Driving Market Change: A Multi-Level Perspective on Institutional Disruption and Defense

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Wiebe, Jeff
Marketing , Market Change , Market Disruption , Distribution , Market Dynamics
In recent years, many industries – from transportation and accommodation to finance and automobiles – have been disrupted by platform businesses that ostensibly remove middlemen from market transactions. Much of this work can be traced to Silicon Valley-based firms that employ technology to connect consumers to one another or directly to companies, cutting out – or minimizing the role of – intermediaries in the process. Driven by an ideology that disdains hierarchy and favours direct connections, these market entrants have disrupted taken-for-granted practices in disparate industries that had long been home to intermediated market arrangements – arrangements which were themselves historically inscribed with ideology – ushering in an “era of disintermediation” (Houle 2011, p. 141). In some markets, this has provoked impassioned engagement from different actors in support of, or opposition to, the market entrant’s challenge. However, despite the spread of such disruptions, we still know relatively little about their dynamics, or the work done by different actors in responding to them. Drawing on Wright and Zammuto’s (2013) multi-level conceptualization of field change and Bourdieu’s (1977) notion of doxa, I explore the ongoing disruption occurring in the field of automobile distribution spurred by the entry of Tesla Motors, a company that employs a direct-to-consumer model in a market long characterized by intermediated channels. Utilizing archival, interview, and netnographic data, I develop an account of the ideologically-driven institutional work conducted by different actors as they endeavor to bring about or prevent field-level change in the wake of this disruption. I find marketers and consumers engaging in three novel forms of institutional work; in developing these findings, I also extend theorization around marketplace moralism and market-based social movements. In addition, I trace the development of this work over time to create an account of doxic market disruption. In discussing my findings, I outline implications for studies of market dynamics, marketing channels, institutional work, and cultural branding.
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