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Journal of Strategic Marketing

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Anatomy of competitive advantage:

towards a contingency theory of
entrepreneurial marketing
a b c d
Peter Whalen , Can Uslay , Vincent J. Pascal , Glenn Omura ,
e f g
Andrew McAuley , Chickery J. Kasouf , Rosalind Jones , Claes M.
h i j k
Hultman , Gerald E. Hills , David J. Hansen , Audrey Gilmore , Joe
l m n
Giglierano , Fabian Eggers & Jonathan Deacon
Department of Marketing, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
Department of Marketing, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ,
Click for updates c
Management Department, Eastern Washington University,
Spokane, WA, USA
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, Australia
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, USA
Department of Marketing, University of Birmingham, University
House, Edgbaston, UK
University of rebro, rebro, Sweden
School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Bradley University,
Peoria, IL, USA
Department of Management and Marketing, College of
Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA
Department of Business and Enterprise, Ulster University,
Coleraine, UK
Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences, San Jose State
University, San Jose, CA, USA
Department of Marketing, Menlo College, Atherton, CA, USA
The South Wales Business School, University of South Wales,
Newport, UK
Published online: 19 May 2015.

To cite this article: Peter Whalen, Can Uslay, Vincent J. Pascal, Glenn Omura, Andrew McAuley,
Chickery J. Kasouf, Rosalind Jones, Claes M. Hultman, Gerald E. Hills, David J. Hansen, Audrey
Gilmore, Joe Giglierano, Fabian Eggers & Jonathan Deacon (2015): Anatomy of competitive
advantage: towards a contingency theory of entrepreneurial marketing, Journal of Strategic
Marketing, DOI: 10.1080/0965254X.2015.1035036
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0965254X.2015.1035036


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Journal of Strategic Marketing, 2015

Anatomy of competitive advantage: towards a contingency theory of

entrepreneurial marketing
Peter Whalena*, Can Uslayb,1, Vincent J. Pascalc,2, Glenn Omurad,3, Andrew McAuleye,4,
Chickery J. Kasouff,5, Rosalind Jonesg,6, Claes M. Hultmanh,7, Gerald E. Hillsi,8,
David J. Hansenj,9, Audrey Gilmorek,10, Joe Giglieranol,11, Fabian Eggersm,12
and Jonathan Deaconn,13
Department of Marketing, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA; bDepartment of Marketing,
Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA; cManagement Department, Eastern Washington
University, Spokane, WA, USA; dMichigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA; eSouthern
Cross University, Lismore, NSW, Australia; fWorcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, USA;
Downloaded by [University of Otago] at 23:18 21 July 2015

Department of Marketing, University of Birmingham, University House, Edgbaston, UK;

University of Orebro, Orebro, Sweden; iSchool of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Bradley
University, Peoria, IL, USA; jDepartment of Management and Marketing, College of Charleston,
Charleston, SC, USA; kDepartment of Business and Enterprise, Ulster University, Coleraine, UK;
Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, USA;
Department of Marketing, Menlo College, Atherton, CA, USA; nThe South Wales Business School,
University of South Wales, Newport, UK
(Received 11 September 2014; accepted 26 February 2015)

Entrepreneurial marketing (EM), born out of the practice of firms operating in

conditions of uncertainty, is emerging as a powerful alternative to cope with the
decreasing effectiveness associated with traditional marketing. In this article, the
authors provide their collective position regarding the field of EM. A brief history and
conceptual background of EM is presented and the contextual differences that have
shaped its evolution are considered. Distinctions between traditional and EM are
derived based on discussions of the concepts of size, speed, market, opportunity, risk,
and uncertainty. The perspective of value co-creation in uncertainty is used to develop
a contingency framework to serve as the foundation towards a general theory of EM.
Operand and operant resources and environmental conditions are proposed to moderate
the EM process from opportunity recognition to entrepreneurial organization, EM, and
temporary competitive advantage. The theoretical facets are illustrated with seven
propositions and directions for future research.
Keywords: entrepreneurial marketing; value co-creation; opportunity recognition;
opportunity exploitation; competitive advantage; entrepreneurial orientation

The authors equally contributed to the creation of this article and are listed in reverse-alphabetical
order. Fourteen of sixteen members of the Global Research Symposium on Marketing &
Entrepreneurship (GRSME) Advisory Board and all but one of the officers of the American
Marketing Associations Entrepreneurial Marketing Special Interest Group (AMA EMSIG)
contributed to this article. However, the views expressed belong to the authors and do not represent
those of the American Marketing Association or GRSME.

