Marketing’s Point of View: Narrative Competition Within the Firm: An Abstract
Every firm experiences power struggles involving various actors over power, resources, strategy, and direction (Fligstein, 1987). This struggle for influence is often determined by the individual’s authority within the firm and by their ability to define and provide solutions for important problems. On the surface, the stories that capture firm priorities and those that mandate and maintain critical-resource precedence correspond closely to functional backgrounds of the top management team (Hambrick & Mason 1984). However, there are circumstances when the backgrounds of chief executives may fade in comparison to the situation at hand. For instance, in times when access to capital is greatly reduced or federal legislation restricts certain practices, the chief executive officer’s (CEO) background matters less than their ability to hire or promote the right individual (Zorn, 2004). Moreover, the degree to which a business function (marketing, finance, accounting, etc.) is perceived as holding the skills necessary (core competencies) for firm success, that subunit will gain power to direct the firm (Fligstein, 1987). In critical times, the competition for narrative dominance may be particularly acute and generate influence that comes to bear on key decision makers, regardless of functional background.
In times of crisis or disequilibrium (internal or external factors), firm leaders may be more open to influence from competing narratives to provide understanding and insight for potential solutions that offer stability. In addition, managers that offer particularly good evaluations or solutions to firm issues may carry more influence. This suggests those who possess particular knowledge, have an astute recognition of the environment, are able to seize opportunity in ominous or quickly changing circumstances, and are able to articulate associated insight compellingly have an increased chance to create influence when it matters most. Such a window of opportunity may provide conditions necessary for a new narrative to emerge—one that tells the story from a particular business function’s perspective, or point of view (POV), paving the way for its emergence to dominance. The present work focuses on how narrative theory is applied to the firm in order to understand the competition for strategic influence and in particular the role of business-function POV.
Narratology (the theory of narrative) is the academic discipline specializing in the analysis of stories (Phelan & Rabinowitz, 2005). It assumes that a universal but implicit model explains the ability to identify and process life in all its complexity as stories (Phelan & Rabinowitz, 2005). In this context, narratology is proposed as both a theory and a method (Genette, 1980) to locate, identify, and understand narratives specifically as part of a qualitative analysis. It is suggested that narrative (storytelling) significantly impacts which business function has preference and advantages in influencing the firm’s strategic perspective by imposing its functional narrative worldview on the firm as a whole.
The narratives used in this study were collected from 22 of the senior-most marketing and finance personnel in ten firms, across multiple industries. In most cases, dyadic and triadic interviews were conducted among top marketing and finance executives and managers (e.g., CEO, CMO, and CFO in the same firm or CFO and CMO in the same firm) to get a cross analysis of narratives that reflect the ways marketing and finance officers perceived, communicated, and understood each other’s function within the firm. The unit of analysis in this study is the individual narrative event and components of those events. 689 individual narrative events across 77 nodes were collected and analyzed spanning the 22 depth interviews.