Strategy Beyond Markets: Volume 34

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Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xiii-xxiv
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Abstract

This paper provides a perspective on the field of nonmarket strategy. It does not attempt to survey the literature but instead focuses on the substantive content of research in the field. The paper discusses the origins of the field and the roles of nonmarket strategy. The political economy framework is used and contrasted with the current form of the resource-based theory. The paper argues that research should focus on the firm level and argues that the strategy of self-regulation can be useful in reducing the likelihood of challenges from private and public politics. The political economy perspective is illustrated using three examples: (1) public politics: Uber, (2) private politics: Rainforest Action Network and Citigroup, and (3) integrated strategy and private and public politics: The Fast Food Campaign. The paper concludes with a discussion of research issues in theory, empirics, and normative assessment.

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Part I: Public Politics

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This paper explores firms’ strategic options when their investments are subject to the threat of government expropriation. I develop a simple hold-up model of political risk. In the model, a firm decides whether to invest and then the government decides whether to expropriate the firm’s investment or to simply collect normal taxes on its profits. The government is motivated by revenue and a wide range of nonpecuniary factors: its reputation, electoral pressures, patronage opportunities, and pressure from external actors. In the model, the likelihood of expropriation depends on several factors: the firm’s profits, the amount of taxes it pays, the government’s ability to operate the firm’s assets, and the government’s political incentives. Effective management of political risk requires an integrated strategy, consisting not only of public and government relations efforts, but also financial, value chain, and human resources strategies designed to reduce the government’s incentives for expropriation.

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The field of nonmarket strategy has expanded rapidly over the past 20 years to provide theoretical and practical guidance for managers seeking to influence policymaking. Much of this scholarship has built directly on spatial and “pivotal politics” models of lawmaking. While extremely helpful at identifying crucial targets for lobbying, these models treat all policymakers as identical in their abilities to advance legislative agenda items through various policymaking hurdles. We build upon these earlier models, but include policymakers who vary in their relative effectiveness at advancing measures through the legislative process. We identify how the implications of our model deviate from those of conventional (pivotal politics) analyses. We then present an empirical strategy for identifying effective Lawmakers in the United States Congress, and illustrate the utility of this approach for managers developing nonmarket strategies in legislative institutions, relying on the case of banking and financial services reforms between 2008 and 2011.

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Political risk is a complex phenomenon. This complexity has incentivized scholars to take a piecemeal approach to understanding it. Nearly all scholarship has targeted a single type of political risk (expropriation) and, within this risk, a single type of firm (MNCs) and a single type of strategic mechanism through which that risk may be mitigated (entry mode). Yet “political risk” is actually a collection of multiple distinct risks that affect the full spectrum of foreign firms, and these firms vary widely in their capabilities for resisting and evading these risks. We offer a unified theoretical model that can simultaneously analyze: the three main types of political risk (war, expropriation, and transfer restrictions); the universe of private foreign investors (direct investors, portfolio equity investors, portfolio debt investors, and commercial banks); heterogeneity in government constraints; and the three most relevant strategic capabilities (information, exit, and resistance). We leverage the variance among foreign investors to identify effective firm strategies to manage political risk. By employing a simultaneous and unified model of political risk, we also find counterintuitive insights on the way governments trade off between risks and how investors use other investors as risk shields.

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Campaign contributions are typically seen as a strategic investment for firms; recent empirical evidence, however, has shown few connections between firms’ contributions and regulatory or performance improvements, prompting researchers to explore agency-based explanations for corporate politics. By studying intrafirm campaign contributions of CEOs and political action committees (PACs), we investigate two hypotheses related to public politics and demonstrate that strategic and agency-based motivations may hold simultaneously. Exploiting transaction-level data, with over 6.8 million observations, we show that (i) when PACs give to specific candidates, executives give to the same candidates, especially those who are strategically important to the firm; and (ii) when executives give to candidates who are not strategically important, PACs give to the same candidates potentially due to agency problems within the firm.

