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Is Market Orientation a Source of Sustainable Competitive Advantage or Simply the Cost of Competing?

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The authors use panel data constructed from the responses of repeatedly surveyed top managers at 261 companies regarding their firm's market orientation, along with objective performance measures, to investigate the influence of market orientation on performance for a nine-year period from 1997 to 2005. The authors measure market orientation in 1997, 2001, and 2005 and estimate it in the interval between these measurement periods. The analyses indicate that market orientation has a positive effect on business performance in both the short and the long run. However, the sustained advantage in business performance from having a market orientation is greater for the firms that are early to develop a market orientation. These firms also gain more in sales and profit than firms that are late in developing a market orientation. Firms that adopt a market orientation may also realize additional benefit in the form of a lift in sales and profit due to a carryover effect. Market orientation should have a more pronounced effect on a firm's profit than sales because a market orientation focuses efforts on customer retention rather than on acquisition. Environmental turbulence and competitive intensity moderate the main effect of market orientation on business performance, but the moderating effects are greater in the 1990s than in the 2000s.
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16
Journal of Marketing
Vol. 75 (January 2011), 16 –30
© 2011, American Marketing Association
ISSN: 0022-2429 (print), 1547-7185 (electronic)
V. Kumar, Eli Jones, Rajkumar Venkatesan, & Robert P. Leone
Is Market Orientation a Source of
Sustainable Competitive Advantage
or Simply the Cost of Competing?
The authors use panel data constructed from the responses of repeatedly surveyed top managers at 261
companies regarding their firm’s market orientation, along with objective performance measures, to investigate the
influence of market orientation on performance for a nine-year period from 1997 to 2005. The authors measure
market orientation in 1997, 2001, and 2005 and estimate it in the interval between these measurement periods.
The analyses indicate that market orientation has a positive effect on business performance in both the short and
the long run. However, the sustained advantage in business performance from having a market orientation is
greater for the firms that are early to develop a market orientation. These firms also gain more in sales and profit
than firms that are late in developing a market orientation. Firms that adopt a market orientation may also realize
additional benefit in the form of a lift in sales and profit due to a carryover effect. Market orientation should have a
more pronounced effect on a firm’s profit than sales because a market orientation focuses efforts on customer
retention rather than on acquisition. Environmental turbulence and competitive intensity moderate the main effect
of market orientation on business performance, but the moderating effects are greater in the 1990s than in the
2000s.
Keywords: market orientation, customer relationship management, longitudinal, sustainable competitive
advantage, business performance
V. Kumar is Richard and Susan Lenny Distinguished Chair in Marketing
and Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Brand & Customer
Management, J. Mack Robinson School of Business, Georgia State Uni-
versity (e-mail: mktvk@langate.gsu.edu). Eli Jones is Dean and E.J.
Ourso Distinguished Professor, E.J. Ourso College of Business, Louisiana
State University (e-mail: elijones@lsu.edu). Rajkumar Venkatesan is Bank
of America Professor in Marketing, Darden Graduate School of Business,
University of Virginia (e-mail: Venkatesanr@darden.virginia.edu). Robert
P. Leone is a professor and J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Chair of
Marketing, Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University (e-mail:
r.leone@tcu.edu). All authors contributed equally. The authors thank Ed
Blair, Ruth Bolton, Steve Brown, Lawrence Chonko, Partha Krishna-
murthy, Stanley Slater, Dave Stewart, and the three anonymous JM
reviewers for their comments on previous versions of this article. Roger
Kerin served as guest editor for this article.
As businesses become increasingly competitive, mar-
keters must identify routes for improved measurement of
[investments in marketing activities]. (Scase 2001, p. 1)
Dynamism in business environments caused by eco-
nomic slowdown or growth, competitive intensity,
globalization, mergers and acquisitions, and rapid-
fire product and technological innovations challenges top
managers’ ability to sense and respond to market changes
accurately. The inability to sense and respond to market
changes quickly has led to the demise of many firms with
household names, including Kmart and Circuit City. There-
fore, it is critical that managers identify and understand
strategic orientations that enable a firm to sustain perfor-
mance, especially in the presence of rapid changes in mar-
ket conditions.
The marketing concept that has existed for many years
was one of the first strategic frameworks that provided
firms with a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA). Aca-
demics first began recognizing and operationalizing the
marketing concept as “market orientation” in the 1990s
(Kohli and Jaworski 1990). During the past 20 years, hun-
dreds of articles have been published on market orienta-
tion’s effect on business performance (Kirca, Jayachandran,
and Bearden 2005). However, few studies have investigated
the longer-term benefits of market orientation (for excep-
tions, see Gebhardt, Carpenter, and Sherry 2006; Noble,
Sinha, and Kumar 2002), and almost nothing has been pub-
lished on this relationship using longitudinal data. This is an
important gap because obtaining business sustainability
remains a key concern for senior managers. Thus, a replica-
tion and extension of prior work is needed, using a longer
horizon to validate the full extent of market orientation’s
time-varying effect on business performance. Therefore, in
this study, we use existing measures from the literature to
assess the performance of market orientation on long-term
business performance. Our two specific questions are as fol-
lows: (1) Does market orientation create a source of SCA,
or is it a requirement that companies face when competing
in today’s business environment? and (2) How much is
gained, and how long can firms expect the advantages from
developing a market orientation to hold?
Market Orientation and Long-Term
Performance
The literature suggests that market orientation’s primary
objective is to deliver superior customer value, which is
based on knowledge derived from customer and competitor
analyses and the process by which this knowledge is gained
and disseminated throughout the organization (e.g., Felton
1959; Narver and Slater 1990). A superior understanding of
customer needs, competitive actions (i.e., industry structure
and positional advantages), and market trends enables a
market-oriented firm to identify and develop capabilities
that are necessary for long-term performance (Day 1994).
Investments in capabilities, such as active information
acquisition through multiple channels (e.g., sales force,
channel partners, suppliers), incorporation of the customer’s
voice into every aspect of the firm’s activities, and rapid
sharing and dissemination of knowledge of the firm’s cus-
tomers and competition, take time to provide returns. For
example, investments in improving customer satisfaction
affect firm performance through improved customer reten-
tion and profitability. However, these benefits from improv-
ing customer satisfaction are more likely to be observed in
the long run than in the short run.
Market orientation is a capability and the principal cul-
tural foundation of learning organizations (Deshpandé and
Farley 1998; Slater and Narver 1995). Through constant
acquisition of information regarding customers and compe-
tition and the sharing of this information within an organi-
zation, market-oriented firms are well positioned to develop
an organizational memory, a key ingredient for developing a
learning organization. Furthermore, a market orientation
encourages a culture of experimentation and a focus on con-
tinuously improving the firm’s process and systems. This
implies that developing and improving on a firm’s market
orientation may make a firm’s capabilities become more
distinctive (relative to the competition) over the long run,
resulting in SCA.
There are also reasons to believe that market orientation
may not provide an SCA. First, a market orientation may
lead a firm to narrowly focus its efforts on current cus-
tomers and their stated needs (i.e., adaptive learning versus
generative learning; Hamel and Prahlad 1994; Slater and
Narver 1995). Such a narrow focus could lead to market-
oriented firms not anticipating threats from nontraditional
sources, thus restricting a market orientation’s capability to
provide an SCA. Second, and most important, a market ori-
entation can provide long-term performance benefits if it is
not imitable by the competition. Capabilities and processes
are not imitable if they provide firms with tacit knowledge
that enables them to understand customers’ latent needs
(Day 1994). However, such a tacit knowledge base is devel-
oped only if firms adopt a broader and more proactive
approach to market orientation (Slater and Narver 1998).
Finally, it is widely accepted that a firm’s only sustainable
advantage is its ability to learn and anticipate market trends
faster than the competition (De Geus 1988).
Again, the majority of the published empirical support for
the benefits of market orientation is based on cross-sectional
databases. Therefore, our knowledge is limited to market
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 17
orientation’s influences on static measures of performance.
Cross-sectional databases cannot control for potentially
unobservable, firm-specific effects and cannot uncover the
time-varying effects of market orientation. For example,
Gauzente (2001) suggests that there are three aspects of
time that affect market orientation and its impact on perfor-
mance: (1) lagged, (2) threshold, and (3) cumulative effects.
