precursors to and consequences and means of self-managing the activity. For the first time, addictive consumers are presented as women who have adopted what is traditionally considered to be a male-based mechanism for coping with depression or unsatisfactory situations – that is, doing something rather than thinking about their problems (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987).
These women have chosen to engage in a familiar, enjoyable and socially acceptable activity – i.e. shopping – to gain some kind of control in their lives. Paradoxically, the activity is developed and maintained to such an extent that it controls them. The consumption behaviour is almost identical in each case, but addictive consumers are not a homogeneous group. Four patterns or sub-groups of addictive consumers emerge – the existential addict, the revenge addict, the mood repair addict and the serial addict. This research is unique to the study of addictive consumers in that it is woman-centred. The researcher and the researched have had similar social conditioning and experiences that are particular to women. This, together with the existential-phenomenological approach, has allowed a more detailed, accurate and revealing picture to emerge of women as addictive consumers.
Boolean Network Simulation for Exploring the Dynamics of Industrial Network
Kristina Boyanova Georgieva
This thesis applies a computer simulation methodology for the study of industrial network dynamics based on the Boolean network model developed by Stuart Kauffman for the study of complex non-linear dynamical systems. 'Industrial networks' is a term used to describe organisational markets where there are strong links and interdependencies between customers and suppliers, and exchanges take place in the context of long-term relationships. Boolean networks are binary parallel-processing systems comprising many interacting elements. The behaviour of each element changes over time depending on the behaviour of other elements according to a Boolean logic rule.
The unit of simulation is redefined as the exchange between two economic agents. Boolean functions specify the local conditions for exchanges that in turn reflect specific relations and dependencies between actors, resources and activities. Small networks ranging from 3 to 9 exchanges are simulated modelling specific industrial network situations. The simulation experiments trace the emergence of the overall exchange patterns for the network in a bottom-up manner as exchange processes organised and enacted locally unfold over time. A number of alternative long-term recurrent patterns – attractors – are possible for the network depending on the initial conditions. The exchange patterns defined by attractors are explained through the industrial micro-logic reflected in the Boolean functions. Attractor stability and the network response to change are explored for random perturbations and for changes in the local exchange conditions.
The research offers a novel way of explaining the patterns of stability and change observed in real life industrial networks through the ability of networks to evolve endogenously a limited set of global dynamical structures, attractors. They emerge out of local processes of interaction between network elements and stabilise the system by defining the boundaries for the dynamics at the local level.
"Retail Therapy": An Investigation of Compensatory Consumption and Shopping Behaviour
Compensatory behaviour is engaged in by individuals in response to a need or a 'lack' which they are unable or unwilling to satisfy directly so they seek and use an alternative means of fulfilment. When this alternative need satisfaction takes the form of consumption activity, this is termed 'compensatory consumption'. Compensatory consumption – consuming x to make up for a lack of y – can include, for example, eating, drinking or using drugs. However, in this study, the central focus is on the use of shopping as compensatory consumption. The phenomenon of compensatory consumption was identified and defined as long ago as the early 1960's (Dichter, 1960, 1964). However, it was not until 1988 that Gronmo examined this facet of consumer behaviour in more depth and argued in conclusion that ""compensatory consumer behaviour is an important phenomenon which deserves attention"" (Gronmo, 1988, p. 84). However, Gronmo's analysis was not based on primary research but on the interpretation of earlier published work into other areas of consumption. Thus, this is the first dedicated study to explore compensatory consumption behaviour from the perspective of the individual in relation to shopping. The two main objectives of this study reflect both the subject under investigation and the research process:
""to develop understanding of the concept of compensatory consumption and also to extend the discourse on methodology and the role of the researcher in a way which will further understanding of the topic and be useful to others.""
An in depth study has been undertaken based on interpretive modes of inquiry which has explored the lived experience of compensatory consumption of individuals, both men and women, in the context of shopping behaviour. A richly contextualised account of compensatory consumption has emerged which has been examined in depth to develop a conceptual framework for compensatory consumption. The significance of other aspects of consumption, such as consumption meaning and the social context of consumer behaviour for example, has also been highlighted. Shopping has been examined from a number of perspectives and a conceptual framework for shopping has been proposed. The research reveals the reality and complexity of the role of consumption in individuals' lives and the 'highs' and 'lows' of the individual compensatory consumption experience. Additionally, a reflexive account of the research experience explores issues pertaining to the research design and the research process from two perspectives, the personal and the feminist, and methodological issues are examined critically from the perspective of 'new paradigm' consumer research.