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We show that, in the US telecommunications industry, market participants have a sophisticated understanding of the political process, and behave strategically in their allocation of contributions to state legislators as if seeking to purchase influence over regulatory policy. We find that interests respond defensively to contributions from rivals, take into account the configuration of support available to them in both the legislature and the regulatory commission, and vary their contributions according to variations in relative costs for influence by different legislatures. This strategic behavior supports a theory that commercially motivated interests contribute campaign resources in order to mobilize legislators to influence the decisions of regulatory agencies. We also report evidence that restrictions on campaign finance do not affect all interests equally. The paper therefore provides positive evidence on the nature and effects of campaign contributions in regulated industries where interest group competition may be sharp.

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Part II: Private Politics

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We model the interaction between a profit-maximizing firm and an activist using an infinite-horizon dynamic stochastic game. The firm enhances its reputation through “self-regulation”: voluntary provision of an abatement activity that reduces a negative externality. We show that in equilibrium the externality-reducing activity is subject to decreasing marginal returns, which can cause the firm to “coast on its reputation,” that is, decrease the level of externality-reducing activity as its reputation grows. The activist, which benefits from increases in the externality-reducing activity, can take two types of action that can harm the firm’s reputation: criticism, which can impair the firm’s reputation on the margin, and confrontation, which can trigger a crisis that may severely damage the firm’s reputation. The activist changes the reputational dynamics of the game by tending to keep the firm in reputational states in which it is highly motivated to invest in externality-reducing activity. Criticism and confrontational activity are shown to be imperfect substitutes. The more patient the activist or the more passionate it is about externality reduction, the more likely it is to rely on confrontation. The more patient the firm and the more important corporate citizenship is to firm’s brand equity, the more likely that it will be targeted by an activist that relies on confrontation.

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A large literature studies why firms self-regulate and “signal green.” However, it has ignored that regulators have enforcement discretion, and may act strategically. We fill this gap. We build a game theoretic model of whether a firm should signal its type through substantial self-regulation. We find self-regulation is a double-edged sword: it can potentially preempt legislation, but it can also lead regulators to demand higher levels of compliance from greener firms if preemption fails. We show how self-regulatory decisions depend upon industry characteristics and political responsiveness to corporate environmental leadership. We have made a number of simplifying assumptions. We assume activist groups cannot challenge regulatory flexibility in court, and that regulatory penalties are fixed and are not collected by the regulator. Firms with low compliance costs confront a tradeoff regarding self-regulation. They can blend in with the rest of the industry, and take few self-regulatory steps. This reduces the risk of regulation somewhat, and preserves their ability to obtain regulatory flexibility should regulation be imposed. Alternatively, they can step up with substantial self-regulation. This better mitigates the risk of regulation, but at the risk of signaling low costs and becoming a target for stringent enforcement should regulation pass. Recent work has found negative market reactions to corporate claims of voluntary emissions reductions, despite the conventional wisdom that it “pays to be green.” We offer a new explanation to scholars and managers: regulatory discretion may undermine the ability of industry self-regulation to profitably preempt mandatory regulatory requirements.

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Private politics refers to situations in which activists or NGOs try to push firms to conform to social standards (regarding, for instance, human rights and environmental protection) without public policy intervention. The existing literature on private politics has focused on large campaigns such as consumer boycotts, and looked at the impact of those boycotts on firms’ financial performance and on the likelihood that firms comply with activist demands. Even though these large campaigns are important, focusing on them leads to neglecting the fact that a large portion of the time and resources that activists consecrate to private politics is used to monitor firms and criticize them through Internet posting and media statements, rather than to launch high profile campaigns. Little is known, however, about what drives these activists when they criticize companies, why they target certain companies and not others, and whether this criticism should be considered as a primary step in the production of full-fledged campaigns. In this paper, we fill this gap by exploring a unique international database of CSR-based criticisms against Fortune 500 companies for the 2006–2009 period. This database allows us to look at the impact of a broad range of factors including industry differences, country/institutional differences and firm-specific dimensions, on the likelihood that a certain firm will be targeted by activist critique. Results indicate that criticism is driven by strategic intents. Similar to previous literature, large and visible firms in certain industries are more targeted than others. In addition, these firms also tend to come from countries with strong institutions and high standards of living.

