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Transcript
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Organizational Equity: Positive and Negative
Attribution
Lindsay Meredith
The objective of this paper is to build on three different areas of research.
The parallel political market place, organizational equity and stakeholder
theory are combined to shape a theoretical discussion of micro and macro
marketing systems––especially as they are applied in a business-to-business
marketing context. First, a schematic presents some of the sources of
positive and negative attribution that originate in micro/macro marketing
systems. Next, the paper presents a modified description of the traditional
macromarketing environment due to the impact of factors like social network
systems, the Internet and negative attribution marketing campaigns by
adversarial stakeholders. Finally, a dynamic model of the mechanism by
which the micro/macro marketing system shapes organizational equity is
discussed. These are presented in a template intended to help marketing
practitioners more effectively deal with the macro marketing system over
which they often have limited control.
Key words: organizational equity,
stakeholders, social network systems
negative
attribution,
adversarial
Introduction
In marketing, work related to stakeholders external to the core business
network has roots in two major areas of research. First, macromarketing
research by Shapiro (1964) argued that the environment was a dynamic
component of the system and was part of it rather than external to it. Hutt,
Mokwa and Shapiro (1986) subsequently suggested the existence of a
parallel political marketplace with multiple stakeholder influences. Shapiro and
Heslop (1982) also examined the role of government influence in the
management of macromarketing systems. Layton (2014) extended this earlier
work and developed his MAS theory (mechanism, action structure) framework
that contained a dynamic orientation, focused on causation and linked micro
choices and macro structures. His framework provided an ideal foundation for
exploring how micro and macro stakeholders interact with each other.
Additionally, Layton‘s (2014) MAS theory linkage to cognate social sciences
provides a foundation for addressing the technologically based phenomena of
social network systems, negative attribution and their dynamic interaction with
each other as well as other stakeholder groups.
The other major line of inquiry can be found in the area of business-tobusiness marketing and stakeholder research. While macromarketing
research has identified stakeholders beyond the core network it hasn‘t
explicitly examined the implications of their activities for strategic planning by
marketing practitioners as they attempt to deal with macrosystem
stakeholders. Within a business-to business (B2B) marketing context, work by
Bunn, Savage and Holloway (2002) used a case study of innovation to
explore an approach for marketing to multiple stakeholders. Polonsky (1995)
__________________________________________________
Lindsay Meredith, Professor, Simon Fraser University, Beedie School of Business,
8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, Email: meredith@sfu.ca
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
focused on the application of stakeholder theory for the purposes of
environmental marketing in a B2B context. Also in the area of stakeholder
research, work by Feng, Lessard, Crawley, de Weck, and Cameron (2013)
proposed a Stakeholder Value Network based on microeconomic utility theory
that attempts to account for the impact of multiple indirect stakeholder issues
as well as their interactive effects.
Integrating the preceding research streams, the objectives of this paper are
to:
1. explore the issues of negative attribution and the role of adversarial
stakeholders. In pursuit of this objective, hypothesized sources of positive
and negative attribution that contribute to aggregate organizational equity
are developed.
2. extend the concepts of micro and macro system interaction by suggesting
sources of causality within stakeholders groups and between micro and
macro stakeholders.
3. suggest a model of attribution dynamics and the way that positive and
negative attribution forces interact between the micro and macro networks.
The management implications of these objectives are then developed to
hopefully aid marketing practitioners in developing strategies to deal with their
macro/micro environment.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Diagram 1 introduces the concepts of negative and positive attribution.
Diag. 1
Positive and Negative Attribution
POSITIVE BRAND EQUITY
Macronet Strategies:
1
POSITIVE BRAND EQUITY
Micronet Strategies:
2
- long run brand equity
building strategies
- SNS leadership
- social cause leadership
- relationship marketing
- community commitment
(financial & in-kind support)
- supply chain governance
- industry self-governance
- government interaction
- marketing disaster planning
ATTRIBUTION BALANCE
5
A function of:
1. Positive/Negative Brand
Equity (Static effects)
2. Positive/Negative Brand
Equity (Dynamic effects)
NEGATIVE BRAND EQUITY
Macronet Causes:
3
NEGATIVE BRAND EQUITY
Micronet Causes:
- adversarial stakeholders
Past & current performance of:
- SNS
- core network
- mass media
- supply chain partners
- adversarial political
stakeholders
- corporate brand deficit
4
- industry
- governmental agencies
Positive attribution is generated mainly by the hub firm (and the supply chain
companies in its micro network) via their collective marketing campaigns.
