Selling your soul to the devil? The importance of independent ownership to identity distinctiveness for oppositional categories

Blake D. Mathias, Annelore Huyghe, David W. Williams

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research Summary: Oppositional categories emerge in direct ideological opposition to incumbent mass producers. In doing so, these oppositional categories, especially craft-based ones, emphasize their size (small), ownership (independence), and production methods (traditional) as important identity codes—critical for maintaining their distinctiveness from the incumbent category. However, we lack theoretical insights into how oppositional category members respond as (former) members defect by joining the incumbent category they challenge and ideologically oppose. Therefore, taking an identity lens, our study explores the following research question: As members sell to incumbents, how do the remaining members of the oppositional category attempt to maintain the distinctiveness of the collective identity? Our findings reveal incumbents' acquisitions of oppositional members open the opportunity to elevate the importance of ownership (independence) as a distinctive identity code. Managerial Summary: Craft categories often emerge by opposing large, dominant corporations. This David versus Goliath mentality helps establish distinct differences between the two groups of firms. However, as owners of the craft organizations grow and sell (to the opposition), this can erode the core attributes that originally made the craft category distinct. We find that as craft brewers sold their breweries to mass producers it did just that—led to considerable confusion in what constitutes a “craft brewery.” However, the craft brewing collective rallied together to identify “independence” as the core feature of craft brewers—one that cannot be bought or copied by the opposition—in hopes they can maintain their distinctiveness from mass producers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2548-2584
Number of pages37
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Volume41
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • craft beer industry
  • craft-based organizations
  • market categories
  • oppositional identity
  • qualitative methods

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