*Corresponding author. Email: peter.whalen@du.edu

q 2015 Taylor & Francis

2 P. Whalen et al.

Rapid changes in technology and consumer tastes create conditions of uncertainty, which
renders traditional marketing strategies and tactics ineffective (Reibstein, Day, & Wind,
2009; Sheth & Sisodia, 2006). In contrast, entrepreneurial marketing (EM) is emerging as
a powerful alternative, as it is born out of the theory and practice of firms operating in
conditions of uncertainty (Hills, 1987; Hills, Hultman, & Miles, 2008; Hills & LaForge,
1992; Morris, Schindehutte, & LaForge, 2002; Sethna, Jones, & Harrigan, 2013). EM is a
unique area of research that attempts to merge the relevant insights from both marketing
and entrepreneurship. EM, once considered to be the same as low-cost or buzz marketing
(Lodish, Morgan, & Kallianpur, 2001), is no longer limited to small business (Morrish,
Miles, & Deacon, 2010). In fact, some of the more visible EM campaigns have been
produced by large businesses because the media and consumers pay more attention to
household brands. Yet some of the most creative, lucrative, and provocative examples of
EM originate from small businesses. Overall, small businesses engage in EM not only
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because they have fewer resources, but also because EM helps them to survive and thrive
in an increasingly competitive and volatile marketplace.
In this article, the authors provide their shared position regarding the field of EM.
This joint perspective is used to develop a contingency framework to serve as a
foundation towards a theory of EM. To this, we first provide a brief history and
conceptual background of EM and consider the contextual differences that have shaped
its evolution. This includes a discussion on the key concepts of opportunity, risk, and
uncertainty from which we derive important distinctions between traditional marketing
and entrepreneurial marketing. Then, we develop a contingency framework of EM based
on value co-creation in an uncertain environment, and illustrate its theoretical facets with
seven propositions. We conclude with the research and policy issues surrounding the
future of EM.

Conceptual background
EM research has evolved over the past thirty30 years. Hills et al. (2008, p. 102) observe
that nontraditional marketing like EM often deals with several of the following conditions:
(1) the lack of economies of scale; (2) severe resource constraints; (3) a limited
geographic market presence; (4) a limited market image; (5) little brand loyalty or market
share; (6) little specialized management expertise; (7) decision-making under even more
imperfect information conditions than in larger firms; (8) a marked scarcity of time per
major management task; (9) a scarcity of professional managers; and (10) a mixture of
business and personal goals. They observe that marketing was viewed and performed
differently in context where these variables prevail and EM can be seen as a domain for
marketing-related issues in such context (see Hills et al., 2008, on the history and evolution
of EM as a field).
Based on an initial three-factor model of entrepreneurship that emerged from research
by Miller and Friesen (1982), a widely used definition of EM includes: proactive
identification and exploitation of opportunities for acquiring and retaining profitable
customers through innovative approaches to risk management, resource leveraging and
value creation (Morris et al., 2002, p. 5). This was subsequently expanded by Hills &
Hultman (2011, p. 6) as EM is a spirit, an orientation as well as a process of passionately
pursuing opportunities and launching and growing ventures that create perceived customer
value through relationships by employing innovativeness, creativity, selling, market
immersion, networking, and flexibility.
Journal of Strategic Marketing 3

