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Internationalization deals with expansion across space and time. Researchers have framed internationalization as market growth and expansion through foreign direct investment (FDI). We use narrative theory to frame a bigger, richer picture. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s typology of nine space–time conceptions and directed observations of McDonald’s Corporation, we show how multinational enterprises (MNEs) create narratives of internationalization to mitigate the risks of FDI. Competing space–time conceptions in consumers’, authors’ and societies’ stories interact with managerial narratives to affect international product and task environments. We increase awareness of MNEs’ storytelling by offering a typology of stakeholders’ stories across space and time.
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Storytelling the internationalization of the
multinational enterprise
Usha CV Haley
David M Boje
College of Business & Economics, West Virginia
University, Morgantown, USA;
Department of
Management, New Mexico State University,
Las Cruces, USA
UCV Haley, College of Business & Economics,
West Virginia University, 1601 University
Avenue, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.
Tel: +00 1 212 208 2468;
An earlier version of this article was presented
at the 28th EGOS Colloquium, Organizations
as Phenomena of Language Usesub-theme,
Helsinki, Finland, July 2012. Editor Mary Yoko
Brannen gave generously of her time and
ideas to improve this article. We thank her,
two anonymous reviewers, George Haley,
Robert Maddox and Jennifer Sexton for their
excellent suggestions.
Received: 8 November 2012
Revised: 30 March 2014
Accepted: 4 May 2014
Online publication date: 19 June 2014
Internationalization deals with expansion across space and time. Researchers
have framed internationalization as market growth and expansion through
foreign direct investment (FDI). We use narrative theory to frame a bigger, richer
picture. Using Mikhail Bakhtins typology of nine spacetime conceptions and
directed observations of McDonalds Corporation, we show how multinational
enterprises (MNEs) create narratives of internationalization to mitigate the risks
of FDI. Competing spacetime conceptions in consumers, authorsand socie-
tiesstories interact with managerial narratives to affect international product
and task environments. We increase awareness of MNEsstorytelling by offering
a typology of stakeholdersstories across space and time.
Journal of International Business Studies (2014) 45, 11151132. doi:10.1057/jibs.2014.32
Keywords: case theoretic approaches; internationalization theories and foreign market
entry; role of time; storytelling; language (language design, silent language translation);
global stakeholders
Internationalization deals with expansion in space (across countries)
and over time, with theories identifying location economies as drivers
for optimal value creation. Dunning (2009) noted that stakeholders
collaborations spanning home and host countries shape internatio-
nalization. We present these collaborations as combinations of
and mundane (ac)countings
(Barad, 2011: 149), narra-
tive explanations of spacetime enfoldings(Barad, 2010: 240) by
multinational enterprises (MNEs); not simple counting, (ac)counting
becomes an accounting for what materializes in MNEsinternationa-
lization, and also of what gets excluded from materializing. We
explore how narratives help MNEs to garner legitimacy as well as to
differentiate products and to lower costs. MNEsnarratives of inter-
nationalization ensue not from single interlocutors, but through
dialogic processes as stakeholders at home and abroad interact in
space and time to challenge, and sometimes to replace, shared
narrative. Indeed, MNEs constitute storytelling systems whose lan-
guage incorporates text and sensemaking activities to introduce
change (Boje, 1991). We emphasize inter-textuality or ways in which
stories change and move across space and time in resistance to
opposing narratives (Boje, 2001).
International Business (IB) research has started exploring inter-
nationalization within broader social and power relationships
Journal of International Business Studies (2014) 45, 11151132
2014 Academy of International Business All rights reserved 0047-2506
through narrative (Gertsen & Søderberg, 2011; Vaara
& Tienari, 2011), discourse (Balogun, Jarzabkowski,
& Vaara, 2011), sensemaking (Geppert, 2003),
semiotics (Brannen, 2004), ethnography (Yagi &
Kleinberg, 2011) and framing (Fiss & Hirsch, 2005)
and we add to this stream. We accept that local stories
link simultaneously to broader narratives about glo-
balization and localization, legitimation and resis-
tance (Haley, 1991). Storytelling thereby captures
some richness in internationalizations small steps,
deepening our understanding of sensemaking and
mutual learning by giving voice to actors beyond
managers. Our research connects to enduring issues
in MNE theory on gaining and exploiting experiential
knowledge from internationalization (Aharoni, 1966;
Johanson & Vahlne, 1977), locating for value creation
(Dunning, 2009), coding social information and
coordinating action (Kogut & Zander, 1993), and
combining local responsiveness with global integra-
tion (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1989). We advance empiri-
cal knowledge on internationalization through our
exploratory case of McDonalds Corporation and
contribute to theory building with propositions on
when and why narratives change.