Therefore, empirical studies examining market orientation’s
influence on business performance over time would provide
a more complete view of the benefits associated with devel-
oping and improving a market orientation. The few longitu-
dinal studies that exist show no long-term relationship
between market orientation and return on investment, which
indicates that a market orientation may be too costly and
that the returns are not large enough to justify the cost of
implementation (Narver, Jacobson, and Slater 1999).
In summary, the ability of market orientation to provide
an SCA is still unresolved, because the evolutionary nature
of a market orientation–performance relationship has not
been satisfactorily addressed. In this study, we treat a mar-
ket orientation–performance relationship more realistically
and more fully as an unfolding process rather than a dis-
crete event. Our longitudinal study design enables us to pro-
vide further insights into the dynamic nature of market ori-
entation’s effect on business performance.
Effect of Competition
Prior theoretical and empirical research has investigated the
effect of market orientation of a firm independent of the ori-
entation of the competitors in the industry. Thus, a funda-
mental question regarding market orientation still remains
unanswered: Does a market orientation still provide a
competitive advantage if the firm’s competitors are also
market oriented? In other words, as more firms in an indus-
try become market oriented, does a firm’s market orienta-
tion transform from being a success provider to being a fail-
ure preventer? That is, do moderate or high levels of effort
to maintain a market orientation only prevent failure and
not necessarily improve performance (Varadarajan 1985)?
Related to this, firms investing in developing a market
orientation want to know the advantages obtained from
being the first to adopt a market orientation in an industry.
Early adopters of market orientation can obtain insights into
customer needs before the competition. Responding to
these customer insights through the development of product
or service innovations can provide firms with improved
business performance. However, rarely is a product or ser-
vice safe from imitation by competition. Furthermore, com-
petitors can develop their own system and culture of being
market oriented and can potentially change the market struc-
ture as well. For example, pharmaceutical companies derive
competitive advantages while their products are under
exclusive patents, which provides them lead time in devel-
oping SCA while they recoup research-and-development
costs. However, competitors often develop and patent
“similar” formularies, which could lead to industry equilib-
rium. An example in the technology industry is the compe-
tition between IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Although IBM
pioneered the concept of a single firm providing hardware,
software, and services, which provided lead time in devel-
oping an SCA, Hewlett-Packard matched this concept even-
tually and surpassed IBM in becoming the largest informa-
tion technology firm in the world.
Using a unique panel data set obtained from (1)
repeated surveys of top managers regarding their market
orientation and (2) objective measures of business perfor-
mance, we provide empirical evidence for first-adopter
advantages with regard to developing a market orientation.
Our study offers new insights at a critical time in business
history by more fully explicating market orientation’s influ-
ence on business performance. We examine the business
performance–market orientation relationship and investi-
gate whether it has changed over the 1997–2005 period.
This gives us a view of the short-term and long-term effects
of having a market orientation. It also enables us to deter-
mine whether these effects have changed over the nine
years under study. In this study, we refer to the effect of
market orientation in a particular year on business perfor-
mance in that year (i.e., the current or contemporaneous
effect) as the short-term effect of market orientation. The
long-term effect refers to the cumulated effect of market
orientation from the prior years on business performance in
a particular year and includes the current period’s effect of
market orientation.
To be consistent with prior studies and avoid model
misspecification, we also include environmental variables
(turbulence and competitive intensity) as moderators of the
relationship between market orientation and business per-
formance, and we examine these effects over a longer
period than prior studies. Including the environmental mod-
erators enables us to evaluate whether market orientation is
a source of SCA when rapid changes occur in market con-
ditions. As Figure 1 illustrates, use of these panel data per-
18 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
taining to market orientation, environmental moderators,
and business performance enables us to assess the evolving
nature of market orientation on business performance. Fig-
ure 1 depicts the relationships that we test in this study.
Our analyses indicate that market orientation had a posi-
tive effect on business performance in both the short and the
long run. However, the sustained advantage in business per-
formance from having a market orientation was greater for
the first (early) adopters in an industry. The firms that were
early to develop a market orientation gained more in sales
and profit than firms that were late to develop a market ori-
entation. Furthermore, firms that adopted a market orienta-
tion early also realized the benefit of a bonus in the form of
a lift in sales and profit due to a carryover effect that lasted
up to three periods. By computing measures of elasticity, it
is possible to assess whether market orientation has a more
pronounced effect on a firm’s profit than sales. Because
market orientation focuses a firm’s efforts on customer
retention rather than on acquisition, market orientation
should give a greater lift to profit than to sales. Environ-
mental turbulence and competitive intensity moderated the
main effect of market orientation on business performance,
but the moderating effect was greater in the 1990s than in
the 2000s.
Devoting resources to market orientation can be a costly
and slow process. Thus, in addition to testing theory, the
research findings are useful to managers who are reevaluat-
ing their decision to continue investing in building market-
oriented organizations. A long-term view reinforces the
impact of implementing and maintaining a market orienta-
tion on sustained improvements in business performance.
Our study contributes to the literature by evaluating, for the
first time, (1) the long-term effects of market orientation on
sales and profit, (2) the effect of competition over time on
FIGURE 1
Market Orientation on Business Performance over Time: Main and Contingent Effects
Market
Orientation
Early
Adopter
Market
Orientation
Midterm
Adopter
Market
Orientation
Late
Adopter
Industry-
and Firm-
Specific
Factors
Environmental Factors (over Time)
Business Performance
(over Time)
Market and
technological
turbulence
Competitive
intensity
Sales
Profitability
the relationship between market orientation and a firm’s
business performance, and (3) the time-varying effects of
the previously studied moderators on a market orientation–
business performance relationship. In the sections that fol-
low, we review the existing literature, propose and test
hypotheses arising from our review, discuss the empirical
findings, and state several managerial implications.
Conceptual Background and
Hypotheses
Market Orientation as a Potential Source of SCA
Market orientation is the generation and dissemination of
organizationwide information and the appropriate responses
related to customer needs and preferences and the competi-
tion (Kohli and Jaworski 1990). A market orientation posi-
tions an organization for better performance because top
management and other employees have both information on
customers’ implicit and expressed needs and competitors’
strengths and a strong motivation to achieve superior cus-
tomer satisfaction (e.g., Pelham 1997). These capabilities
can be transformed into an SCA when a firm uniquely has
the information and uses the market information efficiently
and effectively as part of a process. During the past few
years, organizations have embraced a market orientation
concept and its purported benefits, which has created an
intensely competitive landscape. What happens, then, when
the competition is also market oriented? It is important to
note that though several valid operationalizations of market
orientation exist (for details, see Deshpandé, Farley, and
Webster 1998), we follow the capabilities-based definition
that Jaworski and Kohli (1993) propose.
Empirical Evidence of a Market Orientation–
Business Performance Link
Main effects. Prior research has illustrated that a high
degree of market orientation in an organization leads to
short-term improvements in sales and profitability growth,
market share, new product success, customer satisfaction,
and return on assets, compared with other organizations that
are not as highly market oriented (Deshpandé, Farley, and
Webster 1993; Jaworski and Kohli 1993; Slater and Narver
1994). At the same time, market orientation is not associ-
ated with superior performance after a crisis (Grewal and
Tansuhaj 2001), in the theater industry (Voss and Voss
2000), and in the retail industry (Noble, Sinha, and Kumar
2002).
The vast literature regarding the positional advantages
of first (early) adopters and the capabilities of later entrants
is relevant to our study. Organizational innovations such as
market orientation provide more durable cost and differenti-
ation advantages than product or process innovations
(Lieberman and Montgomery 1988). Firms that are first to
adopt a market orientation tend to be more capable of iden-
tifying customer needs that are unmet in their industry and
respond by developing new products or services. They may
also enjoy greater elasticity from their marketing efforts
because there is less clutter for the new products or ser-
vices, providing a cost advantage for the pioneering market-
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 19
oriented firm. Over time, the acquired customers develop
switching costs, which lead to higher customer retention and
a differential advantage for the pioneering market-oriented
firm (Kerin, Varadarajan, and Peterson 1992).