As a field, entrepreneurship has struggled to consistently define itself and demarcate its
domain (Gedeon, 2010). It has evolved from questions of firm creation to include broad
concepts such as innovation, uncertainty, and purpose. As such, EM has sometimes been
mistakenly confined to the contexts of SMEs and new ventures. However, there is nothing
in the definitions above that preclude large firms from engaging in EM. It is true that some
SMEs engage in EM that is advanced, customer-centric, interactive, and effective based
on the resources available . . . (Hills & Hultman, 2013, p. 438; Read, Dew, Sarasvathy,
Song, & Wiltbank, 2009; Whalen & Holloway, 2012). However, there are also many small
businesses including high-tech ones that still employ traditional marketing practices.
We acknowledge EMs historical connection to SME marketing but we consider it more
aptly as a theoretical base for developing marketing techniques that achieve high-growth
goals (Hills & Hultman, 2013). Thus, we consider EM to occupy a unique, stand-alone
domain akin to international marketing, relationship marketing, B2B marketing, and
services marketing that has gone through a similar evolution to gain legitimacy as a
distinct school of marketing thought (Morrish, Morrish, & Morrish, 2011; see Hills &
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Hultman, 2006 for an overview of EM). In Table 1, we list some of the fundamental
characteristics of EM.
Indeed, it is possible to fuse the reigning definitions of entrepreneurial orientation with
an evolved definition of marketing (Lumpkin & Dess, 1996; Miller, 1983; Sheth & Uslay,
2007) and advocate a third new definition: EM is a combination of innovative, proactive,
and risk-taking activities that create, communicate, and deliver value to and by customers,
entrepreneurs, marketers, their partners, and society at large.

Risk, opportunity, and market uncertainty

Key distinctions separate traditional marketing and EM regarding risks, opportunities and
uncertainty. Risk taking has long been a key element in discussions of entrepreneurship
and has come to be accepted as a distinct dimension of entrepreneurial orientation (Miller,
1983). Over the intervening years, thinking on the role of risk-taking has evolved. The
field has gone to a more nuanced view from the original thinking that entrepreneurial
orientation means a higher than average tendency to take risks. Schindehutte, Morris, and
Pitt (2009, p. 33) describe a calculated risk-taking dimension of entrepreneurial orientation
involving the willingness to commit significant resources to opportunities that have a

Table 1. Entrepreneurial marketing characteristics.

Entrepreneurial marketing is NOT necessarily . . . Entrepreneurial marketing IS . . .
Early stage marketing/entrepreneurship Marketing with focus on proactively creating
and exploiting markets through innovation and
innovative behavior at any business stage
High-tech marketing, data-mining Complex use of different marketing techniques
SME/family owned/private business marketing Creative (nontraditional) marketing in any type
of firm
Small budget marketing or its planning Highly effectual in its implementation and
driven by the key actors entrepreneurial
Value creation only Value co-creation with focus on continuous
increase in customer value
Focus on new product marketing Focus on innovation and market creation
4 P. Whalen et al.

reasonable chance of costly failure, but it also includes creative attempts to mitigate,
leverage, or share the various risks. However, even the notion of calculated risk-taking
seems somewhat unrealistic. Very often entrepreneurs operate with only a vague idea of
what risks they take. In many cases, their view of risks is heavily skewed toward an overly
optimistic assessment, shaded by their own self-confidence or simple ignorance of the
probabilities of success and failure that they truly face (Bhide, 2000).
When considering growth-oriented or innovation-based new ventures, risk derives
from ambiguity or uncertainty regarding the new product or market. There is often sizable
uncertainty about likely customer acceptance and potential competitor actions. These
unknowns often cannot be understood, let alone quantified, before the customers
experience the new product. Thus, entrepreneurs assessment of risk often remains
difficult and qualitative. EM addresses uncertainty by frequently engaging with
prospective customers. In contrast, traditional marketing relies on predictive market
research meant to reduce uncertainty before designing products and offerings.
Another key difference between traditional marketing and EM lies in opportunity
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recognition. Other than the importance of the construct itself, there is little agreement
about the nature of opportunities (Short, Ketchen, Shook, & Ireland, 2010). Are
opportunities discovered in an exogenous marketplace by keen observers (Shane &
Venkataraman, 2000), or, are they created endogenously by sense making actors (Alvarez
& Barney, 2007; Sarasvathy, 2001), or, is it both (Venkataraman, Sarasvathy, Dew, &
Forster, 2012)? The creation theorists argue that the underlying uncertainty created by
introducing new value propositions into socially based markets is fundamentally different
from the predictable risk associated with seizing opportunity in external, objective
markets. If uncertainty is unknowable, traditional pursuits of eliminating that uncertainty
through analyses similar to those aimed at the reduction of risk, would prove futile.
Instead, opportunities could be enacted through a process of sense making (Weick, 1979)
that could produce proprietary and inimitable resources that might lead to competitive
advantages (Barney, 1996).
Although the opportunity literature remains fragmented, a creation-based view of
opportunity formation has largely replaced the initial discovery-based view (Korsgaard,
2013). The creation perspective (Alvarez & Barney, 2007) is supported by underlying
theories such as improvisation (Moorman & Miner, 1998), bricolage (Baker & Nelson,
2005) and effectuation (Read et al., 2009; Sarasvathy, 2001). Each of these creation-based
theories considers some form of dynamic agency as an important factor in the
entrepreneurial environment that has previously been under-explained by extant literature.
Effectuation theory has provided the largest stream of research of any creation-based
theory (Read et al., 2009). According to effectuation theory, opportunities are, created as
the residual of a process that involves intense dynamic interaction and negotiation between
stakeholders seeking to operationalize their (often vague and unformed) aspirations and
values into concrete products, services and institutions that constitute economy
(Sarasvathy, Dew, Velamuri, & Venkataraman, 2010, p. 92). In other words, effectuation
views opportunities as emergent over time and based on a series of feedback loops within
the means of the marketer or entrepreneur. Value propositions evolve from these
controlled interactions with stakeholders of both current markets and potential future
markets cloaked in uncertainty.
The effectuation concept challenges strategic entrepreneurships perspective of the
relationship between entrepreneurship and marketing. The strategic entrepreneurship
literature (Ireland, Hitt, & Sirmon, 2003; Webb, Ireland, Hitt, Kistruck, & Tihanyi, 2011)
advocates that opportunity exploitation requires activities (including marketing activities)
Journal of Strategic Marketing 5

