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Pawnbroking in pre-1949 China: soft strategies for overcoming a negative image

Tony Yan (Global Business Leadership Department, College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA)
Michael R. Hyman (Department of Marketing, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA)

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

ISSN: 1355-5855

Article publication date: 13 March 2019

Issue publication date: 24 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the means for enhancing the image and business legitimacy of a socially discredited industry – pawnbroking in pre-1949 China – are explored. Previous studies suggest companies operating within such industries cannot solely rely on hard marketing strategies “to maximize sales and profits as they do with soaps and shoes” (Davidson, 2003, p. 7). Instead, they must find soft strategies for improving company and industry image and legitimacy.


This research relies on qualitative analysis of historical data and documents.


Soft strategies deployed by Chinese pawnbrokers – such as interpretations, moral value advocacies and institutionalized arrangements – contributed substantially to improving pawnbroking’s image and business legitimacy.

Research limitations/implications

Interconnections among ethical values, image, business legitimacy and select marketing strategies are clarified. The efficacy of historically analyzing previously implemented business strategies and their embedding contexts is discussed.

Practical implications

Strategies Chinese pawnbrokers used to mitigate their previously negative image and boost their business legitimacy suggest strategies current socially disapproved companies can use to improve their image and business legitimacy.


A historical analysis of pre-1949 Chinese pawnbroking can suggest soft marketing strategies for overcoming consumers’ negative company and industry impressions.



Yan, T. and Hyman, M.R. (2019), "Pawnbroking in pre-1949 China: soft strategies for overcoming a negative image", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 580-591.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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