However, a market orientation may also provide a
competitive advantage only as long as this capability is dis-
tinct in the market. The pioneering market-oriented firm’s
competitive advantage is ultimately contingent on its other
skills and resources (e.g., distribution capability, research-
and-development expertise), the competitors’ strategy, and
changes in the environment (Lieberman and Montgomery
1990). Firms that are later adopters of market orientation can
also learn from the pioneer’s mistakes and therefore be more
effective and efficient in (1) developing market-oriented
capabilities in their organizations and (2) responding to cus-
tomer needs.
Market orientation is an ongoing effort, and firms can
increase their level of market orientation in response to
competition or later adopters of market orientation. How-
ever, there is little guidance in the literature on whether
threshold effects to being market oriented exist. One view
on market orientation is that firms may narrowly define
existing customers as their served market, and in this case, a
market orientation may be detrimental to the firm. It is also
possible that, over time, as other firms adopt a market ori-
entation, market orientation transforms from being a suc-
cess provider to being a failure preventer (Varadarajan
1985). In other words, there may be thresholds beyond
which further focus on and improvements to market orien-
tation do not provide corresponding returns in profit and
sales. This diminishing effect may also arise when cus-
tomers begin to expect a certain level of product value and
service quality from market-oriented firms. This could lead
to a reduced marginal effect of market orientation on busi-
ness performance in the long run. Therefore, balancing the
positional advantages of the first (early) adopters of market
orientation and the capabilities and efficiencies that are pos-
sible for later adopters, we propose the following:
H1: The relationship between (a) market orientation and sales
and (b) market orientation and profit is initially positive,
but this effect decreases over time.
Day and Wensley (1988) purport that investigating the
moderating influence of the industry environment on a mar-
ket orientation–performance relationship is of paramount
importance, and thus marketing researchers have pursued
external environmental factors and acknowledged that they
can moderate market orientation’s effect on business perfor-
mance (Gatignon and Xuereb 1997; Greenley 1995; Grewal
and Tansuhaj 2001; Han, Kim, and Srivastava 1998;
Jaworski and Kohli 1993; Slater and Narver 1994; Voss and
Voss 2000). Similar to the main effects, previous research
has investigated only the short-term moderating effects of
environmental factors on a market orientation–business per-
formance relationship. We extend prior literature by provid-
ing theoretical arguments for the effects of environmental
conditions on a market orientation–performance relationship
over time. The moderators in our study follow the defini-
tions that Jaworski and Kohli (1993) posit.
Market orientation and market turbulence. Garnering
knowledge from retained customers about their preferences
(and needs) and maintaining a learning orientation are charac-
teristics of market-oriented organizations. When marketers
understand how much a given customer might be worth to
the organization over time, they can tailor the product/service
offering according to that customer’s changing needs and
requirements and still ensure an adequate lifetime return on
investment (Berger et al. 2002). Therefore, market-oriented
organizations are capable of better customer retention
(Narver, Jacobson, and Slater 1999). These resources lead
to better performance in the long run, especially in highly
turbulent markets in which customer preferences are con-
stantly changing.
Similar to the rationale for the main effects, we propose
that as more firms become market oriented, the capability
of a particular market-oriented organization is no longer
unique, because customers begin to expect a certain quality
of products and services from market-oriented firms. Fur-
thermore, the benefit market-oriented firms obtain in turbu-
lent markets is diminished when competitors are also mar-
ket oriented. Together, these effects lead to a diminishing
effect of market orientation on business performance over
time. As more firms in an industry become market oriented,
each of them is capable of delivering value and retaining
customers even when the customers’ needs are constantly
changing. Economic theory has found similar “stability in
competition” effects over time as markets reach equilibrium
(Hotelling 1929). Therefore, the moderating effect of mar-
ket turbulence is diminished over time. Although a market-
oriented firm still has better performance in markets with
greater turbulence than those that are more stable, this
incremental benefit decreases over time. Thus:
H2: Market turbulence positively moderates the relationship
between (a) market orientation and sales and (b) market
orientation and profit, but this positive moderating effect
diminishes over time.
Market orientation and technological turbulence. On
the basis of the theoretical arguments advanced in prior
research, we hypothesize that, initially (i.e., in the 1990s), a
high level of technological turbulence diminished the influ-
ence of market orientation on growth in sales and profit. In
markets with high technological turbulence, the characteris-
tics of products and services are largely determined by
innovations both within and outside the industry. In such
cases, a learning orientation and knowledge about customer
preferences do not necessarily contribute initially to long-
term performance. Before the late entrants also become
market oriented, technological turbulence is especially dis-
advantageous for the early adopters of market orientation
because the other firms are more receptive to technological
trends than market-oriented firms (Slater and Narver 1994).
However, as more firms become market oriented in an
industry, both the early and the late adopters are equally dis-
advantaged in markets with high levels of technological tur-
bulence. Although market-oriented firms perform worse in
markets with high technological turbulence than in those
with less volatility in technology, the disadvantage dimin-
ishes over time. Thus:
20 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
H3: Technological turbulence negatively moderates the rela-
tionship between (a) market orientation and sales and (b)
market orientation and profit, but this negative moderating
effect diminishes over time.
Market orientation and competitive intensity. In the
absence of competition, customers are “stuck” with an orga-
nization’s products and services. In contrast, under conditions
of high competitive intensity, customers have many alterna-
tive options to satisfy their needs and requirements. Over
time, however, competitive intensity can enhance the effects
of market orientation on performance as market-oriented
firms in the same industry increase their capabilities and
processes (e.g., optimal resource allocation) to retain key
customers. In effect, this creates quasi “barriers to entry”
for other competing firms that are not market oriented.
Highly market-oriented firms are also uniquely capable of
responding to and preempting competitive threats in a
timely manner, which facilitates the attainment of higher
sales and profit. Thus, in highly competitive markets, the
companies with a greater market orientation are capable of
better performance.
However, the moderating effect of competitive intensity
decreases as more firms in an industry become market ori-
ented. In other words, the incremental benefit of being an
early adopter of market orientation decreases over time.
When the late entrants also become market oriented, every
firm is capable of understanding the strengths of its compe-
tition and anticipating competitive moves. This enables
each firm to provide differentiated value to its customers,
thus ensuring customer retention and profitability. This
notion implies that a high degree of competition equally
benefits all the firms in the industry. Therefore, the moder-
ating effect of competitive intensity should decrease over
time. Thus:
H4: Competitive intensity positively moderates the relation-
ship between (a) market orientation and sales and (b) mar-
ket orientation and profit, but this positive moderating
effect diminishes over time.
We submit these hypotheses to empirical tests using
panel data analytics on data gathered through multiple
sources. We used subjective and objective data to uncover
the effects of market orientation levels on short- and long-
term sales and profit.
Methodology
Measures
Market orientation and environmental moderators. We
measured market orientation and environmental moderators
using the scales Jaworski and Kohli (1993) developed. For
each component, we used the mean value of all the items
listed under the respective component for the analyses.
Business performance. Our study includes sales and net
income in a single study. Often, firms exhibit differential
effects on these two performance measures. We obtained
the objective measures of sales and net income (pure profit
after sales) from multiple sources, including annual reports;
publications, such as Beverage World and The Wall Street
Journal; and industry reports. We also obtained subjective
measures of performance on both net income and sales
from the responding firms. Following Jaworski and Kohli’s
(1993) approach, we measured subjective performance on a
five-point scale ranging from “excellent” to “poor.” The
items we used to measure subjective performance include
“Your overall performance of the firm/business unit with
respect to net income in the year … was?” and “Your over-
all performance of the firm/business unit relative to major
competitors with respect to net income in the year … was?”
(we used similar items for sales).
Survey Methodology
We conducted the study with data obtained from three
waves of surveys. We conducted Survey 1 (1997) at the
beginning of the study to obtain data for the measures in the
short run. We conducted Survey 2 (2001) four years later to
obtain data for the same measures in the medium run.
Finally, we conducted Survey 3 (2005) eight years later to
obtain data for the same measures in the long run. In other
words, over a nine-year period, we collected three sets of
measures at intervals of four years.
