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The megamarketing of microfinance: Developing and maintaining an industry aura of virtue

Domen Bajde, Jessica Chelekis and Arjen van Dalen

International Journal of Research in Marketing, 2022, vol. 39, issue 1, 134-155

Abstract: The current socio-economic climate is marked by an increased focus on corporate responsibility and the role of business in society. In this climate, megamarketing – efforts to develop and sustain an industry or market by gaining the cooperation and support of various stakeholders and publics – is an increasingly relevant approach. Current research in megamarketing focuses on understanding how various industry actors and stakeholders establish the legitimacy of a given industry by accommodating prevailing regulatory, normative, and cultural-cognitive structures. In contrast, this paper examines megamarketing efforts that go beyond such attempts to establish legitimacy towards establishing an industry as a virtuous entity displaying qualities that surpass minimal accepted standards and ‘business-as-usual.’ Inspired by work on virtue ethics in organisational studies, we develop the concept of industry aura: a ‘halo’ of unique and authentic virtues that characterise an industry. We explore the development of industry aura by surveying the discursive megamarketing tactics through which microfinance has been established as a virtuous industry. We conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses of 589 articles about microfinance appearing in five selected newspapers between 1986 and 2016. Our findings reveal three sets of megamarketing discursive tactics: 1) diagnostic framing and social mission framing, deployed to establish microfinance as a virtuous entity; 2) virtue anchoring and frame bridging, used to defend the industry’s aura in times of authenticity crisis; and 3) diagnostic and social-mission reframing aimed at recovering the tarnished aura of microfinance. Our paper enriches megamarketing research by charting relevant terrain that stretches beyond the established vectors of legitimacy theorizing and offers important implications for megamarketing practitioners.

Keywords: Megamarketing; Legitimacy; Industry aura; Virtue ethics; Authenticity; Microfinance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2021.05.004

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