Journal of Market-Focused Management, 5, 109 – 126 (2002) 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Manufactured in The Netherlands.

A Stakeholder Perspective for Analyzing Marketing Relationships
DR. MICHAEL JAY POLONSKY1 Michael.Polonsky@vu.edu.au Melbourne Airport Chair in Marketing School of Hospitality, Tourism and Marketing Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne City MC 8001 AUSTRALIA DR. DES. STEFAN W. SCHUPPISSER2 ´ th & Partner AG Fluehgasse 17 CH-8008 Zurich (Switzerland) Horva sschuppisser@horvath-partner.com

beldona@purdue.edu SRIKANTH BELDONA3 Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Purdue Univesity West Lafayette, Indiana USA 47906 Received November 16, 2000; Revised July 5, 2001

Abstract This paper proposes a framework that enables the application of stakeholder theory to the analysis of marketing relationships. By distinguishing between different types of stakeholder relationships, stretching from the positive to the negative side of relationships (i.e. the ladder of stakeholder loyalty), and describing the various relational factors (i.e. relationship orientation, trust, communication, learning, power, reciprocity and commitment) that shape a specific relationship, the proposed framework enables marketers to analyze their firm’s diverse relationships. The paper provides a meaningful starting point for developing strategies to change the type of relationship with a specific stakeholder.
Keywords: stakeholders, relationship marketing

Introduction Marketing is increasingly recognizing that in order to be effective firms need to consider a broader range of stakeholders, other than just consumers (Achrol, 1997; Greenley and Foxall, 1996; Gummensson, 1994; Kimery and Rinehart, 1998; Menon and Menon, 1997; Polonsky, 1996; Polonsky et al., 1999; Reidenbach and McClung, 1999; Slater, 1997). While realizing the importance of other groups is an important first step, the marketing literature has, for the most part, failed even to identify which stakeholders should be considered and/or how their interests should be considered. Thus it could be suggested that stakeholder theory has generally ‘‘yet to catch on in marketing’’ (Miller and Lewis, 1991, p. 55). However, some recent work seems to suggest that this may be changing and marketers are beginning to apply a stakeholder framework (Kimery and Rinehart, 1998; Menon and Menon, 1997; Murphy et al., 1997; Polonsky et al., 1999; Reidenbach and McClung, 1999).

should they be identified (Polonsky. on both sides (i. 1984. and therefore stakeholder theory. Polonsky et al. Frooman (1999) has put forward strategies that stakeholders can use to influence organizational behavior. the accomplishment of organizational purpose’’ (Freeman. 1991) has suggested or tested ways in which firms can identify stakeholders interests or what strategies can be used to address stakeholders’ interests. 1996). Although. or are affected by. Understanding firm-stakeholder relationships from positive and negative perspectives can enable marketers/managers. 1994.’’ As such stakeholders. none of the marketing literature and little of the stakeholder literature (e. it appears there is a lack of strategic understanding or at least a lack of research into this area. communication. . learning. within this work we will rely on a Freeman-type definition. as firms are continually attempting to develop stronger stakeholder networks (Rowley. While Mitchell et al. For the most part. As such. . involving a broader range of stakeholders. 46). in that stakeholder theory extends the number of stakeholders with which the firm has relationships with and that these relationships are usually interdependent (Gummesson. (1999) and Henriques and Sadorsky (1999) have identified that firms attempt to broadly consider stakeholders whom they think are important.. Considering the interests of various stakeholders is important. authors such as Agle et al. one of the more widely accepted definitions of stakeholders is that they include ‘‘. Within all these works there has been limited examination of how firm-stakeholder relationships evolve and/or how more mutually beneficial relationships can be developed..g. 164) explicitly discussed stakeholders and suggested that marketers need to provide ‘‘superior customer value while considering the interests of other key stakeholders.110 POLONSKY. trust. A Stakeholder Relationship View It can be argued that a stakeholder perspective lies at the core of relationship marketing. Berman et al. However. relationship orientation. This seems to be somewhat surprising. Savage et al. power. should be integrated into relationship marketing. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA In considering who are stakeholders. stakeholders .e. managers of firms and managers of stakeholder organizations) to better understand these relationships and thus better manage this process. The objective of this paper is to assist in better understanding the application of stakeholder theory to the analysis of marketing relationships. all of those groups and individuals that can affect. (1997) have identified that a range of alternative definitions of stakeholders has also been used. The paper then examines how these relational factors can be used to identify the different types of stakeholder relationships suggested by the ladder of stakeholder loyalty and discusses the implications of taking a stakeholder perspective to examining marketing relationships. 1997). (1999). If this is the case. these works have always focused on the positive side of relationships and completely ignored the negative side of relationships. It first provides a stakeholder overview of various types of relationships using the ladder of stakeholder loyalty and then discusses the relational factors (i. 1999). reciprocity and commitment) that shape a specific relationship. Slater (1997 p. p.e.