Positive organizational/brand equity can however, also be generated via the
macro network and more broadly based ―macromarketing strategies‖
instituted by micro network members or their industry.
Conversely, negative attribution in the context of this paper means that
adversarial groups launch their own marketing, public relations and/or legal
campaigns to highlight the negative attributes of the marketer‘s micro network
and/or their products and proposed projects. This can produce a negative
impact on the equity of the organization and or its brands. Macro network
causes of negative organizational/brand equity are hypothesized to emanate
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
mainly from adversarial stakeholders in the larger macromarketing
environment that surrounds the micro network. Negative brand equity can of
course, also emanate from the micro network via poor marketing strategies or
corporate/industry marketing disasters.
Finally, attribution balance is a function of positive and negative attribution
forces that interact to influence the perceived brand equity of the firm among
the various stakeholder groups.
Box 1 suggests macro net strategies for building positive brand equity. The
strategies suggested here are germane to the macro network and may be
generated at the industry or company level. They are applicable on a much
wider basis than those strategies that are focused on micro network target
markets. Social network system (SNS) leadership means that marketers
adopt a proactive strategy in creating a positive brand equity position on
social network sites as opposed to developing a reactive response when
adversarial stakeholders generate negative attribute positioning on their own
Internet and SNS sites. It is suggested that social equity strategies can be
used to build a stock of positive brand equity in the macromarketing
environment. The value of this is twofold. First, it contributes to a corporate or
industry reputation that is community oriented versus purely profit oriented.
Second, it acts as a brand equity buffer should the firm or industry find itself
with negative attribution problems resulting from marketing or PR disasters.
Community commitment is demonstrated through both financial as well as inkind contributions. In kind contributions can take the form of both labor as well
as management expertise. The latter can also be demonstrated in terms of
social cause leadership like environmentalism and/or global commitments to
social issue advancement.
Government interaction derives from environmental management strategies
like those proposed by Zeithaml and Zeithaml (1984). Direct government
lobbying and voluntary participation in self-governing industry regulation
represent techniques by which organizations attempt to proactively manage
their macromarketing environment. Positive brand equity strategies ideally
align core network with government objectives such as generating investment,
increasing government tax bases and creating employment (Feng et al.,
2012).
Marketing disaster planning (Coombs 2007) is a comparatively newer macro
network strategy that is evolving due to the interaction of adversarial
stakeholder social network systems and mass media. It involves the
development of marketing plans for worst-case scenario events. Such plans
are needed because negative attribution reactions can unfold very quickly and
vehemently following public relations disaster events. Lucea‘s (2007) advice
that timely management helps to avoid escalation is also well taken when we
consider how quickly corporate image can be damaged by poor outsourcing
practices, product recall problems or environmental disasters. Engineers,
information technology managers and emergency response teams commonly
plan for disaster recovery. Marketing practitioners would do well to emulate
and similarly develop such defensive positioning policies.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Box 2 presents micro network strategies for creating positive brand equity. It
should be noted that the particular strategies selected in box 2 focus on
building long-run brand equity among the firm‘s target and peripheral markets
The fundamental difference between the macro and micro strategies are that
the former are directed toward the macromarketing environment in which the
firm is embedded while the latter are focused on the firm‘s direct and derived
demand (Meredith 2006) customers. Many of these micro strategies are very
familiar to practitioners (e.g., relationship marketing) and need little
elaboration here. Two relatively newer issues do however merit discussion.
First, Internet and SNS developments have contributed to long run brand
equity building techniques. These have proven useful not only in business to
consumer markets but more recently for B2B practitioners as well. It allows
the latter to reach not only their direct customers in an attempt to build longterm loyalty but also final consumers in the derived demand category. Second,
network theory has made significant advances in helping hub firms establish
extended self-governance in their supply chains. This has been in part caused
by macro network pressures resulting from transgressions by supply-chain
members that generate subsequent reactions by adversarial stakeholders in
the hub firm‘s final customer markets. For example, the Rana Plaza building
collapse in Bangladesh where 1100 workers died, caused major
repercussions for retailers who relied on suppliers working from that factory.
In box 3 the components of macro network based negative brand equity are
introduced. Adversarial stakeholders can develop from a broad spectrum
extending from disaffected individual customers who voice their concerns
using the Internet to highly organized groups who are opposed to individual
corporations or their industries. Their danger to the corporate agenda is
twofold. First, through voicing individual complaints via blogs or YouTube
videos for example, they can potentially compromise the practitioner‘s positive
attribution marketing efforts. Second, using their own negative attribution
marketing/PR campaigns they can damage the firm's marketing efforts or
even worse, generate a ―veto vote‖ that is sufficiently strong to influence
public and political views regarding the company and/or its industry.
