Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Relationship Marketing and Its Impact on the Competitive Structure: The Case of Croatia

Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Relationship Marketing and Its Impact on the Competitive Structure: The Case of Croatia

Article excerpt

In this study we redefined the concept of relationship marketing, equated it to the Chinese cultural framework of guanxi and attempted to test its association to the competitive structure in Croatia. A sample of 105 senior executives completed questionnaires designed to measure the key variables. The data was analyzed using partial least squares and the central hypothesis of a negative association with competitive structure was not supported. The relationship was significant and in the opposite direction to that postulated.

1. INTRODUCTION

The so called "relationship marketing" paradigm dominates modern marketing practice and scholarship. Its novelty is emphasized despite the recognition that the ideas are not new and that society, as we know it, has always consisted of a network of relationships (Berry 2002; Gummesson 2002; Palmer 2002; Sheth and Parvatiyar 2002). Research has proliferated and many grandiose claims have been made for the paradigm's appearance as a new challenge to "traditional" marketing practice and scholarship (e.g., Brodie et al. 1997; Gummesson 2002). Indeed, Gummesson (2002, p. 38) using the sociology of science arguments of Kuhn (1962) almost hints at a conspiracy to restrict the progress of this new "relationship marketing" paradigm as follows:

As is characteristic of paradigm shifts, mainstream researchers, educators, and practitioners-who are in majority-attempt to force those who deviate from standard thinking-who are in minority-to adhere to the rules and regulations of ''normal science'' and to squeeze new thinking into the old costume. This resistance slows down and partly distorts the introduction of new marketing behavior.

He states this, disregarding Popper's (1959) arguments for scientific progress by critical destruction, and notwithstanding the evidence which suggests, for example, by the acknowledged proliferation of research, the use of the term in practice and even the existence of a journal of its own, that the paradigm has been, if anything, too readily and uncritically accepted in marketing (e.g., Berry 2002; Brodie et al. 1997; Gummesson 2002; Hunt, Lambe, and Wittmann 2002; Palmer 2002; Sheth and Parvatiyar 2002). Indeed the literature and the research is plagued by imprecision, definitional problems as recognized by Gummesson (2002, p. 39), the general poor specification of the nature of the paradigm and its philosophical implications for the economic functioning of industries or nations. Further, it appears that the psychological and sociological literature as well as the historical basis of trade in networks of human relationships most recently extensively emphasized in the examination of Chinese traditional values and labeled as Guanxi has been largely overlooked (e.g., Berscheid 1994; Ellis and Pecotich 2001a, 2002, 2001b; Lovett, Simmons, and Kali 1999; Pecotich and Chia 2002; Seung and Luo 2001; Xin and Pearce 1996; Zuobin 1999). It is our purpose to make a preliminary attempt to clarify some of these issues and on this basis to develop a conceptual structure to be tested in the applied marketing context of Croatia, and to present the results of such a test.

2. CONCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT

2.1. Relationship marketing defined

In the western (particularly the US and European) literature there has been a explosion of definitions of relationships marketing without clear agreement as to its nature and or the specification of its context or level of application (e.g., Grönroos 2000, 1997; Gummesson 2002; Morgan and Hunt 1994; Parvatiyar and Sheth 2000). The term has been used to describe relationships both at the individual and at the organizational level with terms such as: "affinity marketing, loyalty marketing, cross selling, up selling, co-branding, co-marketing, customer-supplier partnering, personalized one-to-one relationship key account management and solution selling" (Sheth and Parvatiyar 2002, p. 10), and there has been a failure to clearly separate, enumerate and integrate the two elements (i. …

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