The Trajectories of UK-owned Operational Divisions in Brazil
In this thesis we examine the trajectory of operational divisions of multinational firms in a foreign market. Our theoretical framework combines conceptual notions from the literature on foreign market entry, internationalisation processes and subsidiary development. Our focus is on the trajectory of operational divisions, defined as a sequence of servicing modes. We define servicing mode as the institutional arrangement through which the firm services foreign markets. It is a combination of degree of localisation and externalisation of activities in a host country as well as the degree of integration of activities across countries in a multinational firm. This indicator is sensitive to both changes in the pattern of activities of a subsidiary in a host country as well as changes in the mandate of the subsidiary.
We analyse the trajectory of fourteen operational divisions of UK-owned firms in the Brazilian market by employing comparative case study as the research method. This method enables us to carry out a two-step data analysis. Initially, we employ the process tracing method in order to understand the evolution of each operational division in Brazil. Subsequently, we group the trajectories into four clusters on the basis of types of relationship that were activated over the trajectory of a subsidiary as well as changes of the mandates of that subsidiary. The major finding of this thesis is that the trajectory of the operational division is explained by the relationships between the focal subsidiary and headquarters, external actors and other subsidiary relationships. As these relationships are embedded in different spatial-temporal contexts, they are activated during different phases of a trajectory and often originate in different geographical contexts. As a result of these combinations of intra- and inter-organisational relationships, the operational division frequently changes the servicing mode through which it operates in the target country.
Sometimes the modal shift is not restricted to the target country. It may encompass other countries, for example when the subsidiary's mandate is extended to other geographical areas outside the host country. In this case, we say that the focal subsidiary evolves from what we have called 'locally-bound' to 'supra-local' mandates. We conclude by elaborating on how the framework developed here can be used to analyse complex trajectories of operational divisions in foreign markets as a result of the articulation of intra- and inter-organisational relationships. We contend that this framework leads to a better understanding of both incremental trajectories as well as more intricate, truncated and discontinuous trajectories.
The Evolution of Resources in Inter-Firm Collaboration
This thesis seeks to understand and explain the evolution of resources in strategic alliances. It investigates how resources evolve and change throughout the process of creating and exchanging resources in inter-firm collaboration and seeks the underlying explanations for such processes. It adopts a dynamic resource-based perspective of collaboration, whereby firms seek to create and exchange strategic resources with each other in order to improve competitive performance. In particular, the study concentrates on long term collaboration between competing firms intent on exchanging and jointly creating resources for the purpose of new product development. Specifically, the study investigates what sort of resource-based value is created as an outcome of such collaboration, how firms' configurations of resources evolve and change throughout the duration of the collaborative relationship and why such evolution occurs. Critically, it identifies and explores the underlying explanatory processes behind such behaviour and outcomes.
In order to understand the complex and dynamic nature of such phenomena, the study's ontology is based on critical realism. Whilst a preliminary quantitative analysis of patterns of joint venture activities by W. European companies helped inform the focus of the major investigation and the units of analysis, the major investigation employs a multiple case study method. Four complex case studies of European/Japanese inter-firm collaboration for new product development are investigated in considerable depth.
Evaluation of the case study data is systematic and dynamic. The evolution of resources is analysed longitudinally, over several periods of time, based on an actors-resources-activities model. The contingent explanations for such resource changes are carefully unpacked in an iterative process. Following replication logic, a cross-case comparison articulates the explanatory processes driving the resource exchange/creation process and maps out the complex causal relationships between them. Fundamental explanatory principles are finally revealed. These comprise the nature of resources, collaborative and internal resource processes, resource evaluation by the actors, resource exchange mechanisms and context and form the critical findings from this work. In summary, the study provides deep understanding of complex causal mechanisms at play in long-term strategic alliances. Through the systematic and micro-level analysis of resource evolution in four major case studies, the intricacies and dynamism of processes underlying such change are revealed.
