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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This issue features a specially chosen and eclectic mix of papers to reflect the diversity at the forefront of qualitative research with firms and consumers. There are numerous qualitative approaches and techniques, and being able to capture some of these for totally different situations and markets adds to the treasure trove of research.
Complexity in brand management is one area that continues to attract publications in marketing and marketing research journals. There are many publications of research on the subject of branding, but it is enlightening to have a paper that presents a critique of the challenges faced by brand managers. This paper from Julie Schoenfelder and Phil Harris builds upon their award winning, best qualitative paper from the Academy of Marketing Conference held at Aston University in July 2003. It contains an examination of the weaknesses of corporate brand theories, both from the literature and from their own assessments of brand management practice. For instance, within the literature on marketing research the authors note the resistance to adopting and acknowledging qualitative research techniques to acquire knowledge, given the “over-quantification” of marketing research methods. Their assessments of the weaknesses of such theories has led them to set about the tasks of how to make recommendations for overcoming them, for example, in matters relating to an observable lack of empirical research, the abstracted nature of generated brand theories and the lack of marketing research. Their paper offers a rationale for investigating brand strategies in the telecommunications market and gives a useful summary of the methods chosen for the research undertaken with key results emerging from their investigations.
Managers and their employees need to share in and to build understanding of what their brands stand for. However, with multicultural workforces, this mutual understanding is far more difficult to achieve. In order to maintain consistency in brand management activities, this second paper by Christine Vallaster puts forth a creative pictorial and ideas roadmap within the context of action research from her interviews with respondents in multicultural organisations. Her concerns about internal brand building include her perception about a lack of existing literature despite business interest in the topic. She develops a line of argument as to why action research can become the appropriate research approach for studying internal brand building in multicultural organizations. The processes in her qualitative approach include a methodological framework with the results of pre-tests and published material where appropriate. Her contribution to the limitations of action research is to consider how far it could be used in tracking and analysing intercultural interactions and leadership processes in the context of brand management. There are insights for internal brand building analysis. Reflections about maintaining consistency in brand management activities for future research directions are welcomed.
The next paper moves us from internal relationships to externalities of relationship building in an international cross-cultural study. Building trust in cross-cultural business to business partnerships is an important component of strategy for organizations. Troy Heffernan from Australia, in the third paper, puts forth the view that little is known about the development and formation of trust in cross-cultural business-to-business relationships. The author asserts that there is little academic research about the impact and development of trust on cross-cultural relationships, and that fundamental gaps remain in the understanding of these relationships. There is, however, useful literature concerning relationship marketing. The author’s own research is built upon an investigation of the factors for building trust at the pre-relationship, early interaction and relationship growth stages of the business-to-business relationship lifecycle. By triangulating two qualitative techniques this paper examines how trust can be fostered through the initial three stages of the relationship lifecycle. The author advocates that shedding light on trust formation at the critical initial stages of business-to-business relationship development will allow practitioners to ascertain the trust building factors. To do this there are certain aspects that are required to be in place to increase the chances of success in cross-cultural relationships. His findings contribute in showing how trust can develop in markedly different forms dependent on the lifecycle stages of these relationships.
The following paper concentrates on strategy definition to guide business growth in large corporations. Though there is much presented in the literature about the processes of formulating and defining strategy the debate about what processes to follow for small firms, carries on. Ian Burke and Denise Jarratt examine the literature concerning strategy development and conclude that the small firm is not easily described or understood by business researchers. The exhaustive strategic analysis for large firms can be overtaken by the cult of the personality-driven, opportunistic or instinctive approach of the small firm manager, channelled through what the authors call an emergent planning process. We all know that small business decision-makers can partake of a variety of information and advice from a broad range of professional, business and personal sources. What their paper contributes is nicely defined strategy contexts and a qualitative study of sixteen cases of small firms. The study takes into account their planning patterns and approaches, the nature and extent of both information and advice sought, received and acted on by the small firms. A qualitative assessment is given of the influences of the small firms” interactions in developing strategy.
There are challenges in changing attitudes and behaviour which are, arguably, the most difficult to achieve. The next paper, in a different field concerning the use of interactional psychology for salesforce management, comes from the USA and is by Todd Donavan, Xiang Fang, Neeli Bendapudi and Surendra Singh. The authors assert that sales force research lends itself to the study of interactionism. Accordingly, in predicting attitudes and behaviour, the study of such interactions, and their qualitative implications and outcomes, needs to be assessed. There are ideas concerning interactionism in modern day business life and the authors advocate the simultaneous study of the P (person) and E (environment) within this context. While these are not new ideas, qualitative research about markets inevitably take account of people and environments, the authors make a valid case for researching the implications for sales force socialization. Following the interactionist view of salesforce research the authors point to specific illustrations of how interactionist concepts from psychology are effectively applied in salesforce socialization. The objectives for managers are in improving morale and commitment from their sales staff while raising turnover and gaining correspondingly higher productivity from those they employ. The authors contribute a synthesized interactionist model with person-situation variables to find answers to questions about salesforce socialization. They end with an interactionist research paradigm proposed as a way of improving P-E fit.
The markets for products and services aimed at teenagers are growing and at times, it appears, by leaps and bounds. This is imaginatively captured in the portrayal of teenagers as “agents of change” by Ian Spero and Merlin Stone. See their insightful paper in “Special report”. Their comments into this target market segment are lively, rich and witty. Young consumers, far from being a passive target market segment, are themselves changing the dynamics in the marketplace. As with the digital playground they are forcing re-considerations of their demands for products and services to suit their needs and lifestyles. Smart marketers are those who pay heed to the technological obvious and not so obvious nuances of changes in the marketing environment for such “culturepreneurs”. Importantly, theirs is the future and it is the qualitative vision of things to come!
Miriam Catterall, in the “Book reviews and dissertations” section, features eight dissertations from North American and British universities. Topics that are covered range from the efficiency and effectiveness of online research to B2B studies and use of the Internet to word-of-mouth and negative communications. She has done a commendable job in taking topics that are relevant to academic and commercial research practitioners. Her inclusion of Kathy Hamilton’s excellent review of the book by Chris Hackley, Doing Research Projects in Marketing Management and Consumer Research, is a masterstroke. The review by Kathy is enlightening in its analysis and clarity of the “interpretive” strengths of the book. Comparisons with other books are on a limited basis, but her explanations are lucid and the reader is left in no doubt, as to the book’s usefulness.
Finally, my thanks are expressed in this Editorial to Richard Whitfield (Emerald), Miriam and all the authors of the six papers for making this normal issue a success.
Len Tiu Wrightlwright@dmu.ac.uk