Survey 1. We designed a sampling plan that allowed top
managers from different organizational environments to
respond to questions regarding their perceptions of market
orientation in their respective organizations, competitive
intensity, and environmental turbulence in their respective
industries. We conducted interviews with the chief execu-
tive officer, president, or vice president and the head of the
marketing group of each company; that is, we solicited two
responses from each organization: one response from the
organization’s top executive and the other from the head of
the marketing group. We obtained the responses to the sur-
vey in a multistep process. First, we made an appointment
by calling the top managers of each firm, and second, we
obtained permission to fax the questionnaire. Finally, we
made another appointment to conduct the actual interview
over the telephone. Approximately 10% of the executives
faxed the surveys back, indicating they lacked the time to
participate in the process.
We conducted the first survey during the third quarter of
1997.1We obtained usable responses from the top managers
in 300 organizations nationwide from a total of 1000 pub-
licly listed organizations contacted, for an effective
response rate of 30%.2We selected the industries in accor-
dance with Standard Industrialization Classification (SIC)
codes; these include manufacturers (33%), distributors
(9%), retailers (16%), service industries (30%), and other
(12%). We compared the responses from the first 80% with
the responses from the last 20% of respondents to check for
any differences in the response pattern. We detected no sig-
nificant differences, indicating that late-response bias did
not affect the sample (Aaker et al. 2010). We also per-
formed the following set of analyses to test for any bias in
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 21
our sample of responding firms: First, we compared the
mean sales of the firm in a SIC code with the mean sales of
the responding firms and nonresponding firms. We did not
observe any significant difference in the statistical test for
differences in the mean sales. Second, we obtained the per-
centage of firms above and below the mean sales in a SIC
code and compared it with the percentages in the respon-
dent and nonrespondent samples. The chi-square test
showed no significant differences, indicating that there are
no systematic differences between the respondent and the
nonrespondent samples. In designing the sampling frame
for the study, we selected an equal number of firms from
each industry category. However, our responses do not fol-
low a similar pattern. To avoid any sample set response
bias, we included industry category as a control variable in
our model.
Two responses were available for the 300 firms sur-
veyed. Correlations between the two responses range from
.70 to .91 across all items. The results reflect more than one
person’s opinion and yield reliability for the responses pro-
vided in a single firm. Whenever results were available
from two respondents from a single company, we used the
average of their responses in our analyses (e.g., Deshpandé,
Farley, and Webster 1993; Jaworski and Kohli 1993).
Survey 2. We contacted the same 300 firms that pro-
vided the responses in the first survey to obtain the data in
the second survey. The procedure we adopted for obtaining
the responses from the second survey was identical to that
of the first survey.3We again collected two responses (one
from top management and the other from the head of mar-
keting) from the organizations that responded to the first
survey. We conducted the second survey during the third
quarter of 2001. We obtained responses for the same mea-
sures as in the first survey. However, we also collected
information about any major events (e.g., if the firms either
dropped their market orientation or adopted a market orien-
tation) that took place in the period between the first and the
second survey. We asked the respondents, “Did your organi-
zation undertake a major shift in its cultural focus?” If they
answered yes, we asked whether they “made efforts to ori-
ent their organizations toward/away from a market orienta-
tion.” From all the responses we obtained in the second sur-
vey, for the purpose of the analysis, only 269 were usable.
Survey 3. We contacted the same 269 firms that pro-
vided the responses in the second survey to obtain data in
the third survey. The procedure we adopted for obtaining
the responses from the third survey was identical to that of
the first and second surveys.4We again collected two
responses (one from top management and the other from the
1After the end of fiscal year 1997.
2In our survey, we included a question on the time since the
organization adopted a market-oriented strategy. In our sample, we
included firms that indicated that it had been only a year or less
since they initiated a market orientation.
3To the extent possible, we obtained the responses in Survey 2
from the same respondents as in Survey 1. We obtained more than
70% of the responses from the same respondent in the organiza-
tion. When the respondent was not available during Survey 2, we
approached the respondent with the same functional responsibilities.
4To the extent possible, we obtained the responses in Survey 3
from the same respondents as in Survey 2. We obtained more than
75% of the responses from the same respondent in the organiza-
tion. When the respondent was not available during Survey 3, we
approached the respondent with the same functional responsibilities.
head of marketing) from the organizations that responded to
the first survey. We conducted the third survey during the
third quarter of 2005. We obtained responses for the same
measures as in the first and second surveys. However, we
also collected information about any major events (e.g., if
the firms either dropped their market orientation or adopted
a market orientation) that took place in the period between
the second and the third survey. We asked the respondents,
“Did your organization undertake a major shift in its cul-
tural focus?” If they answered yes, we asked whether they
“made efforts to orient their organizations toward/away
from a market orientation.” From all the responses we
obtained in the third survey, for the purpose of the analysis,
only 261 were usable.
The key premises of the hypotheses rest on the validity
of the measures. Therefore, we performed a factor analysis
for all components of our measures. The items for market
22 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
orientation and the external moderators all loaded on their
appropriate factors in both surveys. We also conducted a
reliability test for the items and found that all the items had
a coefficient alpha greater than .70. We report the reliabili-
ties of the items used in the survey in Table 1, and we report
the descriptive statistics for the data collected in the surveys
in Table 2.
Model Specification5
As we mentioned previously, because of the complexity and
costs associated with the data collection task, we collected
Market Orientation
Component
Number
of Items
Cronbach’s a
Representative Itemsa1997 2001 2005
Market turbulence 6 In our kind of business, customers’ product preferences
change quite a bit over time.
We are witnessing demand for our products and services
from customers who never bought them before.
We cater to much the same customers that we used to in
the past.
.74 .79 .78
Technological
turbulence
5The technology in our industry is cutthroat.
A large number of new product ideas have been made
possible through technological breakthroughs in our
industry.
.87 .85 .88
Competitive intensity 6 Competition in our industry is cutthroat.
There are many promotion wars in our industry.
.77 .79 .76
Intelligence generation 10 We meet with customers at least once a year to find out
what products or services they will need in the future.
We are slow to detect changes in our customers’ product
preferences.
We periodically review the likely effect of changes in our
business environment on customers.
.76 .79 .77
Intelligence
dissemination
8We have interdepartmental meetings at least once a
quarter to discuss market trends and developments.
When something important happens to a major customer
or market, the whole organization knows about it in a
short period.
When one department finds out something important
about competitors, it is slow to alert other departments.
.86 .88 .89
Response design 7 It takes us forever to decide how to respond to our
competitor’s price changes.
Our business plans are driven more by technological
advances than by market research.
The product lines we sell depend more on internal
politics than real market needs.
.81 .84 .83
Response
implementation
7If a major competitor were to launch an intensive
campaign, we would implement a response immediately.
When we find out that customers are unhappy with
the quality of our service, we take corrective action
immediately.
.83 .82 .84
TABLE 1
Reliability Analysis
aThe scale items in our study are sourced from Jaworski and Kohli (1993). We reproduce them here for illustrative purposes.
5We also tested the effect of the antecedents of market orienta-
tion (Kohli and Jaworski 1990) to avoid model misspecification.
This provided additional validity to the results we obtained in the
study.
the level of market orientation of the sampled firms through
three waves of surveys conducted in 1997, 2001, and 2005.
Therefore, given that information on the firms’ business
performance (sales and profit) is available from secondary
sources on an annual basis from 1996 to 2006, we needed to
interpolate values for market orientation (MO), market tur-
bulence (MT), technological turbulence (TT), and competi-
tive intensity (CI) between 1997 and 2001 and between
2001 and 2005. There are several ways this could be done:
(1) We could assume that there was a linear move from one
observation to the next over the study periods, (2) we could
assume that MO stayed at the same level and then moved to
the next value in a step fashion, or (3) we could estimate the
unobserved values of MO using a flexible function form
that would allow for the possibility of both linear behavior
or a nonlinear behavior in MO over the 1997–2005 period.
We report the results of the third option. It makes no
assumptions about the behavior. Therefore, we estimated
the following equation for MO, MT, TT, and CI and used it
to estimate the values for the missing years:
(1) MOt= g0+ g1(t) + g2(t)2+ errort,
where t = 1 for 1997, t = 5 for 2001, and t = 9 for 2005.