Towards an Expanded Understanding of Exchange in Marketing
It is regularly suggested within marketing that the central concept is that of exchange. Despite this pre-eminent position, the understanding that marketing academics have of exchange is regarded as poorly researched and weakly conceptualised. This thesis sets out to contribute to resolving these issues. The main tool in doing this is an analytical framework developed from an extensive review of the literature on exchange in marketing and other disciplines. Employing a Critical Realist ontology, the analytical framework is applied to a LETS system in the West of Ireland. LETS or Local Exchange Trading Systems are independent exchange systems that use a local rather than a national currency to facilitate exchange. The system studied was widely regarded as the most successful in Ireland, this was its attraction as a research site. The case study begins with a description of the research site. It then employs quantitative measures to describe the exchange activity and dyadic profile of the system concerned. An extensive set of qualitative results are then used to explain the behaviour described in the preceding chapters, at the level of the individual actor and the market. The thesis reveals a complex view of exchange and a Critical Realist approach to understanding exchange with potential for application in a wide range of situations.
An Explanation of Social Capital and Entrepreneurial Network Relationships
This thesis attempts to demonstrate the importance of social capital to entrepreneurs in their networks and network relationships. Empirical data about different kinds of relationships of five successful entrepreneurs in Quebec, Canada were gathered over an eighteen-month period. The data reported here comprise five discrete cases from 47 relationships and nearly 200 episodes of relationship behaviour. The episodic cases were subjected to a rigorous, systematic analysis based on the ontology of critical realism. The analysis employed an extension of the reliable Actors-Resources-Activities framework, which has been used extensively by the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group.
The study found that social capital is a viable concept by which to measure the nature of entrepreneurial network relationships. The investigation determined that changes in social capital were affected by several relationship driving forces and various contingent factors. An explanatory model was developed to illustrate how these particular relationship driving forces and contingent factors work as a mechanism for changes in social capital.
Using Coinjoint Analysis to Capture Differences in Consumers' Responses to Price of Competing Brands
This research concerns the role of price in influencing a consumer's choice between brands. A difficulty in predicting response to price arises because under conditions of incomplete knowledge consumers may use price as a cue for quality in addition to the cost meaning of price. The brand-price interplay is investigated in the current research through a new conjoint analysis model that is cross-analysed by consumers' prior knowledge, linking the two important domains of preference and knowledge in the discipline of consumer choice behaviour. The research included three stages: a conjoint pilot study, a pre-test of knowledge and other behavioural scales, and a main survey incorporating conjoint modelling with related constructs of consumer choice behaviour. The conjoint design comprised brand name, price and a new marketing concept. The principal analysis is based on data collected from a sample of 244 student respondents in North-West England using sports footwear. The conjoint model is unique in its specification of response to price of competing brands, including a new behaviourally-oriented model of response to price, integrated with latent class segmentation.
It is argued that the non-linear Inverse-Price-Effects model proposed in this research is more flexible than traditional forms (e.g. additive quadratic price model) when capturing the use of price as a quality cue, primarily suggesting that an “ideal-price” is not static. Four patterns of response to brand-price offers representing low, medium and high degrees of brand-price interrelations are identified, which in particular distinguish between the use of price as a warning signal against buying too-low quality at too-low prices and as a summary of brand-price expectations. While the findings are consistent with the economic view that price functions primarily as a sacrifice in consumer preferences, they also indicate that the use of price as a quality cue is not exceptional or negligible. The informative role of price can have a strong impact on consumers' response patterns, inducing them to pay higher prices. Furthermore, the reliance of consumers on the quality meaning of price appears to depend on their ability to distinguish between brands and their familiarity with particular brands. The research reveals an association between the response patterns of consumers with their prior knowledge – objective and subjective – of the product category concerned. Hence, the degree of brand-price interplay is influenced by prior product knowledge and proneness to rely on price as a quality cue.
Extending Participation in Higher Education: An Investigation into Applicant Choice Using Postcode Analysis
Statistics clearly show that large sections of British society are significantly under-represented in Higher Education (HE). In response, the government is providing incentives to universities to recruit more widely from specific social groups. This issue has been particularly newsworthy in recent years and provides the primary general context for this research.
A secondary context for the research, alongside the political debate over 'widening participation' to HE, is concerned with Marketing. As universities find themselves competing to attract students, the whole HE sector has had to become more marketing-orientated. Almost all universities and colleges now have marketing departments and are gradually beginning to articulate their recruitment policies in terms of market-share figures, league tables and recruitment targets. This has led to their adoption of traditional marketing techniques, such as direct mail and 'above-the-line' advertising, in an attempt to improve their position in the HE 'market-place'. The techniques used in this research provide an insight into the most up-to-date methods used by HE institutions to quantify and plan student populations.
