Blurring the Stark Distinction Between Masculine and Feminine Brands

An identity, integral to our understanding of who we are is our gender identity. It is perhaps the first and the most easily recognizable feature of our persona that we. Unlike sex, our gender is not congenitally determined; rather it is constructed, developed, and refined through social and cultural exchanges. The appropriate and discriminatory gender roles ascribed by the society, direct communication, and influence of media coerce us to develop a personal sense of “maleness or femaleness”.

Business Perspectives and ResearchWhatever be the case, once we develop a gender identity we communicate and demonstrate it in a number of ways. A common way is to appropriate consumption practices and props that reflect our gender identity. Marketers’ gender work is instrumental in creating gendered brands. Since gendered brands appeal to the gender of consumers, they are suitable for either men or women, but not for both. As such, gendered brands create distinct gender cultures populated with gender specific brands. However, of late stagnant sales and societal changes have encouraged many marketers to engage in brand gender bending by deconstructing the gender exclusivity of brands. Marketers are continually expanding the gender spectrum of previously gendered brands by bringing women into the male-skewed customer base of male-gendered products and vice versa. The historical divide between masculine and feminine products is blurring and “unisex” is emerging as the new consumption ideology.

An article from Business Perspective and Research attempts to integrate and extend the theory of brand gender bending by convening arguments from different but complimentary social sciences. Based on the review and scientific understanding of the long-standing research, the study underscores the difference in the reactions of men and women to brand gender bending. It also proposes a conceptual framework that highlights the determinants that drive consumer responses to brand gender bending.

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Abstract

In the postmodern era, many marketers have disturbed the strict gender discipline traditionally associated with gendered brands. Marketers are redoing their gender work by blurring the stark distinction between masculine and feminine brands. New consumption ideologies are developing that transcend the gendered meanings of brands and encourage men and women to infiltrate brands traditionally associated with the opposite gender. “Unisex” is emerging as the byword. This review convenes the phenomenological consumer responses to brand gender bending. It specifically highlights the contrast between the ways in which men and women react to dilution/revision of the gender identity meanings of their brands. This article also underscores the ethnographic, sociological, psychological, and anthropological reasons that justify these reactions.

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The Fear Imagery in Collective Leadership

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Joseph A Raelin of Northeastern University. Dr. Raelin recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “What are you afraid of: Collective leadership and its learning implications,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Raelin reveals the inspiration for conducting this research :]

mlqb_48_3.coverWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Why did I entitle my article: What Are You Afraid Of (in reference to the forthcoming article in Management Learning – now available online – called: “What Are You Afraid Of: Collective Leadership and its Learning Implications”)? I had a sense that the title would be controversial and baiting. The manifest reason to give is that the paper was written for the department of the journal called Provocations to Debate. But the substantive reason, which I would like to expound upon briefly in this blog, is that collective leadership, though a straightforward practice, simply has not found much traction in the annals of leadership, whether they be academic or professional.

On the academic front, although collective leadership may receive some lip service not only to itself but to its cousin perspectives, such as shared, distributed, leaderful, relational, as-practice, or plural forms, it finds few presenters or adherents in academic conferences, such as the Academy of Management or the International Leadership Association, or in the mainstream academic journals. One prospective and important ally, shared leadership, need not be collective since the leadership practice in question may be performed by individuals (such as non-managers) individually and sequentially rather than collectively.

A secondary reason for apprehension of collective leadership among academics might be the methodological burden of tracing the complex set of practices and “supplements” (e.g., interwoven discourses) to those practices that produce leadership. This kind of investigation would be sociological, whilst the easier path is to contend that leadership is psychological and can be measured using standard psychometrics.

When it comes to professional usage, the fear imagery among practitioners suggests that collective leadership is a remote, unstable, and inefficient practice that would leave institutions in chaos. More germane to the Management Learning journal, this form of leadership would expose leadership development practitioners to the unknown. Collective leadership finds a more compatible pedagogical home in collective learning, but the latter requires removing the learner from the classroom where it is thought that most learning occurs. Collective learning would occur far more frequently within the workplace itself as practitioners prospectively engage with one another on real problems, reflect together on their plans and improvisations, and reconstruct their practices according to their own interests. But this kind of learning can be messy and seemingly not as concentrated or efficient as conventional training. Indeed, it can be unpredictable requiring use of such collective activities as on-the-spot reframing, reevaluation of accepted practices, and spontaneous testing of available knowledge.