SNS skills also allow adversarial stakeholders to gain what is best referred to
as critical mass in affecting public and political opinion via mass media. Once
the adversarial SNS site is sufficiently large in terms of participation, it
potentially becomes a source of attention for mass media coverage. Consider
the attraction that mobile connectivity, photo/video/sharing like U-Tube and
blogging offer to mass media in terms of providing easy access to news
stories. A number of hypothesized effects are suggested. First, mass media
coverage helps attract even more attention to the SNS site thereby building
additional traffic for it. Second, the conventional mass media coverage
spreads the adversarial stakeholder message to the much wider public
stakeholder body as well as to politicians and industry regulatory bodies. Third,
in response to the increasing trend whereby news is now consumed on
mobile devices, mass media sources have instituted their own interactive SNS
programs such as ―viewer voting websites‖ in attempts to maintain their
market shares. This symbiotic relationship between SNS and mass media is
indicated in diagram 2 by the solid arrow leading from the ―Internet and Social
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Network Sites‖ box to ―Mass Media‖ with the return dotted arrow traveling
from the ―Mass Media‖ box back to the ―Internet & SNS― box.
A caveat is required here since this hypothesis need to be tested from a
causality standpoint by using time series analysis to examine temporal data of
the progression:
a/ from the social network site ‗hits‘;
b/ to the attraction of mass media coverage (proxied by broadcast minutes
and print column inches) and then subsequently back to;
c/ further increased hits that develop back on the social network site(s).
This hypothesis in effect argues for a synergistic relationship whereby SNS
and mass media coverage stimulate coverage for each other. This hypothesis
is also purely speculative and requires structural equation modeling (Lisrel) to
search for antecedent and correlative evidence. It is based on the authors‘
anecdotal experience of approximately 1800 mass media and Internet
interviews––many of which dealt with adversarial stakeholders and negative
attribution communications. Again anecdotally, it is also notable that in the last
two decades the pattern of mass media reporters requesting interviews based
on SNS activity has grown exponentially. From an empirical standpoint there
may also be some collaborative support for the preceding hypothesis based
on research by Yu, Duan and Cao (2013). They found that social media
combined with conventional (mass) media had a strong interactive effect in
terms of their impact on the stock performance of 824 publicly traded firms.
Mass media can also function as independent adversarial stakeholders in
their own right by fulfilling their mandate for investigative journalism. This can
be problematic for marketing managers since failures in only one part of the
marketing mix may be sufficient to generate negative mass media exposure
and influence public opinion. In effect, the hub firm and/or its core network
may fall victim to an ―Achilles' heel‖ effect where a single issue can make
them vulnerable to adversarial stakeholders‘ negative attribution. The
negative attribution ascribed to Nike over sweatshop production practices in
Asia is a good example.
Adversarial political stakeholders develop both through ideological differences
of opinion with industries and corporations and also as a result of derived
response. The latter occurs when other adversarial stakeholder groups are
able to generate sufficiently strong negative attribution to influence the
positioning adopted by political decision-makers as they attempt to sustain
their political base (Feng, Lessard, Crawley, de Weck, and Cameron, 2012).
As communications by adversarial groups gain traction with public
stakeholders, political decision-makers may be pressured to modify or adopt a
concordant position as they attempt to maintain their political base.
Governmental agencies in turn become adversarial stakeholders since the
derived response from political stakeholders is often manifested in
government restrictions and regulations that the agencies must enforce.
Additionally, agency mandates often require that they exercise what is
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
deemed to be a sufficient level of adversarial oriented oversight or risk
criticism for dereliction of their responsibility.
Legal interventions may also arise when adversarial stakeholders invoke
either civil or criminal proceedings. Both the likelihood and severity of legal
threats that might be introduced by any stakeholder group are of relevance.
One good indicator of the probability of legal action is the past history of such
use by a stakeholder. Extensive experience in launching civil or criminal
actions serves as a proxy for the sophistication of adversaries – especially if
their past actions have proven successful. Environmental and aboriginal
groups for example, have made effective use of court injunctions to stall
resource development projects by industrial marketers (e.g., Keystone
pipeline in the US and the and the Enbridge pipeline in Canada). The severity
of legal actions can also range from extensive civil damages based on class
action suits to criminal and government agency penalties that can include
both substantial fines and/or indictments.