As our rst contribution, we argue that managers
and other stakeholders strategically weave narratives
incorporating conicting stories, to meet concerns
within and across international markets. Successful
storytelling eases transfer of intangible assets (e.g.,
brand names), while challenging the status quo of
reied histories (Berger & Luckmann, 1967). We
propose that managers forge incremental, self-justi-
catory narratives through interpreting local and
global data from multiple stakeholders to mitigate
such concerns in internationalization as liabilities of
foreignness, market-based constraints and require-
ments for ethical accounting of themselves across
borders. Narratives also persuade some stakeholders
to stay with the past, while convincing others to
break away and to imagine strategic futures (Brown,
2006) consumerstastes can evolve, hostile labor
can become supportive and so on. We argue that
these multi-actor narratives provide a fuller picture
of incremental internationalization (Doz, 2011).
As our second contribution, we include multiple
sensemakings of time in the storytelling of interna-
tionalization. Researchers have mostly disregarded
narratives that imagine the future and concentrated
on those that make sense of the past. Yet the linear
metaphor and logic that these narratives emphasize
create mechanistic, closed systems that discount
innovation or divergent visions in MNEs. Indeed,
MNEsinternal and external stakeholders may strive
to sketch conicting future visions from contradic-
tory past understandings (Floris, Grant, & Cucher,
First, we show how contradictory stories spanning
space and time may exist in internationalization
accounts. Next, we present the methodology under-
lying our case analysis of McDonalds. In the
ensuing section, we organize our observations of
McDonalds storytelling by nine spacetime concep-
tions. We then propose how conicting stories of
internationalization may affect strategic continuity
and change. Finally, we present our conclusions,
connections to conversations on MNEs and implica-
tions for theory and practice.
We dene storytelling as the intra-play of dominant
narratives (epistemic or empiric) with ontological
webs of lower-level living stories that provide sense-
making currency for stakeholders. Narrative focuses
on the past and abstract patterns of place. We dene
dominant managerial narrative as an overarching,
past-oriented, monological, linear plot presented by
managers; when managers use it to shape the future,
it may tend toward linear goals and petrication
(Czarniawska, 2004).
More narrowly, story deals
with content, with the living, emergent and unfold-
ing present. As a domain of contending discourse,
storytelling reveals tensions between narrative and
story (Gabriel, 2000), and contests over emphasizing
local and/or global, unchanging or changing, and
the past, present or future. From the nineteenth
century, language formed the base of epistemic and
historical-materialism storytelling, with Saussurean
Linguistics (Harris, 1988), into Russian Formalist
semiotic and verse analyses, Structuralist Anthropol-
ogy of Levi-Strausss mythic language codes, and
Pragmatist symbols, indices and iconic languages
(Peirce, 19311958).
More recently, Bakhtin (1981)
contrasted surface language with deep, ontological
structures in space and time, and we apply his
dialogic approach to international storytelling. We
argue that strategic storytelling includes managing
conicting stories of internationalization to provide
relevance and strategic t for MNEs within and
across international markets.
Theorists have studied MNEscosts when expand-
ing internationally from poor coordination and con-
trol (Zaheer, 1995), cultural and institutional distance
(Prahalad & Doz, 1987), and lack of t when transfer-
ring systems, cultures and technologies from home to
host countries (Hymer, 1976). Some showed that
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
incremental expansion reduces failure but may not
increase prots (Delios & Beamish, 2001). Others
observed exible replicationwhere MNEs alter
lower-level market-based indicators but maintain
higher-level values and vision ( Jonsson & Foss,
2011). Generally, internationalization experience
reduces costs (Luo & Peng, 1999). Yet paradoxes
exist (Brannen, 2004): international and host-
country experience, as well as cultural distance,
failed to explain Walt Disneys internationalization.
