Building corporate reputation with stakeholders
European Journal of Marketing
Ambiguity and Authenticity: Managing hybrid reputations. ABSTRACT Purpose: Research remains silent on how ambiguity in external communications can create a consistent brand position and corporate reputation. Specifically we investigate the case of hybrid organizations-organizations that need to act commercially to pursue non-profit or social goals-and how they retain consistency in their positioning of authenticity through ambiguity in planned, inferred and maintenance messages. Method:
... es. Method: Twenty-five depth-interviews were conducted in the Trappist beer market using projective techniques to explore Trappist communications. The informants represented members of the Trappist Order, secular employees, business customers, distributors, retailers, end consumers, and industry representatives. Findings: Authenticity is promoted in multiple forms in Trappist advertising and promotion so that multiple interpretations of the brewery's reputation are unified around the idea of 2 authenticity. In this context, Trappist breweries use multiple messages to reinforce a deliberately ambiguous strategic position. Research Limitations: The findings are derived from a single industry case study involving organizations with unique values and marketing problems. The research does not provide insight into transferability to other contexts nor the ethical implications of using ambiguity in communications. Finally, research needs to look at how far one can stretch the ambiguity of the organization's image without diluting the organization's reputation and meaning. Practical Implications: It appears that hybrid organizations are using strategic ambiguity for maintenance of organizational reputation or image so that they improve stakeholder impressions. This paper demonstrates how hybrid organizations apply communication ambiguity at an organizational level to retain credibility so that stakeholders selectively interpret information to support existing attitudes about the organization.