After we estimate Equation 1, we observe the value for the
parameters in that equation. With the known parameter val-
ues, we interpolate the values for MOt, where t = 2, 3, 4, 6,
7, and 8; so by using these estimates along with the three
actual observations (t = 1, 5, and 9), we now have a contin-
uous set of values for MOtfrom 1997 to 2005. We adopt a
similar method for interpolating the values for MT, TT, and
CI for the years in which the survey was not conducted. We
then used these estimated values for MO, MT, TT, and CI
when t = 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8, along with the actual values
when t = 1, 5, and 9, in the following model of business per-
formance, which allows the coefficient of MO, MT, TT, and
CI to have time-varying effects on business performance
(BP):
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 23
(2) BPjtk = a0k + a1kBPj(t – 1)k + a2tkMOt+ a3tkMTt+ a4tkTTt
+ a5tkCIt+ a6tk(MO ¥MT)t+ a7tk(MO ¥TT)t
+ a8tk(MO ¥CI)t+ z1kIndustry Growth Ratet
+ z2kFirm Sizet+ z3kGDPt+ z4kService
+ z5kRetailing and Distribution + z6kManufacturing
+ wtk + ejk + errorjtk,
where
other industry = the base category for the three dummy
variables representing the four industries;
k = 1 if sales is used as the dependent
variable, and k = 2 if profit is used as
the dependent measure;
MO = market orientation;
TT = technological turbulence;
MT = market turbulence;
CI = competitive intensity;
IGR = industry growth rate; and
BPitk = business performance at time t for
industry j, where t = 1, 2, …, 9.
We use
(3) aitk = aik + bikln(time) + dik
to capture the time-varying effect of the key constructs,
where i represents the coefficients for the variables associ-
ated with MO, MT, TT, and CI in the model. For example,
we can compute the coefficient for market orientation, MOt,
with the following equation:
(4) a2tk(MO)t= [a2k + b2kln(t)]MOt
= a2kMOt+ b2k[ln(t) ¥MOt]
= a2k(MO)t+ b2k[ln(t) ¥MOt],
when t = 1; that is, for the first time in our data set, a2(MO)t=
a2(MO)tbecause ln(t) = 0 when t = 1. For t > 1, the coeffi-
cient of (MO)t= 1 increases at the rate of b2[ln(t) ¥MOt].
We estimate Equations 2 and 3 as a hierarchical linear
model, but we estimate them jointly. This model specifica-
TABLE 2
Descriptive Statistics
Variable M SD Mdn Minimum Maximum
Market orientation1997 3.03 1.08 2.61 15
Market orientation2001 3.39 .96 2.82 15
Market orientation2005 3.88 .88 3.64 15
Market turbulence1997 3.52 .91 3.38 15
Market turbulence2001 3.47 .84 3.26 15
Market turbulence2005 3.38 .79 3.21 15
Technological turbulence1997 2.71 1.06 2.92 15
Technological turbulence2001 2.62 1.14 2.78 15
Technological turbulence2005 2.82 1.09 2.97 15
Competitive intensity1997 2.93 .76 2.85 15
Competitive intensity2001 3.09 .82 2.96 15
Competitive intensity2005 3.11 .72 3.02 15
Sales1997 (millions of dollars) 614.4 252.8 581.2 52.7 1418.2
Sales2001 (millions of dollars) 757.6 231.7 621.3 65.6 1695.5
Sales2005 (millions of dollars) 811.3 219.8 668.4 78.2 1907.3
Profit1997 (millions of dollars) 77.9 43.4 72.6 –36.7 184.6
Profit2001 (millions of dollars) 86.8 41.2 77.3 –21.1 211.3
Profit2005 (millions of dollars) 92.4 39.6 83.3 –24.4 231.8
tion is a cross-section of time-series models. We modeled
business performance at time t (BPjtk) as a function of
lagged business performance (BPj(t – 1)k) and the market ori-
entation of the firm. In our model, the coefficient of MOt
(a2tk) measures both the short-term (or instantaneous) effect
of market orientation on business performance and the
delayed effect. We hypothesize that the effect of market ori-
entation diminishes over time as other competitors also
become market oriented. We can make this inference
because more firms in our data became market oriented
over time in all the industries studied (see Figure 2). There-
fore, we do not need to explicitly model industry fixed
effects or the effect of the number of competitors that are
market oriented in each period to assess changes in the
effect of market orientation on business performance as the
competition also becomes market oriented.
We also conducted the tests for moderator variables
using the foregoing equations. We conducted the moderator
tests for competitive intensity and environmental turbulence
by analyzing the interaction effects of the corresponding
variables with market orientation (Baron and Kenny 1986).
The interpretation of the multiplicative interaction terms of
the environmental variables is similar to the interpretation
of the short-term and long-term effects of market orienta-
tion. We included industry growth rate, firm size, and indus-
try category in our model as control variables to account for
firm-specific effects (i.e., heterogeneity across firms) and to
avoid model misspecification (Jacobson 1990).
Analyzing Cross-Sectional Time-Series Data
An alternative to the model structure we just described
would be to estimate three separate cross-sectional regres-
sions, using the data in 1997, 2001, and 2005 to capture the
effect of market orientation on business performance. We
would then compare the coefficients across these three
cross-sectional regressions to observe the short-term effect
of market orientation for early and late adopters of market
orientation. Most of the studies to date in this area have
24 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
adopted this approach and analyzed cross-sectional data, but
only at a single point in time, not across multiple periods.
Cross-sectional analyses have led to significant generaliza-
tions regarding the impact of explanatory variables on market
orientation, but analyses based on cross-sectional and time-
series (CS/TS) data (similar to the model structure proposed
in Equation 1) may be even more fruitful given that they
offer several advantages over only cross-sectional models.
First, using CS/TS data allows for the generalizability
of results over time. In contrast, cross-sectional data pro-
vide only a “snapshot” specific to a given period. Inferences
drawn from such data could be biased by idiosyncrasies
associated with the specific period studied. Second, market
orientation can change over time for a firm. Analysis of this
important component of variation can be accomplished only
by using CS/TS data. Third, CS/TS data increase the
degrees of freedom available for estimation (analyzing n
firms over t periods provides n observations versus n obser-
vations in cross-sectional analysis), thus enhancing the sta-
bility of parameter estimates. Fourth, analyzing CS/TS data
affords a richer space of variation to estimate the parame-
ters and possibly reduces the level of multicollinearity that
might otherwise be present (Brobst and Gates 1977).
Finally, the CS/TS data enable us to estimate the diminish-
ing effects of market orientation more reliably because we
have more data points on business performance. Before
such pooled CS/TS data can be analyzed, the criteria for
data homogeneity (i.e., pooling tests) must be fulfilled for
the model form under consideration (Bass and Wittink
1975; Fuller and Battese 1974; Kumar and Leone 1988).
Data Homogeneity Test
Bass (1974) shows that incorrect inferences can be drawn in
a cross-sectional regression analysis if data from heteroge-
neous firms/industries are pooled. Conceptually, the model
in Equation 2 could be estimated using ordinary least
squares regression at the firm level. This procedure would
imply that the effect of each of the independent variables
differs among firms (e.g., the regression coefficients for
each variable are unique for each firm). It would also
require estimating 32 parameters, which is not possible
given the number of observations. If the 261 firms were
grouped by their industry category—retailing and distribu-
tion (n = 87), manufacturing (n = 80), service (n = 90), and
other (n = 4)—there would be more observations. However,
doing so may still lead to inefficient estimates of the coeffi-
cients because of the number of parameters estimated in
relation to the sample size. Given the CS/TS nature of these
data and the lack of an a priori theoretical reason for the
regression coefficients to differ across firms, pooling data
across the 261 firms enables us to estimate the 35 parame-
ters (32 plus 3 more for industry groups, with the base cate-
gory being “other”) with 2610 observations.