Brannen (2004) concluded that after initial market
entry, MNEs gain legitimacy through soft, strategic,
people-embodied assets.
Fewer IB researchers have explicitly studied time in
internationalization, focusing instead on behavior in
time ( Jones & Coviello, 2005). The dominant eclectic
and internalization paradigms ignored time or
focused on comparative, static analysis to predict
changed environmentseffects on MNEsstrategies
and performance (Eden, 2009). However, reasons for
initial entry may fail to explain MNEssubsequent
strategies or performance (Haley, 2001). Many
researchers viewed time as a universalist, immutable,
cultural construction, for example, Hofstedes(1980)
long-term orientation, or history ( Jones & Khanna,
2006). Yet Middleton, Liesch, and Steen (2011) con-
cluded that in their narratives on internationaliza-
tion, managers perceive and construct time sub-
jectively, rather than as clock time, to understand
and to communicate events and processes; the man-
agers in their study identied a cooperationtime
dimension for building stakeholder relationships.
Indeed, the melodyof MNEsvalue-creation activ-
ities in space corresponds to a rhythmin time
(Lefebvre, 2004) where the past and future can ram
into the present. We next elaborate on how space
timefolds into accountings of internationalization.
SpaceTime Conceptions
Space and time interconnect in internationalization:
diverse understandings of past events and future
glories emerge and inuence MNEsstories, actions
and resources. Previous researchers (Boje, Oswick, &
Ford, 2004; Robichaud, Giroux, & Taylor, 2004)
argued that Russian socio-linguist Bakhtins(1981,
1984, 1986) spacetime conceptions provide useful
ways to capture heterogeneous storytelling beyond
executive suites. Bakhtins conceptions include less
powerful stakeholdersperspectives to explore how
the marginalized inuence, interact with, interpret
and respond to the powerful narratives justifying
internationalization and its aftermath. Through
Bakhtins conceptions, we focus on cultural tensions,
refrain from assuming harmony in MNEsstorytelling
and explicitly seek alternate sources to managerial
accounts as Westney and Van Maanen (2011)
Bakhtin contended that what we call storytelling
implicitly manifests heterogeneous conceptions
(chronotopes) of space and time: each conception
comprises a lens to view a slice of fused space and
time or spacetime.Spanning nine different
spacetime levels in social, historical and biographi-
cal relations, stories exist in response to what was
said before and in anticipation of what will be said in
response. Conceptions range from simple, future-
perfect linear adventures, to nonlinear, interactive,
temporal cycles and assemblages. Figure 1 presents
Bakhtins nine spacetime conceptions that incor-
porate local, global or mixed audiences and are
oriented toward the past, present or future.
organizations, such as Disney, look primarily to the
past for stories of their future, as local becomes
global (Boje, 1995; Brannen, 2004). Others, such as
Enron, story their future while ignoring their past, as
global crashes into local.
Many internationalization theories rely on sim-
ple, linear conceptions of time not tied to specic
space. For example, MNEsplanning models
(Hennart & Larimo, 1998) comprise generic, lin-
ear, Romance Adventure narratives of overcoming
existing weaknesses, including foreignness, with
intangible assets and opportunities ltered
through managerspast experiences. Yet managers
solely relying on past experiences and resources to
inform narratives miss current developments.
Similarly narratives solely reacting to unforeseen
events, such as in Everyday Adventure, fail to
motivate or to inspire for future resources, while
Past Present Future
Global Chivalric
Adventure Folkloric
Rogue, Clown
& Fool
Local Everyday
Figure 1 Snapshot of Bakhtins spacetime conceptions.
Source: Adapted from Bakhtin (1981, 1984, 1986).