Coupling these sources of negative attribution together leads to the causal
structure expressed in Diagram 2. The heavy dark arrows suggest the
hypothesized causal direction of influence among the stakeholder groups.
While it can also be argued that all of the stakeholder groups can
simultaneously influence each other, the direction of the dark arrows is
intended to indicate the main flow of negative attribution among stakeholders.
The dotted arrows indicate the proposed direct positioning strategies that can
also be used by the various adversarial stakeholder groups as they mount
direct advertising/PR campaigns to influence other stakeholders. The solid
black arrows indicate the countervailing communications used by the core
network/industry as they also attempt to directly influence those same
stakeholder groups and/or defend their position.
Box 4 deals with micro network sources of negative attribution. There is a
substantial literature on hub companies, their supply chain partners and the
strategic management networks that weld them together. (Ford, Gadde,
Håkansson & Snehota 2002; Parolini, 1999; Gulati 2007; Lavie, 2007). A
lesser amount of research however, deals with the impact of negative
attribution and its subsequent effect on negative brand equity.
Just as positive brand equity must be built over time, it is argued that negative
brand equity results from the accumulation of negative events and behaviors
that also occur over time. While macro network based negative attribution
usually originates with stakeholders external to the firm and its industry, the
micro network sources of negative brand equity are usually found within the
hub firm, its core network (Partanen & Möller 2012) and/or its industry.
Negative brand equity then, is argued to be a function of both current as well
as past performance by the core network and/or its industry members.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Diag.2
Stakeholder Causality
Diag.2
Adversarial
Adversarial
Stakeholders
Stakeholders
Corporate
Core
Network&&
Industry
Industry
Agendas
Communications
Regulatory and
and Legal
Regulatory
Legal
Stakeholders
Stakeholders
Political
Political Stakeholders
Stakeholders
Internet&&
Internet
SocialNetwork
Network
Social
Sites
Sites
Mass
Mass
Media
Media
Public
Public
Stakeholders
Stakeholders
Corporate brand deficit‖ refers to the cumulative result of poor corporate
marketing practices as well as corporate marketing disasters that may
originate within the core network. As supply chains lengthen with global
sourcing for example, there is an increasing chance that the hub firm‘s
reputation may be compromised by suppliers further back in the chain (Locke,
Qin, and Brause, 2007).
Similarly, the hub firm‘s industry may generate negative attribution that
eventually contributes to substantial negative brand equity and elicits
adversarial stakeholder response. The significant increase in oil tanker car
derailments and fires attributable to a few companies has resulted in new
federal safety regulations that now apply to the entire industry.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
In Box 5, attribution balance is determined by the interaction of positive and
negative brand equity. Whether the valence is positive or negative is a
function of how effectively the core network are able to generate a level of
positive attribution versus how effectively negative attribution is generated
either by the core network‘s poor marketing practices or by adversarial
stakeholders. The impact of this interaction has been to force practitioners to
alter their attribution campaigns. First, to develop their own positive attribution
campaigns by explaining and promoting their own brands and agendas.
Second, to counter adversarial stakeholder negative attribution campaigns
that effectively reposition them in an unfavorable light.
Static or cumulative effects address the issue of long-term brand equity
positioning. Some long-term social equity or cause marketing strategies may
prove successful in building a positive brand equity position that could be
helpful in maintaining customer loyalty. As stated earlier, a second argument
might be made that it also contributes to a stock of social goodwill that might
prove useful in moderating the response of potential adversarial stakeholders
should a marketing error or PR disaster occur. Just as it might be argued that
positive brand equity contains a cumulative or static element that contributes
to favorable long-term perceptual stability, the corollary might be suggested
that negative brand equity represents the accumulation of reputational brand
deficits that might not easily be reversed.
The dynamic aspect of brand equity addresses the issues of currency and
magnitude. Currency of issues related to the firm‘s brand, products and
projects is important because significant current attention––positive or
negative––will serve to raise public recall and subsequent sensitivity to the
firm‘s marketing efforts. Environmental scanning is useful in this regard
because stakeholder reaction could be a function of:
a/ the aggregate industry‘s reputation;
b/ the behavior of other firm‘s in the core network‘s value chain;
c/ the current reputation of the marketer‘s own firm and/or;
d/ related issues raised by any of the stakeholder groups.