’’ (p. 2000). Kimery and Rinehart. in which they share responsibilities and benefits. the specific context and history of the organization’s relations with that stakeholder.Authors such as Murphy et al. Koiranen (1995) also examined this issue and puts forward an expanded definition of relationship marketing that includes stakeholders. 84). as is suggested with any relationship (Dwyer et al. (1999). 65) are important to managing the relationship. .. Polonsky et al. he did not address the development or management processes for these relationships.ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 111 need to be considered in ‘‘all marketing activities directed towards establishing. This means that firms and their stakeholders form long-term relationships. Gummesson (1994) suggested that there are 30 potential types of stakeholder relationships and suggested that managers need to prioritize and establish the mix of relationships essential to the company’s success. 1987). As mentioned earlier. 1998. The earlier suggestion. In this way both side should think of ways to appropriately involve each other in strategy formulation and implementation processes (Kimery and Rinehart. 1991. The view that stakeholder relations evolve over time is also supported within the more general stakeholder literature. trust each other and are engaged in some coordinated planning. For example. Hosseini and Brenner (1992) agree and suggest that ‘‘the history of decision making within these organizations and the effect of their decisions on organizational performance must be addressed’’ (p. . maintain and enhance long-term relationships with customers and other internal and external stakeholders so that the objectives of the parties involved are met’’ (p. Polonsky et al. Unfortunately.. firms need to broaden the way in which they deal with traditional marketing exchanges and move away from the traditional one-off transactional approach to a relationship marketing perspective (Gronroos. 116). Polonsky (1996) and Polonsky et al. suggesting that a stakeholder framework can be used to measure overall satisfaction of relationships within an exchange network. In this way it . 22). 1998. Reidenbach and McClung (1999) all explicitly discussed how marketers could broaden their view to consider stakeholders using stakeholder theory. Adopting a stakeholder perspective to relationship marketing implies the acknowledgement that each partner has a stake in the other’s activities. 1999). In line with the broader stakeholder-relationship process. Savage et al. developing and maintaining successful relationship exchanges’’.. like other authors Koiranen (1995) and Gummesson (1994) failed to identify how firms can or should interact with its stakeholders in either the short-term or long-term and only identified that such interactions should take place. authors such as Gummesson (1994) and Miller and Lewis (1991) suggest that the marketing exchange process involves a substantial number of stakeholders (30 and 51. While Gummesson (1994) identified stakeholders in terms of relationships that need to be managed. (1997) go further. Tuominen (1995) also has suggested that organizations need to develop effective long-term stakeholder relationships. Thus.. respectively) and as such firms need to move away from simply considering how they interact with consumers (Sheth et al. . that for the most part marketers have not embraced stakeholder theory. In fact. does not mean that marketers have totally ignored stakeholder theory either. He suggests relationship marketing is ‘‘a marketing approach to establish. which is the definition of relationship marketing put forward by Morgan and Hunt (1994 p. . (1991) point out that ‘‘. 1999).

