Doctoral thesis

Collective and individual identities in the external communication of regional cluster firms : the case of Franciacorta wineries


229 p.

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2013 (jury note: Summa cun laude)

English Researchers have expressed growing interest in how organizations communicate their identities to claim institutional positioning (Foreman, Whetten, & Mackey, 2012; McPhee & Zaug, 2000) in their fields and to seek a strategic balance between legitimacy and distinctiveness (Deephouse, 1999). They have also paid increasing attention to less explored forms of organizational fields, such as regional communities (Marquis, Lounsbury, & Greenwood, 2011). However, little empirical attention has been given to organizational identity projections aimed at legitimacy and distinctiveness in regional communities, and what research does exist has focused primarily on organizations and their referent industries (Lamertz, Heugens, & Calmet, 2005; Navis & Glynn, 2010). The aim of the current research is to explore how organizations in a regional business cluster combine collective regional identity elements and individual organizational elements in their external identity projections (RQ1), how they differently use collective and individual identity elements in external identity projections to attain legitimacy and distinctiveness (RQ2), and what influences the patterns of their identity projections (RQ3). Considering the exploratory nature of the research questions, and the aim of identifying patterns and understanding relationships, the research adopted a nested case study design (Yin, 2003), whereby the case is a regional wine cluster and the nested units of analysis its wineries. The Franciacorta wine cluster (Italy) was selected as an extreme revelatory case, providing both relevance and visibility of the processes to be investigated. The findings identified three strategies that organizations use to combine regional collective identity elements with organizational identity elements into their external communication. These strategies further emphasize different intents for legitimacy and distinctiveness and are influenced by various organizational social variables and managers’ identification with the regional cluster. The model and propositions emerging from this research mainly contribute to organizational identity theory by refining the understanding of how macro-institutional identities constrain and enable the processes by which organizations develop identity contents to claim legitimate distinctiveness. In particular the model shows that organizations try to achieve legitimate distinctiveness by orchestrating both conforming and under-conforming claims through multi-modal identity projections (i.e., visual and verbal) and that some organizations over-conform to the regional cluster identity and prefer distinctiveness through inter-group comparison rather than through intra-group comparison. Furthermore, the findings reaffirm the value of considering the role of both organizational idiosyncratic characteristics and collective institutional elements in the processes of organizational identity construction, thereby supporting recent theories of identity formation and claiming (Gioia, Patvardhan, Hamilton, & Corley, 2013). Finally, the findings provide insights that contribute to the existing literature on institutional work and on regional business clusters by suggesting directions for future research.
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