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
ignoring learning. Culler (1981: 178) observed that
narratives operate with double logic including
narratives of selected past events and unfolding
stories about the future. We argue that the dialogic
process of storytelling involves nonlinear time
where the past and future can collide in the
present. We propose that spacetime matrices (col-
lections of conceptions) catalog complex sense-
making, resource allocation, strategic positioning
and learning (Bowman & Hurry, 1993) in MNEs
internationalization, displaying changes over time
to dominant managerial narratives and stake-
holdersstories. Kaleidoscopes of spacetime matrices
emerge in MNEsnarratives, indicating how stories
and counter-stories of internationalization contri-
bute to strategic and semantic t.
Some researchers addressed how storytelling strat-
egy relates to networks of relationships. Meyer and
Rowan (1977) highlighted how organizations
attain legitimacy and resources by articulating
myths of rationality and isomorphic standards
with institutional environments. Smircich and
Stubbart (1985) linked strategy to narratives of
historical context and culture. Pentland and
Feldman (2007) developed narrative networks to
spotlight potential, realized and uid interconnec-
tions between people and actions. Yet IB research
ing on top-driven, not emergent activities (Gertsen
& Søderberg, 2011). Some researchers proposed
that MNEs form networks comprising nodes where
home-country managers create knowledge to repli-
cate internationally (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1988;
Kogut & Zander, 1993). As Brannen and Doz
(2010) concluded, through slogans such as Think
Global, Act Local,managers and academics justify
and promote minimal adaptation to local differ-
ences and minimal contextual appreciation.
Morson (1994) argued that Bakhtins dialogic of
narrative time may portray experiences as arising
from chance, and diverse futures as illusory options.
However, post-experience narratives may reduce or
expand present or future options through interpre-
tations of what else could have happened. We
incorporate Morsons (1994) extensions of Bakhtins
time in local and global storiespast, present and
future: In emergentpresent stories, besides actualities
or impossibilities, a middle realm of real options can
happen; prospectivefuture stories operate in closed
time, with limited options that stem from events to
come, not prior events; retrospectivepast stories
reduce options through backward causation of the
future as already existing and sending backward
signs. We next present our methods and case study
of McDonalds.
Case studies constitute the dominant IB qualitative
research method (Welch, Piekkari, Plakoyiannaki, &
Paavilainen-Mantymaki, 2011). We used McDonalds
Corporation as an exploratory case study to develop
theory (Yin, 2003). Our approach approximates
what Welch et al. (2011) described as contextualized
explanations: we subjectively generated explana-
tions that preserved context while recognizing
cause-and-effect contingencies which we saw as
dynamic, holistic interactions between storytellers.
With headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, and over
34,480 fast-food restaurants in over 119 countries in
early 2014, McDonaldsistheworldslargestfood-
service retailing chain. Almost all its restaurants (India,
a notable exception) offer standard menus, including
hamburgers, french fries and milk shakes. McDonalds
demonstrated the successful transfer of intangible
assets across countries and engaged in controlled
variation: it sustained high growth, brand recognition
and protability. In 2008, McDonaldsprots rose
10%, global sales 4.3% and shares 7% (Wiggans &
Birchall, 2009). In 2009, defying the global downturn,
McDonalds created 12,000 more jobs and opened 240
new restaurants across Europe. In its 2013 annual
survey, Millward Brown ranked McDonaldsfourth
among 100 global brands with brand equity of US
$90,256 million, 46% more than in 2008. In 2013, the
average US McDonalds restaurant generated $2.6
million in sales, double the industrysaverage,up
13% from 2008, though at from 2011. With an
annual advertising budget exceeding $2 billion,
roughly the size of ArubasGDP,theMNEspentmore
on this storytelling form than any competitor. Chief
Marketing Ofcer (CMO) Neil Golden classied adver-
tisings role as changing the way people think about
McDonalds(OBrien, 2012).
