Semantic Strategies for Influencing the Influencers: Trading a Stock of Names for Higher Creativity Evaluations


Academy of Management Journal

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Départements : Management et Ressources Humaines

Diversification can be risky, as it extends a firm’s identity across multiple categories. This study examines cultural and symbolic strategies that can be used to mitigate such risks by managing multiple identities. A key strategic choice is naming: the parent’s name may be included in the new subsidiary’s name (semantic seeding) or not (semantic autonomy). A stock of parent-subsidiary names provides a lens through which gatekeepers evaluate the parent’s underlying creativity in spanning categories. There is expected to be inter-firm variance in creativity evaluations due to the differences in the number of autonomous or seeded names a parent sustains, the degree of visibility of different names, and the timing of introducing a new name. Using a panel dataset of global high-end fashion houses between 1998 and 2010, we found that each new autonomous subsidiary name enhances the parent’s creativity appeal up to a certain point (an inverted U-shaped relationship). However, the predicted negative linear effect of seeded subsidiary names was not supported. Since creativity evaluations are an outcome of active sensemaking, they were also found to be shaped by the gatekeepers’ ongoing memory of the parent. Our findings reveal the possibility of using unfocused market presence for influencing the influencers