. it is even more important that firms better understand and develop stakeholder relationships. In this way. 1999. 167). if they are to influence the relationship’s development... This assumption appears to fail to take into consideration that firm-stakeholders interactions are complex (Berman et al. although it does not explicit identify if there are any factors that drive the evolution of these relationships. is different to stakeholder-catching.e. Tuominen refers to the practice of moving stakeholders up the ladder of loyalty as stakeholder-keeping. While the ladder of stakeholder loyalty identified by Tuominen is a useful starting point for evaluating how stakeholder relationships evolve. 1997. i. Reidenbach and McClung (1999) emphasize the importance of stakeholder-keeping and go so far to suggest that stakeholder retention (i. Polonsky et al. keeping) is where most organizational value is created.. which he suggests. In examining stakeholder relationships Tuominen (1995) suggested that firms attempt to move stakeholders up a ‘‘ladder of stakeholder loyalty’’ whereby they strengthen existing stakeholder relationships (See Figure 1).e. Mitchell et al. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA Figure 1. 1997). Rowley. p. 1991). The traditional relationship marketing literature also emphasizes the benefits of keeping existing stakeholders satisfied (Gronroos.112 POLONSKY. 1999. If this is the case. 1996). developing new relationships. it is fairly simplistic in nature and assumes that all stakeholders will ultimately be ‘‘supportive’’ of organizational activities. Authors such as Frooman (1999) and Polonsky (1996) have both suggested that stakeholders have the ability to directly cooperate and . firms need to keep their existing stakeholders ‘‘satisfied’’ or at least minimize these stakeholders’ level of dissatisfaction (Murphy et al. 1996. Polonsky. The ladder of stakeholder loyalty (Tuominen. 1995. in addition to finding new customers. 1997. Polonsky. is important for marketers to identify and understand how these stakeholder relationships evolve. This process might be considered to very loosely describe how stakeholder relationships evolve.

especially if one is interested in the dynamics of continuing firmstakeholder interactions. learning. it is necessary to examine moderating factors that might influence firm-stakeholder relationships and the process of relationship development. 1997).ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 113 directly threaten organizational activities.e. communication. Polonsky et al. 1998) and these moderators point to strategy options for organizations seeking to form and/or manage stakeholder relationships. control) their stakeholders. as pure stakeholder ‘‘management’’ implies that the firm’s interests supersedes their stakeholders which is not the case (Gray.. much of the marketing literature has treated many of these factors as either dependent or independent variables. as well as indirectly influence organizational activities.. Given that these relationships are complex. from the firm’s perspective (Murphy et al. Greenpeace aggressively attacked this action as being the ‘‘wrong’’ option. The specific strategy used to influence firm-stakeholder relationships will vary depending on the gap between the actual and desired position of a stakeholder (Murphy et al. For example. Thus. 1989. it should be emphasized that this is a broad-based process and it is not suggesting that firms can ‘‘manage’’ (i. As such it is important to understand these moderating factors. even though Shell could provide ample scientific evidence that this was the least environmentally harmful solution. While the following subsections individually discuss the following relational factors relationship orientation. Greenpeace directly impacted on Shell’s decision through its direct assaults on the firm and indirectly through the generation of publicity that resulted in additional support from other sympathetic stakeholders. which in turn may be used to direct strategy development and strengthen relationships. However. before discussing this expanded ladder of stakeholder loyalty and the associated strategic implications. 1999). 1997) within the expanded ladder of loyalty. Shell learned that stakeholder management could be crucial when it decided to dump the Brent Spar oil storage platform at sea. While the factors to be discussed in the following sections are derived from the management and relationship marketing literature. The broadened ladder may serve to locate a firm’s actual and potential relationships with stakeholders. In a fluid business environment it might be difficult to determine which factors are the dependent variables and which ones are the independent variables in a continuous stream of actions and decisions.. 1997). we posit that the ladder of stakeholder loyalty can be broadened to take into consideration negative stakeholder influences as well. trust. When evaluating stakeholder relationships it is essential that organizations understand these relational factors as they may moderate the development of the firm-stakeholder relationship (Achrol. Stakeholder theory might suggest that there is extensive interaction amongst these moderating factors (Mitchell et al. However. firms can develop strategies to minimize the gap between the stakeholder’s actual and the desired position on the ladder. 1997).. Further work needs to consider these interrelationships. power and reciprocity and . Relational Factors that Influence Stakeholder Relationships There are a number of moderating variables that can influence how stakeholder relationships evolve (Schuppisser.