Bass and Wittink (1975) propose pooling tests to mea-
sure the constancy of the regression parameters across
cross-sections, and we used their test to decide whether to
pool the series. Because Brobst and Gates (1977) show that
this test is biased toward rejecting the null hypothesis (H0:
pooling is appropriate), we chose a conservative alpha value
of .01 for the test of statistical significance. If pooling is
FIGURE 2
Number of Firms Becoming Market Oriented over
Time
1997 2001 2005
200
180
160
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
Number of Firms
Year
92
124
188
77
108
164
M >3.0
M 4.0
appropriate, the parameters can be estimated in various
ways. Most researchers reporting empirical work on sales
response models in the marketing literature have simply
stacked the cross-sections and estimated the parameters by
using ordinary least squares regression. However, pooled
models can be estimated with procedures that allow both
cross-sectional and time-series variations in the data
through the specification of the error structure (Fuller and
Battese 1974; Maddala 1971). Because we found pooling to
be appropriate (the corresponding F-statistic was not sig-
nificant; p> .05), we used the Fuller–Battese procedure to
estimate the pooled models. Using the Fuller–Battese pro-
cedure involves specifying the error term in Equation 2 as a
cross-sectional error term, a time-series error term, and a
random error term.
Results
Market Orientation and Business Performance
Model performance. We report the results of our analy-
ses with objective measures of performance as the depen-
dent variable. The adjusted R-square for the sales response
model (1) with just the main effects is .42; (2) with main
and interaction effects is .50; and (3) with main, interaction,
covariates, and time-varying effects is .65. In other words,
the adjusted R-square for the model investigating the influ-
ence of market orientation and external environmental mod-
erators on sales is .65.6The adjusted R-square of the model
that included only the firm-specific effects (industry
growth, firm size, and industry category) is .08. The
reported coefficients are standardized values; we report
these in Table 3. An analysis of residuals using the normal
probability plot and White’s (1980) test did not reveal any
significant heteroskedasticity among the residuals. In addi-
tion, the variance inflation factor did not exceed the recom-
mended limit of 10, indicating that multicollinearity is not a
serious threat to our analysis. We observed similar results
for the profit response model. The adjusted R-square for the
model investigating the influence of market orientation and
external environmental moderators on profit is .66. The
adjusted R-square of the model that included only the firm-
specific effects (industry growth, firm size, and industry
category) is .10. We also estimated the model with the
maximum likelihood procedure and found similar results.
Interpretation of coefficients. The estimated coefficient
of the main effect of market orientation in 1997 on sales in
time t is positive and significant (a21 = .396, p< .01).7Mar-
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 25
ket orientation has a similar effect on firm profit. The esti-
mated coefficient of the main effect of market orientation in
1997 on profit in time t is positive and significant (a22 =
.443, p< .01). The parameter estimate for the time-varying
effect of the coefficient of market orientation on sales is
–.105 (b21) for ln(time), as specified in Equation 3. Simi-
larly, for the profit equation, the corresponding value is
–.120 (b22). In both these equations, the coefficient for
ln(time) is significant (p< .01). Therefore, we can conclude
that H1a and H1b are statistically supported. We show the
diminishing effects of market orientation on sales and profit
over time in Figure 3.
We observe that market orientation in 1997 has a greater
effect on business performance (for sales, a21 = .396; for
profit, a22 = .443) than market orientation in the years that
TABLE 3
Effect of Market Orientation on Sales and Profit
Dependent Variable: Salest
Intercept
Salest – 1 .305***
Market turbulence1997 .163***
Technological turbulence1997 –.12**
Competitive intensity1997 n.s.
Market orientation1997 .396***
(Market orientation ¥
market turbulence)1997 .154***
(Market orientation ¥
technological turbulence)1997 –.207***
(Market orientation ¥
competitive intensity)1997 .146***
Industry growth rate .185**
Firm size .217**
GDP .091*
Industry Category
Services .147**
Retailer and distribution .121**
Manufacturing .107**
Dependent Variable: Profitt
Intercept
Profitt – 1 .334***
Market turbulence1997 .187***
Technological turbulence1997 –.1**
Competitive intensity1997 n.s.
Market orientation1997 .443***
(Market orientation ¥
market turbulence)1997 .163***
(Market orientation ¥
technological turbulence)1997 –.148***
(Market orientation ¥
competitive intensity)1997 .12***
Industry growth rate .208**
Firm size .226**
GDP .072*
Industry Category
Services .131**
Retailer and distribution .128**
Manufacturing .093**
*p< .10.
**p< .05.
***p< .01.
Notes: n.s. = not significant.
6The substantive conclusions of the study do not change when
we use subjective dependent measures. The correlation between
objective and subjective measures of performance is approxi-
mately .8.
7We observe the coefficients for market orientation on sales and
profit to vary within 10% of what we report here for the two forms
of interpolation of market orientation value. The first option is a
linear interpolation of missing market orientation values. The sec-
ond option assumes that market orientation stays at the previous
value during the missing period and then moves to the new value
in a step fashion. We observe similar results for other variables,
indicating the robustness of the findings.
follow. The effect of market orientation on sales decreases
to .217 and .190 in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Similarly,
the effect of market orientation on profit decreases to .238
and .206 in 2001 and 2005, respectively. The results also
reveal that market orientation has a positive influence on
sales and profit in both the short and the long run. This
implies that the same level of market orientation in 1997
had a greater impact on business performance than in sub-
sequent years. In other words, firms that were the first
(early) adopters with regard to developing a market orienta-
tion experienced a greater impact from market orientation
than those that adopted market orientation in later years.
Table 3 also shows that the lagged effect of sales (a11) is
equal to .305 and the lagged effect of profit (a12) is equal to
.334. This also implies that the influence of market orienta-
tion at any time t continues to have an influence on sales for
three years, albeit at a diminishing rate. The carryover effect
of market orientation on profit is marginally greater than the
carryover effect of market orientation on sales.
Environmental Moderators
Because the coefficient of the interactions between market
orientation and environmental moderators is significant, we
do not interpret the main effects of the environmental fac-
tors. The estimated coefficient of the interaction terms
between market orientation and market turbulence in 1997
on sales at time t is positive and significant (a61 = .154),
and the corresponding effect on profit at time t is also posi-
tive and significant (a62 = .163). This implies that the posi-
tive influence of market orientation on business perfor-
mance in both the short and the long run is enhanced in
markets with high market turbulence. The moderating effect
of market turbulence is greater in 1997 than in future years,
indicating that as more firms become market oriented, a
competitive advantage can diminish while still giving the
lift in performance. Through similar tests of significance
(described previously) using the 95% confidence intervals
for the parameter estimates, we observed support for all the
26 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
remaining hypotheses in this study. For example, the inter-
action effect between market orientation and market turbu-
lence remains positive over the study period. However, the
magnitude of the coefficient for this interaction effect in
1997 is greater than in subsequent years. Similar to a mar-
ket orientation variable, we employ a time-varying parame-
ter model and show that the effect of time (as captured by
ln[time]) is significant for sales (–.042, p< .05) and profit
(–.040, p< .05). These time-varying interaction term coeffi-
cients for market turbulence support H2aand H2b.
The estimated coefficient of the interaction terms
between market orientation and technological turbulence in
1997 on sales is negative and significant (a71 = –.207, p<
.01), and the corresponding effect on profit in time t is also
negative and significant (a72 = –.148, p< .01). This implies
that the positive influence of market orientation on business
performance in both the short and the long run is dimin-
ished in markets with high technological turbulence. Simi-
lar to market turbulence, the negative moderating effect of
technological turbulence is also greater (after we consider
the 95% confidence intervals of the parameter estimates) in
1997 than in future periods. When we tested for the time-
varying effect of this interaction, we find that the coefficient
for time (as captured by ln[time]) is significant for sales
(.050, p< .05) and profit (.031, p< .05). These time-varying
interaction term coefficients for technological turbulence
support H3a and H3b.
The estimated coefficient of the interaction term
between market orientation and competitive intensity in
1997 on sales in time t is positive and significant (a81 =
.146, p< .01), and the corresponding effect on profit in time
t is also positive and significant (a82 = .12, p< .01). This
implies that the positive influence of market orientation on
business performance in both the short and the long run is
enhanced in markets with high competitive intensity. The
moderating effect of competitive intensity in 1997 is greater
(after we consider the 95% confidence intervals of the
parameter estimates) than the corresponding effect in subse-
quent years. Again, we fit a time-varying parameter model
for studying the effect of this interaction over time and find
that the effect of time (as captured by ln[time]) is significant
for sales (–.034, p< .05) and profit (–.026, p< .05). These
time-varying interaction term coefficients for competitive
intensity support H4a and H4b. We show the diminishing
effects of the interaction effects between market orientation
and the moderators on sales and profit over time in Figure
4, Panels A–C.