that help and support any innovation (Bygrave & Hofer, 1991) in terms of gathering and
leveraging resources and thus lead to the development of a strategy or business model for
coordinating and mobilizing these resources (Webb et al., 2011). These activities include
introducing the innovation to the market in such a way that satisfies customer-related
needs. A market orientation (MO) informs and shapes the recognition, innovation and
exploitation sequence. Market intelligence creates usable knowledge and marketings role
is to convey innovation that benefits customers and enhances opportunity exploitation
(Boulding, Lee, & Staelin, 1994; Webb et al., 2011).

Beyond the marketing mix: entrepreneurial customer relationship management

EM renders customer relationship management especially important and unique in two
types of situations. The first situation is the creation and leverage of relationships in the
early startup stages of the new venture. In the earliest stages of customer development
(Blank, 2013), the founders of the new venture get out of the building to talk with
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potential customers and test the early hypotheses of their business model. As new or
existing contacts are engaged, some of these may express deep interest in the type of
product or service the venture is trying to develop. The founders should ideally look for
these special customers and recruit them as development partners. Development of a
strong offering can be facilitated by such partnerships, whether they are in consumer or
business-to-business markets. While such partnerships can be exceedingly helpful, the
founders need to keep some basic rules in mind. Giglierano, Vitale, and McClatchy (2011)
suggest that customer partners should initially come from visionary customers, but
pragmatist partners shortly thereafter to facilitate the new ventures progression across
the chasm to pragmatist customers.
The second important and unique function of customer relationship information is its
role in search for new opportunities. After the new venture organization has become
established and grown to sustainable size, most modern organizations install and use
customer relationship management systems (Harrigan, Ramsey, & Ibbotson, 2012). These
systems can capture and analyze enormous amounts of customer data. While the principal
purpose of using these data is for enhancing value creation and delivery, the data can also
serve to inform future market development and opportunity exploitation.

Contextual distinctions of EM
EM and firm size
While EM is now considered in the domain of both large and small firms, small businesses
can actually generate even higher Return on Investment (ROI) than their much larger
counterparts due to a sharp focus in the market niches they serve (Uslay, Altintig, &
Winsor, 2010; Uslay, Yeniyurt, & Lee, 2013).14 One key insight for start-ups is to not
sacrifice market/customer focus in the name of growth. Growth for the sake of growth can
quickly lead to less/un-profitable product or service proliferation and dilute brand image.
In such a case, it may be advisable to investigate market development instead of new
product development that might temper with a winning formula.

