Kim & Jensen (2011). How product order affects market identity repertoire ordering in the US opera market

Bo Kyung Kim – Southern Methodist University
Michael Jensen – University of Michigan

Simone Napolitano – University of Bologna
Paula Ungureanu – University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Article link: http://

Question 1. A central tenet of this interesting study is the conceptual distinction between organizational and market identity: the latter constitutes the cognitive interface between organizations and external audiences and the former the central and most enduring features that constitute identity for internal audiences. How much do you think this difference between enduring parts and more flexible parts is important for the specific type of product offerings that you look at, i.e. opera repertoires?

[Michael] We distinguish between organizational and market identity to make it clear that we focus on external audiences (season ticket holders and opera critics) and how external audiences categorize opera companies. We were less interested in internal audiences (singers, musicians, administrators) and what internal audiences view as the enduring features of their opera companies and we are certainly not saying that organizational identity is not important, it is just not the focus of our study. That being said, I think that some features of opera are more enduring than other features, but I am not sure that there are features that are impossible to change. Many people would argue that un-amplified voice is a defining feature of opera, for example, and some people might even say that opera would not be opera with amplified voice. I don’t think so. Opera is already being simulcast in movie theaters and I do not think that most external audiences would stop categorizing opera as opera if voices were amplified. It is probably more constructive to think of more or less prototypical opera, and then begin to examine what features are more or less constraining for opera companies trying to increase their appeal to external audiences. And this question of constraining features and external appeal is, of course, perfectly generalizable to other contexts.

[Bo Kyung] I am with Michael that the focus of our paper is market identity, not organizational identity. Furthermore, what is interesting about our findings is that no matter what organizations think about themselves (or at least while controlling for this factor), they can attempt to change their appeal by changing the order of its product offerings. We did not specifically theorize or test about the differences between organizational and market identities, but my thought is that having certain offerings (such as staging modern opera) may have an impact on the identity of internal audiences (i.e. the central and enduring features of the organization), whereas changing the order of product offerings can have effects on how external audiences perceive opera repertoires and accordingly how they categorize these opera companies (cognitive interface between organizations and external audiences).

Question 2. Still in relation to market identity, in this study, as well as in other ones (Jensen, 2010; Jensen, Kim & Kim, 2011, Jensen & Kim, 2014) you define market identity as an interface between how an organization is perceived in the market based on membership in a set of relevant social categories and the organization’s efforts to influence such perceptions, based also on how the organization self-categorizes. How much do you think this interface is subject to negotiation in the U.S. opera industry and in other industries? How can we best capture the interplay between category assignment and self-categorization and what might future studies look at into greater detail?

[Michael] Building on my answer to the first question, I think the interface between organizations and their audiences are almost always subject to negotiations. Indeed, you can think about it analytically as a three-party negotiation: internal audiences – organization – external audiences. This is probably one of the oldest insights in organization theory, just think Cyert and March, Thompson, Pfeffer and Salancik, and so on. I guess what we are showing is that opera companies can at least influence if not control category assignment by manipulating the order in which they play conventional and unconventional operas. In a companion piece published in Organization Science in 2014, we looked more carefully at how external audiences help explain the composition (the mixing of conventional and unconventional operas) of opera repertoires. We have not, however, examined the interplay between category assignment by external audiences and self-categorization by internal audiences, but I am sure it would be very interesting to study the entire negotiation.

[Bo Kyung] I totally agree with Michael that negotiations (always) happen within this interface. Our paper shows one way how companies can negotiate better with external audiences by changing the order of product offerings. However, it is also possible to imagine other contextual conditions when self-categorization has positive or negative effects on external audiences’ category assignment. Or it would also be interesting to know more about whether the disagreement over external audiences’ category assignment and self-categorization may have negative or positive impacts on firm performance (and organizational identity). All things considered, I agree that there is more research to do in this context and within this theoretical framework.

Question 3. In a related way, you have focused on the U.S. opera market, which is known to have some characteristics that are different from the European market (i.e., heavier reliance on the market for funding, higher predilection for cross-overs and new products). Do you think a cross cultural study could highlight new aspects of market identity in the opera market in general, and of ordered market identity, in particular? Which do you think would be the challenges of such studies?

[Michael] Interesting question! I think the general idea that the order in which an organization presents a portfolio of products affects the market identity of the organization is generalizable to other cultural contexts. The importance of different types of external audiences is, however, likely to differ considerably from country to country, which could make it more or less important to appeal to different types of external audiences. Cross-cultural studies are fascinating! It is necessary, however, to make sure that cross-cultural differences are clearly identified (and everything else kept constant) to make strong inferences about what explains outcome differences. The international standardization of the opera repertoire certainly makes it easier to focus on institutional and cross-cultural differences in the way opera companies operate and opera performances are delivered to external audiences.