We assumed historical and social coordinates
existed for internationalization stories. Our interpre-
tive research emphasized the ontological, being in
spacetime, in lived experiences, in ongoing social
interactions, rather than the epistemological, social
construction of reality through language categories
(Boje, 2001; Lamb, Sandberg, & Liesch, 2011). Con-
textual understandings emerged in stakeholders
internationalization living stories through spatia-
lized interactions, timing and pace patterns. This
tradition also corresponds with use of case studies.
We captured inter-textuality in MNEsstories
through identifying stakeholdersvoices in dynamic
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
networks of production, distribution and consump-
tion, including managers, farmers, consumers, media,
governments, labor, local and global competitors,
authors, advertising agencies and marketing depart-
ments. As with other narrative inquiry (Gertsen &
Søderberg, 2011), voices did not speak for them-
selves: we chose stories and quotes according to our
criteria of importance which included strategic
changes in managerial narratives and visible inter-
nationalization processes, as well as public justica-
tions of existing narratives. Through our choices of
storytellers and stories, we emphasized certain struc-
tures and meanings in stories. Our multimodal data
distinguished internal and external actors but not
the processes through which competing internal
narratives became dominant (Floris et al., 2013).
For each story, we asked:
Whose social identities get constituted?
Who gets included?
Who is quoted?
Who speaks for whom?
Who commissioned this?
How are other stories incorporated?
What is the time and place?
What are the authors footprints?
Whose conventions (genres, styles, types) are
To whom is the text distributed?
Who is the audience?
What are the common sense terms?
What are the parodies, ironies and meta-
What interpretative matrix do the storytellers
For our analysis, we used purposive sampling,
selecting units of investigation relevant to show
how MNEs manage narratives for strategic t
within and across international markets.
authenticate constructs and theoretical relation-
ships, we collected stories using multiple methods
and sources (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2003), compar-
ing common story threads from different story-
tellers. Triangulation provided authentication,
incorporated different storytellersperspectives,
experiences and meanings and allowed multiple
voices to speak (Balogun et al., 2011).
In coding, we employed a directedapproach
(Ryan & Bernard, 2000) that can provide fresh con-
ceptual understanding (Welch et al., 2011). Both
authors rst independently categorized all stories.
We resolved contradictions by re-examining the
stories together for holistic interpretations of text
and performance beyond literal meaning. Disagree-
ments and subsequent discussion led to rening
coding categories through successive iterations
between theory and data. Nevertheless, we accept
the double-hermeneutic problem (Giddens, 1987) as
our categories interpret already interpreted narra-
tives and stories, without additional knowledge of
the storytellersmotives or alterations. Conse-
quently, we do not claim to present the only possible
classication of McDonalds stories.
For our data, rst, we made trips to 45 McDonalds
international restaurants (in the United States,
United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Finland, Holland,
Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, China,
Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, Hungary and India) to
understand the localglobal aspects of McDonalds
storytelling. Our onsite observations included site
visits, eld-note analysis, employee interviews,
observing exterior construction and interior decora-
tions, and photographing international and US res-
taurants. We also used archival sources, including
company reports, to research McDonalds imple-
mentation and communication of internationaliza-
tion in each country.
Second, we analyzed six, animated, 40-min long,
McDonaldland videos, The Wacky Adventures of
Ronald McDonald, produced by Klasky-Csupo studios,
and sold at McDonalds restaurants from 1998 to
2003: they included Scared Silly (1998); The Legend of
Grimace Island (1999); Visitors from Outer Space (1999);
Birthday World (2000); Have Time Will Travel (2001);
and The Legend of McDonaldland Loch (2002). We
chose these videos because a strategic shift occurred
during this time as McDonalds abruptly embarked
on leaner and more-nutritious food branding.
Third, we reviewed transcripts of four important
legal disputes involving McDonalds. These included:
Sid and Marty Krofft Television Productions vs
McDonalds Corp. (1977); McDonaldsCorp.vsHelen
Steel and David Morris (1990); The State (Millau,
France) vs José Bové and nine other members of
Confederation Paysanne (1999); and Block, Sharma,
Steel et al. vs McDonalds Corp. (2001). We chose
these disputes because they resulted in changes of
McDonalds brand positioning and symbols.