EM and speed to market

An example of small firms whichthat are more predisposed to delivering greater ROI than
larger organizations, who frequently punch above their weight, areis knowledge-
6 P. Whalen et al.

intensive technology firms thatwhich are predominantly high-growth orientated, operating

immediately as born globals rather than developing a foothold in domestic markets
before expanding cross-borders (Hallback & Gabrielsson, 2013). There are several reasons
for this, including the following: opportunities in technology markets often transcend
traditional notions of market segmentation and often immediately become global market
opportunities; the selling of technologies frequently takes place in the B2B context using
resellers or other technology firms up, or downstream, within a global supply chain or in a
global partnership or network, or; the technology sale necessitates the integration of the
new technology within the customer firm, such as a large technology firm, which already
has global operations.
In the technology context, the role of relationships and partnerships is crucial, such as
those between stakeholders, investors, universities, customers and other technology firms
(Jones, Suoranta, & Rowley, 2013a). Firms in this sector particularly rely upon leveraging
additional resources and co-creation of added value through entrepreneurial networks, a
central theme of EM identified by researchers (Bjerke & Hultman, 2002; Collinson &
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Shaw, 2001; Hills & Hultman, 2006). Technology firms operate in dynamic, fast moving,
highly competitive markets where a key challenge is how to identify close rivals and to
launch new products ahead of competitors, utilizing implicit market knowledge by
focusing on a particular market niche. In contrast, markets for firms in non-technology
industry sectors are often less demanding but offer fewer new market opportunities in the
market and so firms are not required to be entrepreneurially oriented or market oriented for
basic survival. Slower growth firms tend to be less innovative and orientate themselves
differently either depending on market and business demands at the time (e.g., at start-up
or growth phases in the business), while higher growth firms exhibit an EM orientation
(EMO) continually from the outset (Jones & Rowley, 2011).
Non-technology industry sectors tend to be more static and stable, being more
predictable with less risk, with much less opportunity for growth and ROI and, scarce
availability of angel investment. The role of EM becomes more visible and distinct in
technology firms because EM becomes more fundamental for the survival of the business
where the prevailing market conditions demand an entrepreneurial mind-set (non-linear
approaches to complex adaptive systems) and where new product development and the
likelihood of market acceptance are uncertain (Coviello & Joseph, 2012; McCarthy,
Tsinopoulos, Allen, & Rose-Anderssen, 2006). Such firms seek temporary competitive
advantage to compete against their closest competitors and their specific new technology
product launches. Successful Silicon Valley firms innovate ahead of competitors and lead
customers towards using new offerings by treating the customer as a favored collaborative
partner, moving new products ahead of those available in the current marketplace (Jones,
Suoranta, & Rowley, 2013b).

EM and market base

While one often thinks of entrepreneurial enterprises in terms of highly visible consumer
success, the B2B sector of the marketing world is a significant driver of value, and it varies
from firms operating in small, fragmented industries, to key suppliers such as Intel and
EMC. B2B companies create substantial value in many ways. They allow original
equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to focus on core abilities while leaving innovation in
peripheral areas to suppliers. In the 1990s, General Electric made strides to develop a
boundaryless organization, in which suppliers would become trusted partners with
business units, and tried to reduce adversarial relationships (Kasouf & Celuch, 1997). This
Journal of Strategic Marketing 7

is consistent with other trends of the era (e.g., Chryslers SCORE program that stressed
supplier collaboration against the price-driven cost reductions in the General Motors
supply base under Ignacio Lopez).
For example, many of the lower tier companies supplying the automotive industry are
small, family-held firms, and for these firms to thrive and stay away from price
competition, they must develop the perspectives of entrepreneurial marketing to create
value for OEMs or higher tier suppliers, often in a process of co-creation. The lesson to be
drawn here is that the B2B space is a dynamic environment in which successful companies
leverage upstream and downstream relationships to create value for consumers through
innovations and symbiotic partnerships. Companies that do not leverage these
relationships are forced to compete in a commodity price game, a difficult environment
to earn returns.