The coefficients of the industry-specific control variable,
industry growth rate, on sales (z11 = .185, p< .01) and
profit (z12 = .208, p< .01) are both positive and significant.
The industry category dummies are also positive and sig-
nificant for both sales (z41services = .147, p< .01; z51retailing
and distribution = .121, p< .01; and z61manufacturing = .107, p< .01)
and profit (z42services = .131, p< .01; z52retailing and distribution =
.128, p< .01; and z62manufacturing = .093, p< .01). These
results reveal that industry-specific factors influence busi-
ness performance. Finally, the coefficients for the firm-
specific control variable, firm size, on sales (z21 = .217, p<
.01) and profit (z22 = .226, p< .01) are positive and signifi-
cant, thus accommodating for firm-specific heterogeneity.
FIGURE 3
Diminishing Effect of Market Orientation on Sales
and Profit
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
.45
.40
.35
.30
.25
.20
.15
Market Orientation Effect
Year
Sales
Profit
.443
.396
.342
.281
.238
.227 .220 .213 .206
.396
.352
.306
.254
.217
.205 .200 .192 .190
The coefficient for the economic variable, GDP (gross
domestic product), is positive and significant (z31 and z32
are .091 and .072 for sales and profit, respectively). We now
discuss the implications of our findings in terms of rele-
vance to the marketing literature and marketing practice.
Discussion and Implications
To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to examine
the evolutionary nature of a market orientation–business
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 27
performance relationship. Using panel data across a large
number of industries, we evaluate both the short- and the
long-term effects. The nine-year period covered by our
panel data enables us to show that more companies became
market oriented during this time and that market orientation
had a positive influence on sales and profit in both the short
and the long run (see Figure 2). More important, we show
that though adopting a market orientation early was a
source of unique competitive advantage for a firm (a suc-
cess provider), it has now become a cost of doing business
(a failure preventer) (Varadarajan 1985).
Environmental Moderators
Can a market orientation help organizations navigate
through turbulent times? The results of our study suggest
that it can. Along with the demonstrated diminishing effects
of market orientation on sales and profit, we found that
environmental turbulence moderates the relationship
between market orientation and performance in both the
short and the long run. Market turbulence strengthens the
relationship between market orientation and sales and the
relationship between market orientation and profit (in both
the short and the long run), but this moderating effect
diminishes over time. This finding is in contrast with Kirca,
Jayachandran, and Bearden’s (2005) conclusion that market/
environmental turbulence is not a significant moderator of the
relationship between market orientation and performance.
Technological turbulence weakens the relationship
between market orientation and sales and between market
orientation and profit (in both the short and the long run),
but this moderating effect diminishes over time. Competi-
tive intensity strengthens the effect of market orientation on
business performance in both the short and the long run. In
contrast with prior research (Jaworski and Kohli 1993;
Slater and Narver 1994), the results reveal that competitive
intensity is a moderator in a market orientation–business
performance relationship. The gains from better customer
and competitive research intelligence among market-oriented
firms in the presence of market turbulence and competitive
intensity take time to improve business performance, and as
more firms become market oriented, a competitive advan-
tage can diminish under conditions of high technological
turbulence. Yet the positive influence of market orientation
on business performance is enhanced under high competitive
intensity. Therefore, the failure to detect the effect of envi-
ronmental moderators in prior research could be attributed
to the omission of lagged effects.
First (Early) Adopters of Market Orientation
The competitive advantage from having a market orienta-
tion is greater for the first (early) adopters in the industry.
Firms that are the first or early to develop a market orienta-
tion gain more in sales and profit than firms that are late to
develop a market orientation. Furthermore, firms that adopt
a market orientation also realize the benefit of a bonus in
the form of a sales and profit lift due to a carryover effect
that lasts up to three periods. Our study provides an impor-
tant contribution to the literature on first-mover advantage.
The results reveal that early adopters with regard to imple-
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
.18
.16
.14
.12
.10
.08
.06
Interaction Effect
Year
Sales
Profit
.163
.148
.128
.103 .094
.090 .088 .086 .085
.154
.139
.118
.094
.085
.081 .077 .073 .071
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
–.05
–.10
–.15
–.20
–.25
Interaction Effect
Year
Sales
Profit
–.148–.138
–.121 –.101–.093 –.092 –.091 –.090–.089
–.207 –.188
–.162
–.131
–.119 –.115 –.112 –.110 –.109
FIGURE 4
Diminishing Interaction Effects Between Market
Orientation and Moderators on Sales and Profit
A: Market Orientation ¥Market Turbulence
B: Market Orientation ¥Technological Turbulence
C: Market Orientation ¥Competitive Intensity
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
.15
.14
.13
.12
.11
.10
.09
.08
.07
.06
Interaction Effect
Year
Sales
Profit
.146
.134
.116
.094
.086 .083 .082 .080 .079
.120
.112
.097
.080
.073 .072 .071 .070 .070
menting a market orientation strategy also enjoy similar
benefits as first movers in terms of the introduction of a
product or service innovation (Kerin, Varadarajan, and
Peterson 1992). In other words, early adopters also enjoy
competitive advantage in terms of the outputs (e.g., product
or service innovation); however, this benefit is evident for
only three years. We find that as competition also becomes
market oriented, early entrants fail to enhance their
competitive advantage from having a market orientation
because the late adopters learn from the early adopters. The
diminishing effect lasting up to three periods provides
another managerially relevant interpretation.
Finally, comparing the main effect of market orientation
on business performance, we find that market orientation
has a greater influence on profit than sales in both the short
and the long run. The carryover effect of market orientation
on profit is greater than the effect of market orientation on
sales. This implies that having a market orientation makes
organizations focus more on retention than acquisition, and
therefore profits increase much more than sales.
Marketing Practice
The results show that the adoption of a market orientation is
important in generating both sales and profit. Given that the
benefits of market orientation take time to become fully
realized, the importance of top management both emphasiz-
ing and supporting a market-oriented culture is paramount
(see Gebhardt, Carpenter, and Sherry 2006). Furthermore,
because more companies have become market oriented dur-
ing the past 15 years, being market oriented has become
more of a failure preventer than a success producer
(Varadarajan 1985). Indeed, it is the cost of doing business
rather than a distinct characteristic and a specific source of
SCA. Companies must continue to raise the bar and not just
maintain a certain level of market orientation to be success-
ful; that is, to have a unique advantage, companies must
continuously identify new dimensions of this construct to
distinguish themselves. An example of this is the number of
companies that have incorporated a customer orientation
(focus) into their organizations, thus adding to the dimen-
sionality of market orientation. As the United States contin-
ues to move from a product- to a service-dominated econ-
omy, companies will need to identify service-related
dimensions of market orientation.
Furthermore, given the globalization of brands and ser-
vices, companies need to investigate how to incorporate
multicultural dimensions into their general market orienta-
tion philosophy. Another fruitful extension of a market ori-
entation strategy would be augmenting the general strategic
emphasis on customers, with a rigorous focus on profitable
individual customer relationships and interactions, as inter-
action orientation suggests (Ramani and Kumar 2008).
Moreover, recent work on internal marketing has provided
some avenues for improvement in market orientation by
examining the extent to which a firm’s employee base holis-
tically embraces its market orientation. We expect that these
firms would gain a differential advantage over firms that do
not have high conformity among their employees.
Regarding environmental turbulence, our results reveal
that when a firm operates in a business environment of con-
28 / Journal of Marketing, January 2011
stant flux, a market orientation is especially critical for stay-
ing in tune with customers’ preferences. In other words,
real-time market information generation and dissemination
(e.g., customer relationship management) is necessary.
However, with rapidly changing technology, the perfor-
mance benefits of market orientation are more difficult to
capture and keep.