The specific focus of this dissertation is a study of the application and acceptance data for entry into HE, as collected by the Universities and Colleges Admissions System (UCAS) for the period 1998-1999 application cycle. Previously, such data has been analysed only at a macro-level to reveal the extent of 'widening participation' to HE. The general conclusion of these studies has been that while more people have entered HE, their socio-economic profile has remained largely unchanged. The aim of this dissertation is to present results at a much finer level of detail, in order to identify patterns in application at the subject and institution level. Its findings suggest that the profile of those studying the more prestigious courses at the older universities is not changing, despite the increase in overall HE student numbers. A new term, 'extending participation', is proposed to refer to attempts to address this inequality.
All of this analysis is presented within the framework of a decision model, which in this study is taken to mean a diagrammatic representation of the stages and influences that a prospective student goes through during the application cycle.
The primary hypothesis confirmed by the study is that socio-economic status, as measured by geodemographic classification, is predictive at each stage of the decision process; earlier models of HE decision have consistently portrayed it as being influential only within the initial stages. Alongside socio-economic status, the distance from home to institution for each application is also analysed. The results demonstrate that HE 'supply' (in terms of where different courses are offered) is as important an issue to consider as 'demand' (where people would ideally like to study).
The results of this analysis are statistically significant and have important practical applications for: i) planning the funding of universities by government; specifically the Department of Education and Employment and the regional Funding Councils; and ii) planning by universities and colleges of their own specific portfolios of courses and where to focus their marketing activities.
Using Geodemographics to Analyse the Characteristics of Undergraduates in UK Higher Education
This thesis is submitted for the award of the PhD by Published Work. It lies within the field of market segmentation and is particularly concerned with geodemographics as a basis for segmentation. It includes 12 publications, and of these, ten make express use of geodemographics, and seven do so in the context of access to and participation within UK higher education. A dominant theme in these publications is the use of geodemographics to create and broadcast a more detailed understanding of inequality of access to higher education.
The thesis includes a critical essay which builds on recognised literature and which effectively employs these 12 publications as exhibits. An examination is made of the process by which variables are chosen for the purposes of market segmentation. The process of constructing and construing geodemographic segments is also examined. The subjectivity associated with both these processes is assessed, and the critical essay then extrapolates from these assessments to consider the relativistic implications of rhetoric as a significant marketing impetus.
The making of marketing knowledge
Shona M. Bettany
This thesis develops an approach to understanding the making of marketing knowledge by undertaking a feminist critical anthropology of the cultural milieu it implies. This anthropology is wrought by following the important concept of relationship marketing and the paths it has traced in the multiple locales of this milieu through research undertaken in the UK, US and Finland. A number of theoretical approaches from sociological and cultural studies of science and knowledge are reviewed in terms of developing understanding of contemporary knowledge making endeavour in marketing. Bringing these approaches into confrontation with this specific project it develops an approach based on the work emerging from the latter stages of the Actor Network Theory era in the anthropology of knowledge. A key theme is the development of the dialogue between ANT and its feminist critics, articulated here by the introduction of new analytical metaphors of performativity, multiplicity, ambivalence, marginality and reflexivity into the lexicon of ANT research. This dialogue is extended in terms of the utilisation of the post feminist literacy of figuration, which, it is argued, counteracts the tendencies in ANT to slippage towards the primacy of the humanist, intentional, ‘Western’ subject. In this research issues of ambivalence and cultural myths of possibility are unpacked around the three key post humanist figures of the scientist, the enterpriser and the guru that emerged from the ethnographic research encounters. The analysis of these figures and their generative and constitutive worlds is developed into a model of the cultural dynamic of the making of marketing knowledge. The development of this model mobilises critique through the logic of interference, by providing an alternative representation to current dominant formulations of the making of marketing knowledge and by making explicit the cultural processes of the production and reproduction of this ‘culture of no culture’ which render it coherent and obdurate in the face of critique.