Magnitude addresses the importance of the micro network and its behavior to
the macro network stakeholders. Consider for example, the rapid stakeholder
response over public water supplies when oil companies introduced ‗fracking‘
or the magnitude of the public, political and legal stakeholders response to
British Petroleum's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The more important the
product or project to stakeholders, the more effort that must be spent on
research to accurately gauge public sentiment and to identify both the key
positive (and especially) negative attributes that have to be addressed in
positioning. A useful heuristic at this point is that the more important the issue
is to public stakeholders the easier it will be for adversarial groups to mobilize
public participation in the form of petitions, boycotts, blockades and/or
demonstrations meant to pressure political stakeholders.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
In diagram 2 the cumulative result of direct and indirect adversarial
stakeholder pressures viz. the other stakeholder groups is to produce an
impact on corporate and industry agendas. In the process of rationalizing the
various stakeholder pressures, the core networks and their industries must
ultimately interact with the adversarial stakeholders. The outcome of this
interaction leads to three possibilities:
a. corporations/industry in the micro network reach some accommodation
with adversarial stakeholders in a negotiated solution;
b. adversarial stakeholders are successful in persuading the other
stakeholder groups to impose sanctions/outright prohibitions or;
c. the corporations/industries are successful in defeating adversarial
stakeholder pressures originating with the macro network.
In diagram 3 the interactive dynamics of negative and positive attribution are
explored. The diagram delineates the gradations of attribution from strong
positive through neutral to strong negative. It also identifies advocate, neutral
and adversarial stakeholders in the macro network and shows the micro
network that is comprised of supportive customers/core network
communications, neutral non-customers and disaffected/indirect substitute
customers. The dotted lines indicate the communications flows that govern
the interaction of the macro and micro network players while the solid lines
represent the potential recruitment flows between the participant groups that
result.
It is hypothesized that the positive attribution sources in the macro and micro
networks would in the first instance, target their communications at the
advocate stakeholders (box 1) and supportive customers (box 4) as a means
of reinforcing support within their target markets. Next, the neutral
stakeholders (box 2) and neutral non-customers (box 5) would be approached
since these groups may prove susceptible to persuasive positive attribution
communications. Adversarial stakeholder groups holding a weak negative
attribution position might also be targeted in hopes of converting them either
to a neutral attribution status or even a weak positive attribution outlook.
Similarly, disaffected customers and/or those using indirect substitutes (box 6)
to that offered by the core network might be targeted if market research
indicates they hold a weak negative attribution position that could potentially
be converted to a neutral or positive position. It would be naïve to expect that
those stakeholders (boxes 3 & 6) holding a strong negative attribution outlook
could easily be converted to a positive position. Nevertheless, the core
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Diag. 3
ATTRIBUTION DYNAMICS
POSITIVE
ATTRIBUTION
SOURCES
STRONG
POSITIVE
ATTRIBUTION
MACRO
NETWORK
MICRO
NETWORK
ATTRIBUTION
NEUTRALITY
NEGATIVE
ATTRIBUTION
SOURCES
WEAK
NEGATIVE
ATTRIBUTION
WEAK
POSITIVE
ATTRIBUTION
1
ADVOCATE
STAKEHOLDERS
4
SUPPORTIVE
CUSTOMERS & CORE
NETWORK
COMMUNICATIONS
NEUTRAL
STAKEHOLDERS
ATTRIBUTION
NEUTRAL
NON-CUSTOMERS
2
5
STRONG
NEGATIVE
ATTRIBUTION
3
ADVERSARIAL
STAKEHOLDERS
DISSATISFIED &
INDIRECT
ç√
SUBSTITUTE
CUSTOMERS
6
network might target them in attempt to convert them (through concessions
for example) from a strong negative to a weaker negative attribution position.
The negative attribution sources are hypothesized to act inversely. I.e., First
they would entrench their position through communications between the
adversarial stakeholders who hold negative attribution views in the macro and
micro networks (boxes 3 & 6). Subsequently the stakeholders (boxes 2 & 5)
characterized by attribution neutrality would be targeted in hopes of
converting them to an adversarial status. Finally, with a forecasted lesser
degree of success, some communications might be directed at those holding
a strong positive outlook viz. the core network and its agenda (boxes1 & 4).
The objective here is not so much to convert positive into negative attribution
but rather to weaken the degree of commitment to the positive attribution
position.
In addition to communications flowing horizontally within each of the macro
and the micro networks, communications also flow vertically between macro
stakeholder groups and micro stakeholder groups as the advocate and
adversarial proponents attempt to recruit support among the various customer
groups (boxes 4, 5 and 6).
The ultimate attribution balance would be determined by the ability of the
advocate and adversarial stakeholders to recruit the largest as well as most
important stakeholder groups in Diagram 2 to their side.