In a world seemingly obsessed with individual achievement and even bombast, cooler heads may one day prevail as we learn to welcome multiple and contradictory voices through critical dialogue, thus involving everyone in the leadership enterprise. We have little alternative.

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An Educator’s Perspective on Reflexive Pedagogy: Identity Undoing and Issues of Power

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Marian Iszatt-White of the Lancaster University Management School. Dr. Iszatt-White recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “An educator’s perspective on reflexive pedagogy: identity undoing and issues of power,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Iszatt-White reveals the inspiration for conducting this research and the impact it has on the field:]

mlqb_48_3.coverWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

All the authors of this paper are teachers as well as researchers, and spend much of our time working with ‘gnarly’ middle managers on executive education programmes and Executive MBAs. It was piloting an innovative leadership learning intervention (co-constructed coaching – the subject of an earlier paper in Management Learning by Steve and myself) with this latter population that triggered the insights underpinning this paper. Specifically, we realised that adopting a reflexive pedagogy had implications for us as ‘teachers’ as well as for our students. This was not the direction we intended the paper to go, but it really hit us as something important and not well understood in the literature. The idea of ‘identity undoing’, which Brigid had already developed, seemed key to our own experiences and offered a valuable framework for processing and theorizing them.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

A significant challenge in conducting this research was the autoethnographic element – which was not part of the original design but still needed to be methodologically robust. Our original intention had been to validate the idea of co-constructed coaching as a leadership learning intervention, which we had previously proposed. An early draft of the paper, pursuing this intent, happened to mention our own experience of implementing this intervention and our reviewers picked up on this as being interesting. This led Steve and I to home in on this previously marginal aspect of the project and to bring Brigid in as an ‘independent witness’ to our reflections on what it felt like to adopt a reflexive pedagogy. Brigid did a great job of ‘interrogating’ and then narrating key elements of this experience, which we were then able to theorize in relation to identity undoing and issues of power.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

In undertaking this analysis, we problematize the pursuit of a reflexive pedagogical practice within executive and postgraduate education and offer a paradox: the desire to engage students in reflexive learning interventions – and in particular to disrupt the power asymmetries and hierarchical dependencies of more traditional educator-student relationships – can in practice have the effect of highlighting those very asymmetries and dependencies. Successful resolution of such a paradox becomes dependent on the capacity of educators to undo their own reliance on and even desire for authority underpinned by a sense of theory-based expertise. We belief this insight – as well as the innovative use of autoethnographic methods to turn a critically reflexive lens upon academic teaching – will provide food for thought (and for further research) across a wide range of academic disciplines. With the introduction in the UK of the Teaching Excellence Framework, now seems to be a fitting time to review what it means to be an ‘expert’ teacher.

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Time for Some Course Corrections in Organizations

Blake Ashforth

 

[We’re pleased to welcome Blake Ashforth of Arizona State University, Tempe. Blake recently published an article entitled “Exploring Identity and Identification in Organizations: Time for Some Course Corrections,” published in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. From Blake:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

When individuals identify with their occupations and organizations, good things generally happen. They tend to perform more effectively, make decisions with the organization’s best interests in mind, and are better organizational citizens. However, after hundreds of studies on identity and identification in the workplace, I think it’s time for some course corrections. Specifically, I argue that we’ve drifted away from the core aspect of identification – that is, the definition of oneself in terms of a target – treating identification as just another attitudinal variable; that the most important target of identification is not the organization per se, but the occupation, relationships, and groups or teams; that there is an important dark side to identification; and that we need to consider perspectives of identity beyond social identity theory/self-categorization theory.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Identity and identification have been vital concepts in organizational studies for decades. My hope is that these “course corrections” will help keep these concepts as vital and generative in the future as they have been in the past.