1982. interdependent. Relationship Orientation Relationship orientation guides the parties’ behavior and responses in the relationship (Deutsch. rather than the effect and affect orientation discussed by Berman et al. Having an individualistic orientation means that a party only is interested in doing as good as it can and does not bother how well the other party does.they are all. An operative mode is used when parties are concerned with evaluations of short-term cost-benefit or efficiency implications of past interactions and when they emphasize the risks inherent to the relationship instead of opportunities.. With regard to the motivational element one can distinguish between cooperative. We suggest that their evaluations can be attributed to an operational or strategic evaluation mode. Morgan and Hunt. parties continuously evaluate their interactions. stakeholder authors (Berman et al. In addition they both serve to describe the nature of a relationship at a specific point in time (i. Mitchell et al. individualistic and competitive relationship orientations (Deutsch. as well as other variables. power and commitment. in fact. distrust would mean the willingness of a party to avoid any vulnerability to the other party.e.. 1997.. Mayer et al. Accordingly. Linkages between moderating factors are well recognized in the relationship marketing literature with authors such as Morgan and Hunt (1994) who suggest that trust. 1992). the strategic mode centers on long-term opportunities of the relationship. searches for strategic options facilitated by the relationship. a party takes the welfare of the other party as well as its own welfare into consideration. Hall.. are independent variables to some extent). communication. 1992). Hosseini and Brenner.. (1999). 1993). 1991.g. Moorman et al. Throughout the course of the relationship. 1995). We use the term ‘‘relationship orientation’’ to refer to the motivational and evaluative orientations of the parties towards the relationship with each other. and on the other hand represent levers/motivators for parties to change the nature of their relationship (i.e. 1991) have suggested that a range of variables might moderate the firm-stakeholder relationship. At the same time. 1994. Many . which has also been discussed as an important moderator in the relationship marketing literature (e. are dependent variables to some extent).. regards the relationship itself as a strategic resource and emphasizes the investment character of the relationship (Barney. 1991). With a cooperative orientation. the kind of behavior the parties experience of the other does shape their relationship orientation (Savage et al. As such relevant moderating factors need to be carefully considered when firm build and manage relationships with stakeholders. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA commitment . Savage et al. all influenced the firm-stakeholder relationship. We will define trust as the willingness of one party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party (cf. In addition. 1999. 1982). Trust The second relational factor is trust between the parties. In contrast.114 POLONSKY. although they did not refer to these other parties as stakeholders. With a competitive orientation a party not only seeks to do as well as it can for itself but also tries to defeat the other party.

3). 1998. if the nature of the interactions between the parties is such that each single transaction contains some of the elements of benefit that accrues to the parties. agree with and endorse each others’ intentions and goals. Communication in firm-stakeholder relationships may vary with regard to frequency. 1998). it is likely that KBT will emerge. For example. Mohr and Nevin (1990) distinguish between two combinations . identification-based) that build on each other. knowledge-based. Lewicki and Bunker (1995) suggest that CBT is usually the first form of trust in a relationship and is strengthened in a stepwise fashion as the number and significance of interactions increase. the relationship marketing literature ‘‘often fails to include the communication process as a critical dimension in relationship building’’ (Duncan and Moriarty. such that the other party is anxious to act consistently. The second form of trust is knowledge-based trust (KBT) that relies on information and is unlike CBT.e. They share the same needs.ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 115 researchers such as Rotter (1967) have treated trust and distrust as two ends of a continuum. calculusbased. although some suggest they are both independent constructs. However. choices and preferences. p. It exists when the parties thoroughly understand. so that the other’s behavior is predictable because one knows how the other will act in a specific situation. 1990). every breach of trust may set back the relationship evolution by several steps. For instance. p. 1995. which is based on some form of deterrence. Sitkin and Roth (1993) say that trust is a belief in a person’s competence to perform a specific task under specific circumstances. 145). economic calculation whose value is derived by comparing the outcomes resulting from creating and sustaining the relationship to the costs of maintaining or severing it’’ (Lewicki and Bunker. CBT is very fragile. When the knowledge about each other has increased over time and interactions. direction. start creating common products and pursuing common goals such that IBT can evolve. However it can be suggested that trust and distrust are polar opposites. In contrast to CBT the more developed forms of trust (IBT and KBT) are more resilient in regards to breaches of trust. Each can effectively act for the other. In these other cases additional knowledge about the other party helps explain their actions and it is more likely that communication will be maintained in those relationships despite the other parties’ inconsistent behavior. ‘‘trust is an ongoing. market-oriented. In calculus-based trust (CBT). modality and content (Mohr and Nevin. KBT then may represent the ground on which parties develop some collective identity. as actor vulnerability is the important issue (Bigley and Pearce. KBT can prevail in a relationship if the parties have got to know each other very well. parties trust each other because they believe that to some extent they can control the costs and benefits of the other’s actions. If a relationship is based on CBT. The third form of trust is identification-based trust (IBT). Lewicki and Bunker (1995) distinguished between three forms of trust (i. parties do no try to breach the trust as they would forego a substantial amount of future benefits. whereas distrust is a belief that a person’s values or motives will lead them to approach all situations in an unacceptable manner. Communication Although relationships are impossible without communication.