Organising “Knowledge Transfers” between Dispersed Corporate Spaces
Simone Novello (Marketing & Sociology)
This thesis is about the possibility of knowledge transfer between and within organisations. Many scholars have tried to explain why knowledge fails to move, circulate, or be re-used in other parts of an organisation. My research draws attention to significant emerging conditions, which make this a subject worthy of renewed interest. Having offered a critical analysis of the prevailing perspectives on knowledge transfer within firms – including those that focus on the “sender-receiver” model; those that deal with the codification and economics of knowledge, and those that take a “situated” view of learning and communities of practice – I develop an approach that proposes a radical re-conceptualisation of the conventional notion of knowledge transfer. Using empirical data derived from a detailed study of two cases of corporate acquisition, both of which took place in the upstream oil and gas sector, I argue that so-called “knowledge transfer” has less to do with the movement of knowledge than with the co-alignment of existing practices which are already adjusted to the logics and characteristics of a particular business activity, task, or service.
My thesis conceptualises the re-use of knowledge in other parts of an organisation as a process that involves the connection and co-development of knowledge between existing domains of practice. Patterns of connection between contexts of action produce shared knowledge when tensions between infrastructures of knowledge which underlie the “absorptive capacity” (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990) of specialists are resolved. My analysis identifies different methods for integrating distinct areas of specialism and shows how the nature and evolution of these techniques relates to existing scientific and technological practices. On the basis of this work I outline new research questions and an approach to the study of the development of shared knowledge which combines perspectives from organisation studies, the geography of knowledge, and the sociology of science and technology. My findings suggest that firms have to develop more sophisticated understandings of the conditions and circumstances in which shared knowledge is formed and of the means and mechanisms through which practices might be connected.
In Search of Marketing Management
This empirical study attempts to craft a richer description, and deeper understanding, of the work of managers in marketing than that elaborated in the managerial work literature and within the marketing management discourse. Perspectives on both the character of the ‘content’ and ‘conduct’ of marketing manager work are sought. Several marketing managers, operating in diverse commercial contexts, were interviewed and observed. The field research deployed an array of longitudinal methodologies including programmes of diary-stimulated interviews, work shadowing, participant self-observation, and action research.
A description of managerial work is developed that rests at an ‘ontic level’ between that of classical / ‘Fayolian’ management theory and the conceptualisations generated through the empirical study of managerial work. The developed model characterises the ‘substance’ of managerial conduct as the ‘shaping and sustaining of commitments’. The model, based on a metaphorical temporal rope, elaborates the various interweaving strands and threads of what is argued to be the quintessence of managerial behaviour, the forms and characteristics of organizational commitments, the character of their crafting and conducing, and the properties of the so-emerged commitment webs.
The ‘content’ of the subject managers’ work is elaborated through the concept of endeavour portfolios, and the inherently political, weak- situation / wicked-problem character of their endeavours is illuminated. The ‘rhetorical technology’ of the marketing discourse is found to permeate the content of the subject managers’ endeavours, and provide adequate labels for the strands and threads of their endeavours. However, outside of their use in the staging of truth effects, the processual prescriptions of the marketing discourse are not evident in their daily work. The marketing management discourse is found not to speak to the milieu, or substance of the subject managers marketing management. This ‘substance’ rests in their pursuit of innovative reconciliations for the complex of contradictions that confronts them.
Reputational Objects. A critical re-evaluation of corporate brand management
Corporate reputation management – or brand management as it is often referred to – has been widely seen as an activity that can add value for an organization and its stakeholders through the creation of competitive advantage. The observation that many successful organizations also have salient and positive reputations has arguably been the impetus behind the development of various approaches for the understanding and management of this social phenomenon. In this thesis, I argue that many of these extant approaches are of limited use because of their inability to reconcile theoretical insights with empirical observations of practice. Given this shortcoming, I use the ontology of critical realism to draw together a number of concepts from various branches of the social sciences including: the theory of
morphogenesis, social exchange theory, naturalistic decision making, and science and technology studies to develop an alternative conceptual framework – which I have termed ‘reputational objects’ – to reframe our understanding of corporate brands. I then apply the reputational objects framework to empirical data collected from a depth case study of Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) – an organization in the UK higher education sector – to gain insight into the mechanisms and processes that have led to the development of this organization’s current reputation. In doing so, I make the following contributions to the knowledge of corporate reputation: 1) a conceptualisation of the nature and composition of an organization’s corporate reputation as a heterogeneous entity; 2) an explanation of the dynamic processes through which an organization’s corporate reputation develops; 3) a contextualisation of the role of managers in the management of corporate reputation; and 4) an organizational perspective that provides insight into the role of corporate reputation in the relations between the social structures, culture and stakeholders of an organization. I conclude that the findings from this study have implications for disciplinary research in marketing, strategy and organizational theory as well as for the practice and teaching of managers.