 


An excerpt from the article:

JLO

Identity and identification remain very popular constructs for organizational scholars, regularly generating a bounty of provocative research. To help maintain the generativity of these root constructs, I suggest four “course corrections” for our explorations, namely, focusing more on (1) the core aspect of identification, that is, the definition of self in terms of a target; (2) other targets of identification aside from the organization; (3) the dark side of identification; and (4) perspectives of identity beyond social identity theory/self-categorization theory.

You can read the article “Exploring Identity and Identification in Organizations: Time for Some Course Corrections” from the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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Historical Bricolage, Or How Companies Mix Past Heritage with Present Organizational Identity

hotel-sign[We’re pleased to welcome Laura Illia of IE University. Laura recently published an article with co-author Alessandra Zamparini in the October 2016 issue of Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Legitimate Distinctiveness, Historical Bricolage, and the Fortune of the Commons.” The interview with Laura:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We have been previously doing research together in a project related to wineries in Switzerland in which we realized the importance for competing businesses to bond together and build a collective identity at the regional level.  How companies blend their organizational and collective identities through their narratives seemed to be key. When Laura was appointed to IE University and moved to Spain, she met some regional managers and found out that rural hotels in the region of Castilla y León had similar needs to those of wineries in Switzerland. However, what made this case even more interesting was that nobody was working out a collective identity for local rural hotels. No intermediaries were active, neither the small businesses were bonding together.  Despite this, there was an emerging collective identity looking at the narratives of these businesses, so we decided to study which narrative processes were taking place.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?Current Issue Cover

We undertook an exploratory approach to the study. When you do it, all findings are potentially surprising, because you are exploring. However, what probably we found most surprising was the fact that these small businesses were blending  the business and regional  identities through a narrative process that does not only appropriate collective elements but also preserves them . That was the moment in which we started to dim into the literature of commons, i.e. natural, social and cultural resources.  Typically corporations are considered actors that exploit commons, because these are physical resources that are considered limited. However, narratives, themselves, are considered intangible resources that, differently from the physical ones, can be reproduced infinitely. The way these small businesses in our study were re-producing narratives was interesting because they were undertaking a present approach to revisit the past, blending their organizational identity with historical natural, social or cultural anecdotes of the region. We called historical bricolage this process, by which rural hotels were recursively appropriating and preserving the local historical heritage, being able to communicate their belongingness to the region and their unique identities.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

This study reaffirms the relevance of history for organizational strategic positioning, and in particular it opens up new avenues for research on narrative historical commons, which are resources reproduced and revived in organizations’ communications. Research in this direction might extend the understanding of collective identity construction and legitimate distinctiveness, not only in local business communities, but also in all those communities where boundaries are fuzzier, such as virtual communities and project-based organizational networks. On the practical level, we see that historical bricolage might be a useful competitive mean in those contexts where financial resources for collective identity promotion and inter-organizational coordination are limited.

The abstract for the article:

This article analyzes how organizations discursively construe legitimate distinctiveness (LD) by using their own corporate stories in recombination with historical narratives about commons (i.e., cultural, social, or natural resources available in a local community). Specifically, through the study of 55 rural hotels active in Segovia (Castilla y León, Spain), we theorize about how organizations build LD through a different process than the one explained by previous studies: a process of historical bricolage. Two recursive mechanisms constitute this process—namely the appropriation and preservation of historical narratives about natural (e.g., forests, animals), social (e.g., recipes, movies), or cultural (e.g., heritage, kings) commons. This process contributes to current studies because it explains how organizations build LD through the strategic use of history, the preservation rather than the mere appropriation of collective narratives, and finally the production of stories that integrate the organizational and collective selves.

You can read “Legitimate Distinctiveness, Historical Bricolage, and the Fortune of the Commons” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay up to date on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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698.gifLaura Illia is an associate professor at IE University (ES). Her current research focuses on how issues of organizational identity, branding, corporate communication, reputation, and Corporate Social Responsibility are involved in organizational management. She has been doing research at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), and University of Lugano (CH). Her works are published in journals such as MIT Sloan Management Review, Journal of Business Ethics, British Journal of Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Corporate Reputation Review, Corporate Communications: An international Journal, and Journal of Public Relations Research. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of Business and Society (SAGE), Corporate Reputation Review (Palgrave), and Corporate Communications: An International Journal (Emerald).