When evaluations of outcomes are not satisfactory and a party considers more efficient instrumental actions for achieving the unchanged valued goals. a marketer learns in single loops when he increases the promotional budget for a green product that does not sell as expected. Finally. The ‘‘autonomous’’ combination includes lower frequency and more unidirectional communication.116 POLONSKY. For instance. formal modes and direct content. parties who pursue an argumentative communication style offer the recipients information that allows them to test the truthfulness of an assertion or the legitimacy of a demand. In contrast. A persuasive communication style is used when a communicating party already knows what it wants to achieve and thus communication merely serves to bring the other to the point where it complies with it. Learning Another important relational factor that has not been extensively discussed in the relationship marketing literature is individual/individual learning. an informative communication style genuinely does not include any specific influence attempt but serves to communicate ‘‘objective’’ information. Interactions always offer the parties the opportunity to learn something about how actions affect oneself. This consists of (1) conceiving of valuable goals and (2) appropriate actions. it engages in single-loop action-learning (Argyris and Schon. when engaged in double-loop actionlearning a party does not only regard instrumental actions as variable but also is willing and able to change the goals pursued.g. In contrast. 1998). the other party or the common relationship. 1990).e. Relationships can also be described in relation to the prevalent communication style. Here. on the basis of their specific organizational context as they enter a learning cycle. 1996). informal modes and indirect content. as the parties are not willing to change them as a result of communication with the other. An interactive relationship enhances each organization spanning its boundaries to ‘‘learn to learn more’’ (Cohen and Levinthal. Representatives of the parties learn. communication serves to enter a process of common sensemaking that will lead to solutions that are jointly created and thus represent a consensus and not a temporary compromise that will be questioned as soon as the distribution of power has changed. which includes higher frequency and more bi-directional flows. 1978). Depending on what is changed in the continuous movement through this cycle. With a persuasive communication style a party thus tries to instrumentalize the other in order to achieve its own goals. different forms of learning can be distinguished. which may indicate what parties try to achieve when communicating (Zerfass. The organization also increases its capacity to learn from its interaction with other firms and other organizations (e. research and regulatory institutions) and with the larger industrial and marketing networks in which it participates (Fynes and Antti. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA of these facets of communication: The ‘‘collaborative’’ combination. parties try to change the others’ beliefs and attitudes about the desirability of an intended behavior without requesting specific action. (4) experiencing the outcomes of these actions and (5) evaluating the outcomes in order to conceive of other goals or actions. but is not willing or able to challenge the appropriateness of the pursued goals. i. In double looped learning the marketer would also . (3) acting. Persuasive communicators do not disclose their intentions and goals.

(1995) and Meyer and Allen (1991) suggest. is supportive enough to market a sound and credible ecological product that convinces ecology-sensitive buyers. 1995. effort and attention. such as access to mass media or stakeholder communication. parties can . and/or indirectly. 1981).. Etzioni (1964) distinguishes between three types of power (coercive. one can distinguish several components of the commitment construct.. only the positive side of commitment is emphasized. Commitment thus binds the parties. which is based on material or financial resources. 1996) a party is open to questioning instrumental actions. Dwyer et al. Inputs may involve resources. Because commitment in relationship marketing literature is always discussed in the context of valuable long-term relationships. 1995). (1999). utilitarian. such as environmental groups. Last. Power The relational factor power concerns the types of resources parties use to influence another party to behave as it would not otherwise have done (Pfeffer. use their various types of power to influence organizational outcomes (Polonsky et al. Alternatively they can employ utilitarian power. violence. In other words. that makes some actions and some goals more valuable than others. when a non-governmental organization organizes a protest demonstration in front of a business firm’s production facilities (coercive power) and thereby attracts media. In triple-loop action-learning (Nielsen and Bartunek. (1997) and Agle et al. Parties can use coercive power. Reciprocity and Commitment In the relationship marketing literature commitment has been recognized as an essential ingredient for successful long-term relationships (Gundlach et al. they may use normative power. For instance. a party commits itself to a relationship if it takes actions that create a self-interest stake in the relationship and that demonstrates to the other party the willingness to undertake consistent future behavior. Often various types of power are combined. Although as Gundlach et al. through their devotion of resources. 1999). 1998). In this way stakeholders may be able to directly. If marketers engage in triple-loop action-learning. valued goals and in addition is willing and able to consider potential biases in their organization’s context. which have been shown to strengthen marketing relationships. which will report about the event (normative power). normative). there are high switching costs. its accounting and compensation systems and its cultural openness for collaboration with untraditional partners. or restraint. From a behavioral point of view. as previously described.. which also have been referred to by the stakeholder theorists such as Mitchell et al. effort or attention devoted to the relationship (Brock. However. 1987). which may explain the product’s poor sales.ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 117 be open to the question whether the green product really is an ecologically sound product at its core.. as past inputs in the relationship are difficult or impossible to redeploy to another relationship in the same form (Gundlach et al. we want to concentrate on the behavioral dimension. they would consider if the firm’s stated overall product development strategy. which is based on symbolic resources. which is based on physical resources of force.