Fourth, we analyzed 23 native-language, television
commercials from Japan (in Japanese), China
(in Mandarin), Hong Kong (in Cantonese), Turkey
(in Turkish) and South Korea (in Korean). These
commercials played in the countries from 2007
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
to 2008. McDonalds micro-targeted these commer-
cials to specic groups, including women and chil-
dren under 10 years old (York, 2009).
Finally, we incorporated other major forms of
constitutive communication displayed in McDo-
nalds storytelling such as a game, media-generated
theories of McDonalds, and ofcial and unofcial
biographies of McDonalds managers. Table 1 out-
lines the stories and sources.
Our analysis revealed that numerous conversa-
tions underpinned McDonalds internationaliza-
tion. However, the dominant managerial narrative
historically emphasized how global economic ef-
ciencies in logistics, products and services provided
legitimacy and resources (Hennart, 1982). In 1960,
McDonalds operated 228 restaurants, mostly in the
United States. In 1987, Jim Cantalupo became pre-
sident of McDonalds International and spearheaded
its global expansion of about 35% annually (Love,
1995). In 1988, McDonalds 2600 foreign restaurants
generated a quarter of net revenues; by 1994, 4700
foreign restaurants generated half of net revenues.
McDonalds labeled the managerial narrative under-
pinning internationalization as Cantalupos Theorem
an equation he developed in 1994. The Theorem
answered: how many restaurants (penetration
potential or PP) can McDonalds build in any
country? Cantalupo calculated:
PP ¼
US $23;120
where, P=Countrys population; I =Countrys per-
capita income; 25,000 =Number of people for every
McDonalds restaurant in the United States in 1994;
and US$23,120 =US per-capita income in 1994.
By CantaluposTheorem, the United States had the
highest PP followed by Japan, Germany, France,
Canada, China, Russia, Australia, India, South Africa,
Colombia and Pakistan. In this narrative, internatio-
nalization involved replicating restaurants across space
for efcient control and coordination of operations.
For Cantalupo, internationalization involved two
stages. First, his staff demarcated internal stake-
holders for foreign direct investment, trade and
logistics concerning locations, real estate, construc-
tion, personnel, business law and host-government
relations. In culturally familiar Canada, Britain, Aus-
tralia and Europe, McDonalds operated and
expanded via wholly owned subsidiaries. In cultu-
rally distant Asia and the Middle East, it established
joint ventures or licensed its name. Second, Canta-
lupo deployed the McDonalds brand to legitimize
the managerial narrative to external stakeholders. In
an interview he elaborated, The McDonalds name
Table 1 Storytelling and storytellers
Storytelling types Storytellers Conceptions
Big Mac Index (1986); Cantalupos Theorem (1994);
McDonaldland videos (19982003); Golden Arches
Theory of Conflict Prevention (2000)
Economist; Jim Cantalupo; Klasky-Csupo; NYT
columnist Thomas Friedman
Romance Adventure
Two legal disputes involving McDonalds (1999, 2001);
Supersize Me movie (2004)
José Bové and farmers; Harish Bharti and
vegetarians; McDonalds Corporation; film maker
Morgan Spurlock
Everyday Adventure
Biographies and autobiographies of McDonalds senior
managers (19762002); television commercials from
Japan, China, Hong Kong, Turkey and Korea (2007
McDonald brothers; Ray Kroc; anthropologists and
sociologists; commissioned writers; local advertising
McDonaldland (19982003); The Lost Ring Alternative
Reality Game (2008)
Klasky-Csupos McDonaldland videos; advertising
agency AKQA; AvantGame; bloggers
Historical Inversion
QSCV (1957) McDonald Brothers; Ray Kroc; Jim Cantalupo Chivalric Adventure
Hamburglar, Ronald McDonald and Grimace (1963) Willard Scott; Klasky-Csupo; managers Rogue, Clown and Fool
Birdie, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, McDonaldland
(19982003); print advertisements/logos from India,
Holland and Japan (20022008)
Klasky-Csupos McDonaldland videos; local
advertising agencies
Rabelaisian Purge
McDonalds Breakfast Time (1973) McDonalds Marketing department; fast-food
McDonaldland videos (19982003); McDonalds real-
food stories (2008); McDonalds green story (1989)
Klasky-Csupo; McDonalds Advertising and
Marketing departments
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
and what we stand for opens a tremendous number
of doors(Love, 1995).