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Alessandra Zamparini is a post-doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Communication Sciences of USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, Institute of Marketing and Communication Management (IMCA). Her research focuses primarily on the topic of identity at multiple levels and its implications for corporate and organizational communication. She is especially interested in understanding identity dynamics within local business communities and regions. In this regard, she is currently developing research funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). She has recently published in Strategic Organization, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, and International Journal of Wine Business Research. She holds a PhD in communication sciences and economics and management from USI Università della Svizzera italiana and the University of Padua (Italy).

*Hotel image attributed to Andrew Moore (CC)

Personalized and Depersonalized Responses to Leaders’ Fair Treatment

editedgroupHow can employees’ perceptions of fairness simultaneously fuel both personalized and depersonalized leader-member relations? In a recent article published in Group & Organization, entitled “Personalized and Depersonalized Responses to Leaders’ Fair Treatment: Status Judgments and Leader-Member Exchange as Mediating Mechanisms,” author Amer A. Al-Atwi explores two psychological mechanisms through which the leader’s fair treatment encourages followers to define themselves in terms of a given role and group membership relationships. The abstract for the article:

By extracting insights from leader–member exchange (LMX) theory and social identity theory, this study predicted that a leader’s interactional justice is associated with followers’ multifoci identification by personalized and depersonalized mediating Current Issue Covermechanisms. Specifically, we hypothesized that a leader’s interactional justice affects (a) followers’ relational identification via the LMX as a personalized response and (b) followers’ work-group identification via status judgments (pride and respect) as a depersonalized response. The study’s constructs were measured on three separate occasions over an interval of 4 months, using data from a sample of 322 employees at a large public university. As predicted, we found that (a) LMX mediates the relationship between interactional justice and relational identification and (b) status judgments (pride and respect) mediate the relationships between interactional justice and work-group identification. Theoretical and practical implications for these findings are discussed.

You can read “Personalized and Depersonalized Responses to Leaders’ Fair Treatment: Status Judgments and Leader-Member Exchange as Mediating Mechanisms” from Group & Organization free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Group image attributed to Lindebornt (CC)

Identity and Entrepreneurship in California’s Medical Cannabis Industry

3410000930_95fc2866fa_zCalifornia’s medical cannabis industry operates in a legal gray area–while state law allows for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, federal laws still list cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. As a result of the complex legal context, the medical cannabis industry stands as a unique underground market in California, defined by an attitude of defiance and disregard for the prohibition of cannabis. In the recent Journal of Macromarketing paper entitled “Entrepreneurship, Identity, and the Transformation of Marketing Systems: Medical Cannabis in California,” author Kenji Klein analyzes how medical cannabis entrepreneurs, who perceive cannabis prohibition to be unfounded, are able to enact their value identities by challenging prohibition. The abstract for the paper:

This paper examines how entrepreneurs operating in underground markets come to see laws governing marketing systems as illegitimate and explores the role identity plays in motivating entrepreneurs to challenge existing institutions. Analysis of Current Issue Coverinterviews with 27 cannabis dispensary founders showed that entrepreneurs came to reject medical cannabis prohibition as illegitimate after direct experience with both cannabis and traditional medicines convinced them the factual basis upon which prohibition rested was flawed. Perception of prohibition’s illegitimacy fostered entrepreneur identification as a member of a superior in-group constrained by an illegitimate institution. Pursuing opportunities in illegal markets then became a vehicle for entrepreneurs to enact valued identities by challenging and undermining prohibition. This analysis extends work on informal economy entrepreneurship by showing that dis-identification with formal institutions does more than enable entrepreneurs to recognize economic opportunities ignored by those working within institutional boundaries; it also opens existing marketing systems to decay by providing economic and psychological resources for dismantling the laws that govern them.

You can read “Entrepreneurship, Identity, and the Transformation of Marketing Systems: Medical Cannabis in California” from Journal of Macromarketing free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of MacromarketingClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Medical marijuana sign image attributed to Chuck Coker (CC)