With respect to market orientation under highly
competitive conditions, the results show that it is possible
for market-oriented firms to achieve and protect gains in
sales and profitability. Perhaps a market orientation can
facilitate proactive and reactive tactics, and all else being
equal, firms can transform sales gains from their market ori-
entation into higher profit over time. The lagged dependent
variable enables us to assess the carryover effect of market
orientation. We obtain the carryover effects of a2k by
sequential substitution of the coefficient of the lagged
dependent variable (i.e., a1k). Thus, we observe that the
effect of market orientation in a certain year has an influ-
ence on business performance for about three years, albeit
at a diminishing rate. Based on the magnitude of the respec-
tive coefficients, the carryover effect of market orientation
on profit is marginally greater than the carryover effect of
market orientation on sales. However, the elasticity at each
level of market orientation with respect to sales and profit
must be computed to assess whether market orientation has
a more pronounced effect on sales or profit.
In summary, this study has direct theoretical and mana-
gerial implications related to previous research in this area.
Hunt and Morgan (1995) propose that organizations need to
evaluate their relative performance continuously and use or
acquire resources/skills to attain a comparative advantage.
Market orientation should be viewed as a resource for navi-
gating through turbulent times. In particular, we find that
the benefits of market orientation are enhanced over time
under intense competitive conditions, which lends support
to Slater and Narver’s (1994) encouragement to build and
keep a market orientation.
Limitations and Directions for Further Research
This study has limitations that can provide opportunities for
further research. We conclude that though market orienta-
tion has a diminishing effect on business performance,
firms cannot afford to abandon it because it has become the
cost of competing. We do not assess the effectiveness of
other business orientations, such as interaction orientation
(Ramani and Kumar 2008), in improving business perfor-
mance when the competition is market oriented. Our longi-
tudinal survey design enables us to evaluate the long-term
and diminishing effects of adopting market orientation.
However, because of cost restrictions and managers’ time
requirements, we were able to conduct our survey only
three times during the nine years. Annual surveys that track
a market orientation of the firm would allow researchers to
assess whether market orientation’s effect on business per-
formance stops when at least one or more competitors are
market oriented. We asked managers to assess their firms’
market orientation. It is possible that customers’ assessments
of a firm’s market orientation are more accurate. Further
research could assess the value of using customer assess-
ments of market orientation to predict business performance.
In this section, we address a few issues beyond the
scope of this study that we leave for future investigation.
For example, Pelham’s (1997) findings suggest that a mar-
ket orientation would be a less significant determinant of
performance in markets in which cost cutting and
economies of scale are the dominant sources of SCA. We
did not examine these effects. However, this does not
diminish our study’s contributions relative to the influence
of time on a market orientation–performance relationship.
Further research should incorporate managers’ enduring
cost-cutting strategies into the overall framework. In addi-
tion, continuous investments in market orientation are war-
ranted, particularly in industries characterized as highly tur-
bulent. Extending this study to a more recent time frame
would also be worthwhile to capture the unprecedented tur-
bulence occurring, particularly in financial markets.
The market orientation literature would also benefit
from incorporating customers’ value emphasis (price versus
quality) on the relationship between market orientation and
performance. This could indicate the extent to which man-
agers embrace cost-cutting methods. Further research
should develop theories that provide guidance on market
conditions that are conducive to creating new markets rather
than serving existing markets better (Jaworski, Kohli, and
Sahay 2000) and the resources that would enable organiza-
tions to do so.
In addition, prior research has found statistical support
for both the customer (Slater and Narver 1994) and the
employee (Siguaw, Brown, and Widing 1994) in determin-
ing the consequences of market orientation in the short run.
Therefore, further research should include a more exhaus-
tive list of performance measures, such as customer loyalty,
satisfaction, and innovative capability, to examine the extent
to which a market-oriented strategy affects these measures.
Such a study would be of immense theoretical and manage-
rial relevance because the performance measures that pro-
vide shareholder value are constantly changing.
A constant barrage of new customer relationship man-
agement systems tempts managers to continuously update
their technology, which could negatively affect profit. Yet
technological innovations could be classified as product or
process innovations. Product innovations are primarily
geared toward expanding into new markets, introducing
Market Orientation and Sustainable Competitive Advantage / 29
new products, and attaining higher levels of customer loy-
alty; process innovations are primarily geared toward
obtaining cost efficiencies. Intuitively, we would expect the
performance benefits associated with being market oriented
to diminish more under process innovation than under prod-
uct innovation. Thus, further research could address the
advantages and disadvantages of technological innovation
on performance under varying conditions.
The coefficients we report in this study indicate that the
effect of market orientation on profitability is greater than
market orientation’s effect on sales in the long run. How-
ever, given that sales and profit are different dependent
variables, the elasticity of market orientation on sales and
profit must be computed to determine which has more pro-
nounced effect. Depending on the level of market orienta-
tion, the respective elasticities can vary. Literature on cus-
tomer satisfaction and lifetime value (Bolton 1998; Reinartz
and Kumar 2000) also suggests that an organization gains in
customer equity by satisfying and retaining the right cus-
tomers for longer durations. The marketing discipline could
benefit from research relating market orientation directly to
lifetime value precepts.
Finally, embracing a market orientation is one way to
respond to competitive intensity in the marketplace. Strate-
gic market management purports that managers constantly
scan the environment and develop proactive strategies to
improve performance in competitive situations. However, in
highly competitive situations, managers may depend more
on a “proactive” market orientation than on a “reactive”
market orientation (Narver, Slater, and MacLachlan 2004).
Thus, ethnographic studies focusing on managers’ strategic
approaches in terms of proactive versus reactive market-
oriented tactics could expand existing knowledge of market
orientation.
In the absence of market turbulence and competitive
intensity, market orientation has a diminishing effect on
sales and profit. However, markets are becoming more
competitive. Thus, this research offers some encouraging
news in a turbulent business environment: That is, managers
should “stay the course” in terms of their market orientation
strategy. Furthermore, volatile market conditions can actu-
ally strengthen the influence of market orientation on busi-
ness performance. Therefore, we advise organizations not to
abandon their market-oriented strategy because it is the cost
of competing, particularly in these turbulent times.
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... Despite the broad consensus in the last two decades that a firm's strategic orientation could be a substantial determinant of innovation (e.g., Hughes and Morgan 2007;Kumar et al. 2011), the empirical studies have presented inconsistent results (e.g., Hitt et al. 2001;Rauch et al. 2009), making it difficult to conclude that strategic orientation always positively affect innovation (Zhou, Yim, and Tse 2005;Mu et al. 2017). Based on the mixed results in the previous literature (e.g., Wiklund and Shepherd 2005;Matsuno 2015;Mu et al. 2017;Kumar et al. 2011;Evanschitzky et al. 2012), it becomes theoretically critical to identify what factors may enhance or constrain the associated relationship between the two variables (Kumar et al. 2011;Theodosiou, Kehagias, and Katsikea 2012;Wiklund and Shepherd 2005). ...
... Despite the broad consensus in the last two decades that a firm's strategic orientation could be a substantial determinant of innovation (e.g., Hughes and Morgan 2007;Kumar et al. 2011), the empirical studies have presented inconsistent results (e.g., Hitt et al. 2001;Rauch et al. 2009), making it difficult to conclude that strategic orientation always positively affect innovation (Zhou, Yim, and Tse 2005;Mu et al. 2017). Based on the mixed results in the previous literature (e.g., Wiklund and Shepherd 2005;Matsuno 2015;Mu et al. 2017;Kumar et al. 2011;Evanschitzky et al. 2012), it becomes theoretically critical to identify what factors may enhance or constrain the associated relationship between the two variables (Kumar et al. 2011;Theodosiou, Kehagias, and Katsikea 2012;Wiklund and Shepherd 2005). Further, despite extant studies' efforts investigating the indirect path, such as mediators or moderators (e.g., Martins and Rialp 2013;Mu et al. 2017), the existing literature has shown relatively less ` effort in theorizing the hidden innovation-support mechanism (Yoon and Suh 2019) generated inside SMEs where the leader's strategic orientation takes a relatively substantial role and requires additional evidence about the role of that support mechanism in generating firm's innovation. ...
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