as is done in Tuominen’s original ladder (see Figure 1). The Extended Ladder of Stakeholder Loyalty Having examined factors that moderate firm-stakeholder relationships. This is exemplified by Geyskens et al. action patterns of either positive or negative reciprocity may be identified in a relationship.e. which ensure that parties are even at every point in time. parties’ interaction patterns take the form of equivalent and synchronized ‘‘quid pro quo’’ exchanges. Over time. However. and/or that one should repay harm with harm or at least not repay harm with help (negative reciprocity or revenge)’’ (Meeker. (1991) for stakeholders. i. (1996) who suggest that calculative commitment has positive influences on development of alternatives for a relationship and opportunistic behavior. 1985). 1995). Over time when parties have experienced that others will positively reciprocate own actions on a regular basis.118 POLONSKY. If the strong form prevails. 22). Such a weak form of reciprocity is typical of relationship based marketing interactions. these can be integrated into the extended ladder of stakeholder loyalty. or at least not repay help with harm (positive reciprocity). The longer a certain type of pattern exists the harder it gets for the parties to change behavior. parties may start to engage in more complex interactions that inherently prevent an immediate and equivalent response (Dwyer et al. Reciprocity is at the core of marketing relationships (Bagozzi. Linked to the perceived significance of relationship commitments of the parties is the question of what pattern of committing actions between the parties can be observed. the action of the pattern can be described according to the strength of reciprocity. As the strong form of reciprocity requires equivalent and immediate response to the other party’s actions interactions cannot be too complex. not only supportive stakeholder influences. Furthermore. ‘‘Reciprocity specifies that one should repay help with help. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA also commit themselves to less constructive courses of action. This form is typical for traditional transactional marketing interactions. In addition to renaming the rungs. each of the relational factors has been discussed in . The names of the expanded version of the ladder might not appear to significantly differ with the original version and in fact these names are similar to those developed by Freeman (1984) and Savage et al. 1987). 1983. based on their ability to directly cooperate and threaten organizational activities. Calculative commitment is based on inputs such as investment and allocation of resources specifically for the relationship between business partners (Williamson. p. the discussion of the underlying moderating dimensions enables all types of stakeholder influences to be considered. Calculative commitment stems from a cognitive evaluation of the instrumental worth of a continued relationship with the organization.. which results in the renaming of the rungs of Tuominen’s (1995) original ladder (See Figure 2). Parties thus no longer expect a strong form of reciprocity but allow for longer times for reciprocation and do not try to meticulously balance their contribution-benefit accounts at every point in time. Firm-stakeholder relationships may vary in the degree of adherence to the norm of reciprocity or degree of mutuality and the form of reciprocity applied. how the parties reciprocate their actions and/or commitments.

Although they monitor their short-term cost and benefits. a weak and positive form of reciprocity prevails in the relationship and parties can jointly plan and unilaterally invest for the very long term. relation to that rung. which may be continuously adapted to external and internal requirements. which have allowed them to change their individual organizational contexts such that they could shape a true win-win relationship. however. both parties have been willing and able to enter even in triple-loop action learning cycles. they. evaluate their relationship strategically. In addition. for instance. Allied Stakeholders These are stakeholders with whom the firm shares a cooperative relationship orientation. in terms of future options and opportunities. . such that both parties understand that their own welfare is bound to the welfare of the other. such that each party can effectively act for the other as they have come to share joint goals.ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 119 Figure 2. 1990). Therefore. idiosyncratic relationship-specific investments. i. not on power-moderated compromises. With regard to power. needs and preferences. Each of the ‘‘new’’ rungs of the expanded ladder is discussed in the following subsections and are summarized in Figure 2. Expanded ladder of stakeholder loyalty. Parties act on consensus. Both parties are highly committed to the relationship through. This discussion firstly examines the ‘‘highest’’ rung on the ladder and then works its way down. This highest form of trust has been achieved over time due to the argumentative and collaborative communication style (Mohr and Nevin.e. the nature of the other relational factors makes it very unlikely that one of the parties tries to exert power upon the other. Their common experiences have led the parties to an identification-based form of trust.