Towards a contingency theory of entrepreneurial marketing: co-creating value for

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competitive advantage
As outlined earlier, entrepreneurial agency creates uncertainty due to its unpredictable
outcomes and individually assessed value appropriations created within complex
ecosystems. This uncertainty prevents traditional marketing efficacy that has been rooted
in risk-based analyses intended to predict future market conditions (Read et al., 2009).
In the place of these traditional marketing practices, opportunities and value are co-created
and developed through effectual processes that produce advantageous returns.
A contingency theory (Van de Ven & Drazin, 1984) of entrepreneurial marketing is
needed to explain the advantages of participating in these innovative, proactive, and risk-
taking activities of opportunity development.
The entrepreneurial process begins with opportunity identification (whose antecedents
stand out as a fertile research area on its own) (Brown, Davidsson, & Wiklund, 2001; Hills,
Lumpkin, & Singh, 1997). Such opportunities can range from catering to under-served
markets (historically Wal-Mart) and serving existing customers better (historically
McDonalds), to redefining/shaping markets (Apple), or creating new markets altogether
(Tesla) (Morrish et al., 2010). In Figure 1, we present a contingency framework for EM
and discuss the resulting propositions:
Resources are central to the extant literature in strategy, management, and marketing
(Hunt & Morgan, 1996). Vargo and Lusch (2004) distinguish between operant resources
(knowledge and skills) that are often applied to operand resources (tangible factors of

Figure 1. An entrepreneurial marketing contingency framework.

8 P. Whalen et al.

production such as land and equipment). The (operant) knowledge and skills of the
entrepreneur(s) naturally influence the opportunity recognition process and whether or not
an opportunity is recognized/created and then pursued. Therefore, we propose:
P1a: Operant resources (knowledge and skills) increase the likelihood of opportunity
recognition and creation.
P1b: Operant resources (knowledge and skills) positively moderate the propensity that
recognized and/or created opportunities will be addressed by an entrepreneurial
As mentioned before, EM was historically associated primarily with small firms and
small budget marketing. Resource constraints forced smaller firms to be more creative and
innovative relative to their larger competitors (ODwyer, Gilmore, & Carson, 2009).
In turn, large corporations have also recognized the efficacy and potential of EM (Miles &
Darroch, 2006). As a result, some of the most visible EM campaigns have been developed
by large corporations. Unfortunately, mid-sized firms are getting stuck in between smaller
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firms use of EM (e.g., guerilla) and the large budget EM efforts (e.g., buzz) of their
sophisticated and wealthy counterparts. Therefore, we propose:
P2: Operand resources (tangible factors of production) moderate the propensity that an
organization will exploit a new opportunity with entrepreneurial marketing in a
nonlinear fashion; so that both high and low (but not medium) levels of operand
resources will lead to more entrepreneurial marketing.
A firm has a competitive advantage when, it is implementing a value creating strategy
not simultaneously being implemented by any current or potential competitor (Barney,
1991, p. 102). The creative destruction (Schumpeter, 1934) that takes place on an ongoing
basis eventually eliminates known competitive advantages in the marketplace. Previous
research has identified marketing as a controllable source of competitive advantage (Man,
Lau, & Chan, 2002). These advantages include increased attention, favorable brand image,
and brand loyalty (Morris et al., 2002). Among other things, EM helps entrepreneurs
acquire customers from traditional marketers, satisfy and retain their existing customers,
and also create new consumers from among non-users (who may be new to the market or
may have previously rejected/quit offerings due to pressure tactics and wasteful practices
of traditional marketers) (Hills et al., 2008). However, the permanent nature of
competition limits the stability of these advantages. Even the most intense adoption of EM
cannot guarantee uninterrupted and univocally favorable customer reception on a
continued basis. Marketing, unlike other organizational capabilities, is outward facing and
can be quickly detected by observant competitors anxious to duplicate successful
strategies. Therefore, we do not espouse that competitive advantages stemming from EM
campaigns are sustainable (except when the effort is coupled with the advantage of
regulation, e.g., patents). In contrast, it may be possible to generate a series of temporary
advantages of varying magnitude by adopting EM.
P3: The use of entrepreneurial marketing will lead to temporary competitive
advantages for the firm.
Environmental turbulence (which includes market (customer), competitive, and
technological factors) is often linked to performance as a moderator in marketing and
strategy literatures (Gatignon & Xuereb, 1997). Important factors such as industry
lifecycle, barriers to entry, and market concentration are invariably tied to environmental
turbulence as well. However, such environmental turbulence often also causes firms to
Journal of Strategic Marketing 9