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Part III: Integrated Political Strategy

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This paper explores how firms within the audience measurement industry, specifically its radio and television markets, have navigated myriad market and nonmarket challenges. The market strategies and the nonmarket forces that constrain those strategies are largely defined by two features: the delineation of its geographic markets by political boundaries and markets that have natural monopoly characteristics. While the pre-monopoly stage or periods of competition may be comparatively short-lived, they are still telling. Monopolists undertake market strategies designed to ensure that they are not supplanted and nonmarket actions geared to avoiding undesirable constraints and reputational damage. Depending on their legal and regulatory environment, customers of the measurement services have used both market and nonmarket actions to mitigate the market power of the audience measurement firms. This paper focuses primarily on the U.S. radio and television audience measurement markets that Arbitron and Nielsen, respectively, have dominated for decades. Non-U.S. markets, which frequently feature America’s foremost firms, illustrate alternatives to America’s largely laissez-faire approach.

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The purpose of this paper is to explore how firms organize to engage in nonmarket strategy. To achieve this end, we explore the organization of nonmarket strategy via a formal model of the firm. The model is motivated by a qualitative study of the organization of nonmarket strategy of 25 large, US firms. Firms either integrate nonmarket strategy activities throughout the firm or create stand-alone business units that specialize in nonmarket strategy activities. We find that the advantage of integration over specialization is U-shaped in the importance of nonmarket strategy to the firm’s market strategy. We identify several other factors that predict the advantage (and disadvantage) of integration over specialization. The value of this paper is that it is (to the best of our knowledge) the first to identify the factors that should cause a firm to either integrate or specialize the organization of its nonmarket strategy. It also develops an original typology of the organization of nonmarket strategy.

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We examine how a firm’s market-oriented capabilities (in areas such as R&D or marketing) and consumer focus (business-to-business or business-to-consumer) foster its effectiveness in pursuing corporate political activities. We then explore the sustainability of any advantage that firms may gain from their political activities. We develop a conceptual framework to propose that a firm’s political capabilities to implement different political tactics, such as information provision and constituency building, are a product of how related these tactics are to different market-oriented capabilities and to the skills needed to serve different types of customers. Finally, we propose that the integration of market strategies and political strategies provides new insight into the sustainability of the advantages that a firm might gain through political activities.

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Patent litigation consists of non-market actions that firms undertake to access intellectual property rights defined by prior legislation and enforced by the courts. Thus, patent litigation provides an interesting context in which to explore aspects of firm’s non-market strategies. In contrast with prior non-market strategy research that has largely focused on how political institutions define the rules of the game for market competition, non-market actions within patent litigation primarily seek to access and apply these broad policies to specific situations, products, or assets that matter to the firm. Furthermore, because such non-market actions are directly influenced by the firms’ market strategies, they represent a promising area for research on integrated (market and non-market) strategies as well.

The goal of this paper is to explain how generic patent strategies that firms use to support their competitive advantage in the product-market influence non-market outcomes related to the timing of patent litigation resolution. In contrast with prior research that has studied settlement in patent litigation essentially as a one-shot bargaining game, this paper seeks to explain litigation resolution as an outcome of the competing mechanisms of settlement and adjudication that operate continually during litigation. Using a large sample of patent litigations in research medicines and computers, I model the timing of patent litigation resolution in a proportional hazards framework, wherein settlement and adjudication are competing risks. The evidence found is consistent with the proposition that the speed with which patent litigation is resolved by either settlement or adjudication reflects the use of proprietary, defensive, and leveraging patent strategies by firms. These findings also help to explain unexpected and anomalous findings regarding the settlement of patent litigation reported in prior research.

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About the Authors

Pages 505-514
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Cover of Strategy Beyond Markets
DOI
10.1108/S0742-3322201634
Publication date
2016-05-03
Book series
Advances in Strategic Management
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-019-0
Book series ISSN
0742-3322