parties often try to use their power based on normative but especially on utilitarian resources to reach their goals. Learning loops serve to find more efficient instrumental actions to achieve individual goals. the relationship is evaluated in an operative mode. such that the assessment is focused more on short-term interactions. Parties are willing to change their valued goals and thus to enter double-loop learning. but in some instances. but are reluctant to make too specific commitments. Thereby. the firm and the stakeholder share individualistic relationship orientations. They reciprocate the other’s limited commitments and are also willing to allow for weaker forms of reciprocity as long as their commitments are not too relationship specific. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA Cooperative Stakeholders Cooperative and allied stakeholders behave the same in regard to relationship orientation and evaluation modes. but on the profound knowledge that the parties have about each other. learning is predominantly single-looped. Furthermore. although they perceive their goals as independent of the other party’s goals. parties make some commitments to the relationship.120 POLONSKY.e. Communication is informative or persuasive and takes place only when parties are negotiating about a specific transaction. such that they not only try to reach their . Thus. As the parties’ individual goals are perceived to be independent. As parties know enough about each other so that they may understand the reasons behind an unexpected and inconsistent behavior by the other. parties rather would change the relationship partner than change their valued goals. they signal and work for a stronger form of reciprocity. Neutral Stakeholders In relationships with neutral stakeholders. communication may be more formal and of direct content than in allied stakeholder relationships as parties try to secure their own limited commitments. trust is not based on identification. It is rather formal and contains mainly requests for specific actions. Accordingly. Otherwise. to allied stakeholder relationships power is more important but influence attempts are restricted to normative resources. Accordingly. They interact with each other to achieve their individual goals. that they would be willing to change their own organizational context to achieve some potential goals. which let them break off their relationships any time without incurring any larger losses. Competitive Stakeholders Competitive stakeholders have a relationship with the firm that is based on an individualistic and sometimes a competitive orientation. when they see some opportunity to improve their cooperative relationship. The parties try to avoid actions that commit themselves to this specific relationship and insist on reasonable ‘‘quid pro quo’’ exchanges. However. communication is not always argumentative. i. In contrast. the relationship is resilient. However. may be persuasive. The parties trust each other and make themselves vulnerable by the other only in so far as they believe that they can control each other’s costs and benefits of opportunistic behavior. the relationship is not regarded as so important and promising.

In the case of the supportive stakeholders the firm would want to maintain or increase their support. Attempts to exert influence on the other are very common. Threatening Stakeholders Organizations regard their relationship as a struggle in which only one of them can prevail. formal and/or directed. for instance when parties try to strike the decisive blow. but also strive for outperforming the other. the parties demand specific actions from each other. as well as identify broad-based approaches that can hopefully be used to move stakeholders along the ladder or stabilize their position. Implications Broadening the ladder of stakeholder loyalty will enable firms to identify the more supportive and the more antagonistic stakeholders.ANALYZING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS 121 individual goals. They perceive each other as engaged in a zero-sum game. they evaluate interactions in the relationship in an operative mode. However. Communication in general is rare. i. parties not only try to achieve their own goals through communication but also deliberately send messages that mislead the other in their effort to understand what they themselves are up to. parties may find themselves engaged in a genuine exchange of blows if they are devoted to a negative and strong form of reciprocity. but winning over the other. but when it occurs it is distinctly persuasive in the sense that it serves to impress the other and signal to the other what one does regard as one’s own turf that will be defended when the other tries to interfere with it. Trust only develops in so far as the parties can be sure that they tightly control the calculus of the other’s costs and benefits with regard to a breach of trust. even coercive power. Especially in these intense phases communication is persuasive in character and sometimes even becomes manipulative. Accordingly. Consequences for the other party have minimal impact.e. in general communication is unidirectional and formal. Furthermore. Regular communication between the two is rare. Strong forms of reciprocity mainly apply to harming or negative influencing attempts by the other. As a matter of fact. communication is often unidirectional. i. parties try to avoid any commitments to the relationship. As their relationship is characterized by distrust both try to avoid vulnerability to the other. in these intermittent phases it may become more bi-directional and informal in the sense of spontaneous and personalized. the purpose of this commitment is not achieving a common goal. Parties may become very committed to the relationship through their actions. To a large extent the parties try to influence and outperform the other by means of their utilitarian and normative power. Here parties use every base of power they possess. such that they work for minimizing own costs and maximizing own benefits. The parties instrumentalize each other to achieve their individual goals. although there may be some intense intermittent bursts. The content is always very direct. Due to the prevailing relationship orientation and the character of communication learning is single-looped and mainly focused on finding more efficient ways to outperform the other. Accordingly. Whereas.e. whereas the strategies aimed at the antagonistic stakeholders .