adapt EM to break through competitive clutter and deal with uncertainty in the
As previously discussed, any competitive advantage derived must be placed within a
context (ODonnell, Gilmore, Carson, & Cummins, 2002). The context does not fully exist
in isolation but is open to both internal (psychological) and external (sociological)
influences. Thus, it is the individuals oscillation between these two influencers that
creates a temporal competitive state for the business. Such oscillation will continue until
equilibrium is achieved be that through social construction or symbolic interaction.
Therefore, we propose:
P4a: Environmental turbulence positively moderates the propensity that an
organization will exploit an opportunity with entrepreneurial marketing.
P4b: Environmental turbulence positively moderates the propensity that entrepreneur-
ial marketing will lead to temporary competitive advantage.
EM integrates the concepts of a service dominant logic (Vargo & Lusch, 2004) and
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effectuation (Sarasvathy, 2001) where value-in-use replaces the value-in-exchange

perspective. Only through the experiential and contextual usage of service can value be
transferred. Accordingly, that value is uniquely determined based on the context of the
consumer. Value co-creation becomes the raison detre of the firm (Sheth & Uslay, 2007).
Therefore, we propose:
P5: All temporary competitive advantage is co-created with customers.
In the spirit of Resource-Advantage Theory (Hunt & Morgan, 1996), we envision that
the advantages created by EM will produce value and eventually, may result in additional
resources for the firm. These resources will include operant and operand resources.
Operant resources will primarily be generated through learning. Operand resources will
result from service exchanges with other firms that are temporarily transferred through
currency and other physical assets. Therefore, we propose:
P6: Temporary competitive advantage generates new operant and operand resources.
Finally, temporary competitive advantage will also ultimately impact customers (e.g.,
by educating them and influencing trends), competitive dynamics, and even technological
factors (through R&D investments, technology lock-ins). Through the generation of new
operant and operand resources, the environment, including customers, entrepreneurs,
competitors, and society as a whole is uniquely altered. Therefore, we propose:
P7: Temporary competitive advantage reinforces environmental turbulence.

Future directions of entrepreneurial marketing research

Entrepreneurial marketing is a fertile field warranting further research. Areas of interest
arising from our proposals include EM and effectuation, EMs role with social responsibility,
and the value of ethnographic study. Each of these topics is briefly explored in this section.

EM and effectuation
As described earlier, effectuation presents a contrast to causality that can be found in
strategic planning and is very much ingrained in traditional marketing (Whalen &
Holloway, 2012). Effectuation represents a powerful approach to describe the role of the
10 P. Whalen et al.

entrepreneur (Read et al., 2009) and is therefore a solid basis to adapt existing, traditional
marketing approaches. So far, effectuation theory serves to explain and understand
(marketing) behaviors of entrepreneurs. But how can effectuation be used to develop
guidelines and techniques of EM that increase effectual behavior? Further research is
needed to investigate practical implications for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial
marketers. Furthermore, it would be worthwhile to develop measures for effectuation from
the EM perspective.

EM with social responsibility

There is no question that when marketing is correctly carried out, it does right by the
society by reducing waste (e.g., enabling more efficient distribution), improving the
quality of life (e.g., helping consumers make better-informed consumption choices) and
facilitating awareness, access, and affordability of respective offerings (Malhotra, Lee, &
Uslay 2012; Sheth, Sethia, & Srinivas, 2011). However, in its quest for novelty, EM can be
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prone to excess and has had its fair share of criticism that EM campaigns are not doing
enough for the society, an interesting dichotomy when entrepreneurs are often known as
philanthropists. As it turns out, EM and social responsibility can be congruent. Indeed,
mindful entrepreneurial marketing can bring out the best in both worlds: a high impact
campaign that is also socially responsible (Uslay & Erdogan, 2014). For example,
Intermarche supermarket chain of France marketed inglorious (oddly-shaped) produce in
a special section in their stores at a 30% discount and sold out of them (Coorsh, 2014). The
campaign was not only profitable but also reduced waste (the produce would be discarded
otherwise) reaching 21 M million consumers in 1one month and increasing store traffic by
24%. Therefore it is envisioned that the hallmark of a successful EM campaign will
increasingly be to include the planet, in addition to people and profit, all areas for future
research investigation.