McDonalds managerial narrative displayed small
variations in menus (e.g., beef-less hamburgers in
India) and routines (closing for Islamic prayer in
Jordan) as it internationalized. Cantalupo assured
Fortune magazine, People are more the same than
they are different. I dont think our food is seen as
American; its seen as McDonalds(17 October
1994). We next categorize spacetime in McDonalds
internationalization stories.
A kaleidoscope of spacetime matrices emerged from
McDonalds communicated strategies. Drawing on
managerial statements, we labeled one spacetime
matrix as Eat Smart, Go Active strategy: To be
the leading restaurant promoting healthy, happy,
active lifestyles everywhere we do business.The
Eat Smart, Go Active matrix illustrates McDonalds
storied identity from fatty-food to nutritious
choices including: a Romance Adventure where
homogeneity tactically adapted to local food-
ways; an Everyday Adventure that reacted to legal
trials and the movie on obesity, after which man-
agers eliminated supersize options worldwide;
Ronald replaced with a slimmer Clown who led
customers and employees in tness workouts; and
a return to Idyllic relationships with nature bol-
stered by Chivalric codes of quality and value.
Individual slices of sometimes overlapping space
time that follow show how McDonaldsmanage-
rial narrative of economic efciency and market
entry interplayed with, and changed in response
to, global stakeholdersconicting stories.
Romance Adventure
Here, Bakhtin (1981: 100) saw space and time
reduced to linear, abstract progression or monologic
narrative. Internationalization becomes a trium-
phant adventure where the MNE and managers do
not transform. For example, Cantalupos Theorem
used past events to plan the future: McDonalds
and managers traveled across geographic terrains,
encountered diverse stakeholders, yet retained their
identities. McDonalds projected homogeneity
across the world with interchangeable systems and
small variations for local preferences: for example,
Japanese prefer rice with Happy Meals.
Klasky-Csupos McDonaldland videos anthropomor-
phized McDonalds adventurous internationalization.
Every video sent the characters to Bakhtinsalien
worldthrough travel in space and time. For
instance, the hero characters traveled to Far Flung
Forrest, Grimace Island, Outer Space and Birthday
World theme park where through the reversible laws
of time, they entered the Jurassic period and nally
McDonaldland Loch. Each time, the heroes tri-
umphed over the unknown and unforeseen through
innate characteristics.
The media reinforced this narrative for global
analysts. In 1986, saluting McDonalds homogenous
global system, the Economist proposed Burgernomics,
based on purchasing-power parity or the notion that
a dollar should buy similar amounts in all countries.
As benchmark, the Economist used McDonalds Big
Mac and over two decades later, the Big Mac Index
continues. Similarly, New York Timescolumnist,
Friedman (2000) developed his Golden Arches Theory
of Conict Prevention on McDonalds internationali-
zation. Friedman concluded that no two countries
with McDonalds restaurants waged war against each
other because of economic interdependence.
Everyday Adventure
Here, through searing trials, stakeholders become
witnesses, telling emergent stories in the local public
square. This conception overlaps with Romance
Adventure, but the MNE and managers change.
Bakhtin (1981) segmented this time from natural
cycles, emphasizing alienation of everyday workings
from natural order. In stories of unforeseen events,
McDonalds experienced local trial and revelation;
its metamorphoses became mythological cycles of
crisis that abruptly changed everyday workings.
Responding to managerial narratives, counter stor-
ies portrayed McDonalds as ill-treating labor and
animals, unfettered globalization, fraudulent pro-
moter and obesity sponsor. Managerial narratives
transformed for protability. Thus transformation
by re led to reform and renewal of McDonalds
petried narrative.