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
Managerial Implications
A number of marketing implications are relevant for the practitioner.
1. Micro network planning to interact with macro network stakeholders
involves significant judgmental input. As with environmental scanning (Daft,
Sormunen & Parks 1988; Weston 1991; Bharadwaj, Varadarajan & Fahy
1993; Harari 1994; Stratis & Powers 2001; Meredith 2007). Relevant
external target market identification requires that marketers be able to look
beyond the firm‘s direct customers and micro network. Traditionally this has
been problematic––especially for business-to-business and resource
extractive firms who traditionally, have been somewhat slower in
recognizing the power of increasingly active adversarial stakeholders in the
macro networks.
2. Practitioners need to be more sensitive to derived demand and derived
response viz. the idea that they must help direct customers and supportive
stakeholders
advocate
on
their
behalf
to
downstream
customers/stakeholders. This is especially relevant when dealing with
mass media, public and political stakeholders who are most likely to be
targeted by adversarial groups.
3. Practitioners must develop strategies to target stakeholders who may
distrust or outright dislike them and/or their core network. Converting strong
negative attribution stakeholders to supporters would be naïve. Rather, the
objective is to position brands, projects or products such that negative
attributions are anticipated and hopefully mitigated––if not for strongly
adversarial groups then at least for weakly committed adversarial and
attribution neutral segments.
4. With good reason, many practitioners are averse to initiating a discussion
regarding any negative attributes of their brand. Waiting for adversarial
stakeholders to take a first mover advantage however, and only then
responding with a counter-marketing campaign can leave them at a distinct
disadvantage viz. stakeholders in the larger macro network. Keystone‘s
counter-campaign to promote it's pipeline in the US after environmental
groups effectively influenced media, public and political stakeholders is a
classic example of this ‗come from behind‘ strategic positioning.
5. The symbiosis that has developed between social network systems and
mass media has created the potential for a powerful critical mass of opinion
that can develop very quickly. Marketers must be aware that adversarial
stakeholders––even individuals––now have a mechanism via SNS
platforms like YouTube with which they can mount effective negative
attribution campaigns very quickly.
6. Marketing practitioners should include the development of plans for worstcase scenario events just as engineers, information technology managers
and emergency response teams commonly plan for disaster recovery.
‗Disaster marketing plans‘ are needed because negative attribution
reactions can unfold very quickly and vehemently following public relations
Proceedings of 12th Asian Business Research Conference
8 - 9 October 2015, Novotel Hotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
ISBN: 978-1-922069-85-6
disaster events. Lucea‘s (2007) advice that timely management helps to
avoid escalation is well taken when we consider how quickly corporate
image can be damaged by poor outsourcing practices, product recall
problems or environmental disasters.
Conclusions
This initial attempt to focus on organizational equity as structured by positive
and negative attribution clearly needs much more work. It does however
represent an attempt to firstly explore potential sources of positive/negative
attribution and secondly to offer some tentative hypotheses regarding the
dynamics of attribution interaction between the micro and macro stakeholders.
Multivariate research is obviously needed to substantiate many of the ideas
suggested here. Time series work is needed to examine causality issues
between the various stakeholder groups and how they influence each other.
Antecedent variables need to be identified and examined through structural
equation modeling techniques like Lisrel. The objective however was not to
focus on multivariate modeling and hypothesis testing.
Rather, two objectives are intended. First, it is hoped that research in
marketing can be expanded more to include negative attribution and how it
functions in micro/macro networks. A massive amount of literature has been
devoted to promoting brands, products and projects. Comparatively little work
has addressed the need to deal with adversarial stakeholders who don't trust
or dislike the marketer‘s organization. Second, the article was developed in no
small part to help practitioners deal with negative attribution threats that can
make their firm, its micro network and its objectives vulnerable to stakeholder
attack because changes brought about by Internet technology, and the
increased sophistication of adversarial stakeholders have markedly changed
the marketing environment.
Practitioners have traditionally been taught to focus on marketing the positive
attributes of their brands and products to direct customers. The intent of this
paper is to widen the discussion and argue that marketers may also need to
explicitly plan on positioning to other stakeholders as well. Some of these
macro stakeholders may be friendly to the firm and the marketer needs to
supply them with the means to argue on the company‘s behalf. Others will be
adversarial. But ignoring them does not make them go away. Positioning
plans are also needed for these stakeholders to mitigate their concerns and
hopefully at least move them toward a neutral attribution position.
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