EM research through ethnography

Finally, a theoretical gap has been found between scholarly efforts to explain the nature of
EM practice. Within the emerging field of EM, we encourage researchers to adopt
entrepreneurial research designs in order to uncover insights that more normative,
quantitative methodologies overlook. The prevailing causal, micro-economic research
approaches tell us some things about phenomena under investigation but may not enable
an adequate depth of insight and true understanding (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
The EM function is a social construct. The research we undertake thus deals with the
everyday life experience of the entrepreneur. These everyday experiences only exist as a
relational artifact at a point of contact with others within the social system of the focal
firm. For meaning to be developed, its study cannot be reduced to just an individual but
needs to consider the contacts, connections, group attachments and social meetings that
relate one person to another (Saunders, 2005). As a consequence, the key factors in a study
of the meaning and operation of EM are and will be socially constructed and it is
impossible to treat entrepreneurs as separate from their social contexts and environments
(Gilmore, Carson, & ODonnell, 2004). For example, Gross, Carson, and Jones (2014)
propose that EM can be studied through the social practice theory to investigate the nature
of EM practice.
Ontologically, EM research is essentially about reality and what can be known about
such reality: personal expressions by entrepreneurs about the world as they see it and as
Journal of Strategic Marketing 11

it exists for them. Philosophically, such an approach allows for a wider perspective to be
taken in the generation of knowledge as it encourages the development of new and
undiscovered meaning rather than seeking to confirm existing truths (Alvesson &
Skoldberg, 2000). Thus, we encourage researchers to seek insight and gain understanding
of the psychological and sociological context of EM through ethnographic interpretation,
for as Gummesson (2003) exclaims: All research is interpretive!

This paper has presented a contingency framework and a set of new propositions
underlying the claimed efficacy of EM in challenging markets, where traditional
(administrative) marketing alone becomes impractical. The authors have sought to clarify
and reposition EM and its relevance to both the entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial
marketers of all firm sizes. Presented propositions span from investigations of
environmental turbulence to temporary competitive advantage; which involve innovative
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behavior and creative marketing, driven by key actors entrepreneurial orientation, market
creation and value co-creation with a focus on continuous increase in customer value.
Our combined research experience within this field tells us that EM currently lacks
quantifiable measures or constructs to provide generalizable findings. Meanwhile, EM is
also a social construct where entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial marketers are inextricable
from the firm, requiring thoughtful and reflective ethnographic investigation to generate
potentially radical new insights. It is our hope that the joint perspective presented here will
advance a contingency view of EM, one that implies a series of temporary competitive
advantages derived from EM as opposed to a singular, sustainable competitive advantage
which is common in traditional marketing and strategy literatures.

The authors wish to thank Sussie Morrish for her encouragement and guidance in the development of
this article.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

1. Email: can.uslay@business.rutgers.edu
2. Email: vpascal@ewu.edu
3. Email: omura@broad.msu.edu
4. Email: andrew.mcauley@scu.edu.au
5. Email: chick@wpi.edu
6. Email: r.jones.4@bham.ac.uk
7. Email: claes.hultman@oru.se
8. Email: ghills@fsmail.bradley.edu
9. Email: hansend@cofc.edu
10. Email: aj.gilmore@ulster.ac.uk
11. Email: joseph.giglierano@sjsu.edu
12. Email: fabian.eggers@menlo.edu
13. Email: jonathan.deacon@southwales.ac.uk
14. There is no unified view on what makes a firm small, medium, or large. As with much else, the
US appears to hold an expansive view of small business with fewer than 500 employees
whereas the European Union defines a medium-sized business as one with fewer than 250
12 P. Whalen et al.

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2010). While the EU definition appears to be more commonsensical than that of the US, there is
something to be said about the importance of industry context, for example, 60 employees in a
labor-intensive sector does not really qualify to be a medium-sized firm. Overall, it appears that
market share-based delineation is much more appropriate since it can be compared across
sectors, that is, ,1% market share embryonic/micro, 1 5% small, 5 10% medium, .10%
large firms (Uslay et al., 2010).

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