[Bo Kyung] DITTO! Our ordering argument will be applicable to different institutional contexts, but what different groups of external audiences may want and whether their tastes are convergent or divergent depend on contexts (Please refer to our OS (2014) for more information). It will be an interesting empirical question of how ordering effects may be moderated by contextual factors and how cross-cultural studies may help us better understand the scope conditions.

Question 4. You look at the ordering of operas in a repertoire along a temporal dimension where the central unit is the season: what would be the main methodological challenge for scholars wanting to study portfolio ordering effects in contexts where the difference between conventionality and unconventionality is at work but in a shorter time lag, such as film festivals or fashion weeks that last one or two weeks?

[Bo Kyung] For some opera companies, such as the Santa Fe Opera, their seasons have shorter time lag, such as a couple of weeks or a month (about 10 percent of companies in our sample). When testing our hypotheses, we controlled for these summer opera companies. The results show that summer opera company audiences are indeed less interested in purchasing season ticket sales (see Table 4). Summer opera companies are also receiving more critical attention (see Table 5), indicating that critics may prefer to cover companies within a shorter time lag (They don’t need to visit the same opera house several times during a year). However, our independent variable was statistically significant even when we included this summer opera dummy variable. The ordering of product offerings still matters in contexts with a shorter time lag. I agree that it would be interesting to examine any potential interaction effect between summer opera company and market identity order variables.

[Michael] Again, I think the general idea that the order in which an organization presents a portfolio of products affects the market identity of the organization is generalizable. A potential problem with studying film festivals and fashion weeks is that (as I understand film festivals and fashion weeks) no external audiences are expected to attend all the events because multiple events are scheduled at the same time. But I would not be surprised if the order in which the films that compete for festival awards are being screened affect the perception of the individual films and the quality of the overall program. It would be an interesting empirical question!

Question 5. The two hypotheses that you verify in the study tackle two different conceptualizations of appeal, that is appeal to season-ticket holders and appeal to opera critics; has this been seen as an issue by reviewers during the process? More generally, an interesting aspect of your study is the role played by critics in stretching the tension between artistic and commercial demands: is there any advice in terms of readings that you would give to PhD students willing to analyze this role in more depth?

[Michael] The reviewers did not bring up the distinction between season-ticket holders and opera critics. It was always part of our study. The reviewers did, however, ask us to repeat the analysis of critical coverage at the opera company level (model 6 in table 5), a request that we found reasonable. As to the question about readings about the role of critics, I am not sure that I can point to a particular source. Lots of interesting work has been published in sociology and management journals, but it is also important to check more specialized journals such as Journal of Cultural Economics and journals dedicated to the opera and the arts more broadly. I always love this part of the research process: read broadly, find stuff you didn’t even know existed, and become a better scholar! I wish we would spend more time on that rather than fighting with reviewers 😉

[Bo Kyung] I thought our conceptualization of the two different types of appeal, that is, appeal to season-ticket holders and appeal to opera critics, was indeed the appeal of our paper (what makes our paper interesting). In many cases, organizations may face several external audiences, in extreme cases oppositional external audiences like in our study, indicating that they need to take all of these groups into account. Also, I have been very interested in the role of critics in the art industry. There are many interesting papers about critics, both in sociology and psychology. I will name just a few of them below, but I am more than happy to discuss the topic further with anyone who is interested in!

Further readings
Alba, J. W. & Hutchinson, J. W. 1987. Dimensions of Consumer Expertise. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(4): 411.
Chi, M. T. H., Feltovich, P. J., & Glaser, R. 1981. Categorization and representation of physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science, 5(2): 121-152.
Hsu, G. 2006. Evaluative schemas and the attention of critics in the US film industry. Industrial and Corporate Change, 15(3): 467-496.
Jensen, M. 2010. Legitimizing illegitimacy: How creating market identity legitimizes illegitimate products. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 31, 39-80.
Jensen, M., Kim, B. K., & Kim, H. 2011. The importance of status in markets: A market identity perspective. Status in management and organizations, 87-117.
Jensen, M., & Kim, B. K. 2014. Great, Madama Butterfly again! how robust market identity shapes opera repertoires. Organization Science, 25(1), 109-126.
Shrum, W. M. 1996. Fringe and fortune: The role of critics in high and popular art. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Tanaka, J. W. & Taylor, M. 1991. Object categories and expertise: Is the basic level in the eye of the beholder? Cognitive Psychology, 23(3): 457-482.

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