When comparing the desired positions with the actual positions of the stakeholders.e. However. i. i. 1996).122 POLONSKY. desirable or efficient to position every positively oriented stakeholder on the top of the ladder. one party can initiate change within the relationship.e. a firm could ask if a change in its relationship orientation is necessary and what measures in the organization’s context might facilitate these changes. it may not be possible. Such an approach would require extensive resources to maintain these stakeholder groups and while some of these groups might be cooperators or allies of the firm their abilities to influence the firms performance might be minimal. the firm and its stakeholder must both commit energy and effort to the relationship development and over time both parties may modify their actions and or expectations (Polonsky. However. Such attempts to improve relationships may not be an effective utilization of resources. Therefore. how these events and stimuli are motivationally and evaluatively interpreted. to have a true allied relationship with every stakeholder. It is one thing to analyze what has happened in a relationship so far. Marketing strategists within firms must develop tactics that facilitate the movement of stakeholders to the most desirable positions. or have they had a long history of competitive episodes? In the first case one can assume that. a competitive stakeholder might want to look on how long it has been involved in this kind of relationship. competitive relationship orientations are not so well corroborated by actual experience than in the latter case. In business it is not always easy to place every relationship in exactly one category. For instance. Many things that are observable for and can be experienced by the other party depend on the relationship orientation of the firm. the categories in the expanded ladder of stakeholder loyalty are ideal. the suggested set of relational factors complements analytical concepts in the stakeholder literature and the relationship marketing literature with a rationale to describe and analyze the history of the relationship. Thus. the change in the nature of the relationship might be easier in the first case than in the second. However. The relationship analysis does place specific stakeholders on various rungs of the ladder of stakeholder loyalty. The set of relational factors does suggest some reasonable starting points for strategies/ tactics. Of course. The relational factors at least indicate some starting points to signal the other party . and finally how the firm acts or reacts on these interpreted cues. marketers must start thinking about formulating strategies that either move stakeholders on the ladder or keep stakeholders where they are. it is very likely that a change in the relational dimension of a firm-stakeholder relationship can be induced by an autonomous change in the firm’s relationship orientation. although the modifications required will most likely not be equal. for instance. it is challenging to move a relationship that has been stabilized for a long period of time on the competitive rung of the ladder to the cooperative rung. SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA would be designed to either reduce their influence on the firm or their negative attitudes towards the firm and its activities. Thus. The relationship orientation significantly shapes what can be noticed in the environment. and it is a different thing to formulate strategies for making things happen in the relationship in the future. For instance. they should take into account how the relationship has developed so far. It is important to note that moving a relationship on the ladder will most often require both parties to act. Are they just about to establish it. As suggested above.

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SCHUPPISSER AND BELDONA Management. International Journal of Advertising. His research interests are in Inter-Organizational Relationships. Srikanth Beldona is a Ph. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing. Stefan Schuppisser works as a consultant in the Zurich (Switzerland) office of the international ´ th and Partner. Previously he was chief assistant in the Strategic Management management consulting firm Horva Department of the Institute for Research in Business Administration at the University of Zurich. Australia. Switzerland. and Journal of Advertising Research. His teaching and research interests include the interfaces between strategic management. stakeholder management and business and society.D. Impact of Technology on Service Organizations and Knowledge Management. . USA. candidate at the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. University of Newcastle. Journal of Organizational Change Management. he graduated with an MBA from the Graduate School of Business. Dr. International Marketing Review.126 POLONSKY. des. Prior to this. Purdue University.