José Bové trial
In Millau, France on 12 August 1999, protesting
unchecked globalization, José Bové and 300 farmers
dismantled a McDonalds restaurant, created
$65,000 of damage, and deposited the remains on a
public ofcials lawn. A public prosecutor charged
Bové and nine farmers with willful destruction.
In September 2000, Judge François Mallet sentenced
Bové to 3 months in prison, but 16 witnesses from
ve continents, testied on his behalf. International
media covered the trial and demonstrators displayed
T-shirts and banners with McDominationin Millaus
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
town square. To counter these stories, on 22 January
2002, McDonalds France launched a nationwide
advertising campaign promoting McDonaldsas
Born in the USA, but made in France.The corpora-
tion replaced mascot Ronald McDonald with comic-
character Asterix the Gaul. Managers then posi-
tioned McDonalds as a casual French diner, with
lampshades, wooden tables, upholstered leather
banquettes, Internet and iPod/iPhone stations
and a localized menu, including Croque McDos,
McCamembert and lemon tartlets. Managers also
ran an Open Doors program for customers to tour
kitchens and to meet suppliers. In 2007, with daily
sales exceeding $1 million, McDonalds France
became the MNEs most protable European sub-
sidiary, and in 2014 was its most protable foreign
Beef-laced fries
In May 2001, in Seattle, Harish Bhartis class-action
lawsuit alleged that for over a decade McDonalds
fraudulently concealedthe existence of beef in
french fries (Skolnik, 2001). Previous media stories
as vegetarian despite beef avoring. Spokesman Walt
Riker responded that McDonalds had always indi-
cated use of natural avoring, which as a synonym
for beef extract fell within federal Food and Drug
Administrations guidelines. To discover that natural
avoring came from beef, customers had to contact
aMcDonalds customer-satisfaction representative
numbers of vegetarians, McDonaldsdidnotusebeef
extract. Yet mobs in India ransacked a McDonalds
restaurant, broke glass panes and smeared Ronalds
statue with cow dung, resulting in arrests of 30
protestors. McDonalds estimated the loss at 2 million
Rupees. Despite quick and repeated reassurances on
vegetarian content, anti-McDonaldsdemonstrations
continued in India. In March 2002, McDonalds
issued a formal apology: mistakes were made in
communicating to the public and customers those
mistakes included instances when french fries and
hash browns sold at US restaurants were improperly
identied as vegetarian,and donated $10 million
to Hindu and vegetarian charities.
Supersize me
On 25 January 2005, Martin Spurlocks movie on
childhood obesity from McDonalds food and adver-
tising was nominated for an Oscar. Simultaneously,
the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a
lower-court judge wrongfully dismissed the obesity
lawsuit on behalf of two New York children against
McDonalds. Spurlock undertook a 30-day road trip
to corroborate the childrens claims of health pro-
blems from McDonalds food, traveling to 20 US
cities, eating only McDonalds food and gaining
29.5 pounds. The movie received 27 awards at global
lm festivals. McDonalds countered by eliminating
Supersize options and sending nutritionists and t-
ness experts on road trips with Ronald and Oprah
Winfreystness guru. Managers recast the narrative
as Eat Smart, Go Active strategy: To be the leading
restaurant promoting healthy, happy, active life-
styles everywhere we do business(Kapica, 2004),
simultaneously launching the Adult Happy Meal
internationally, with nutrition tips and pedometers.
Here, stakeholders seek knowledge and destinies in
broader managerial narratives. Senior managers and
external stakeholders discover hidden, latent traits
by illuminating their stories in the public square.
We concluded that McDonaldsofcial chronolo-
gies became more inter-textual, multidisciplinary and
pluralistic as managerial narratives disintegrated. The
heroization of ofcial and unofcial McDonaldstexts
decreased; simultaneously, conicting stories moved
from abstract to everyday, globally projecting local
understanding. McDonalds published biographies
replied and anticipated responses to one another,
thereby rewriting and retelling the managerial narra-
tive. Ofcial biographies (e.g., Westman & Molina,
Anderson, 1976), heroized senior managers. Other
unauthorized biographies supplanted glorication
with investigative journalism (e.g., Love, 1995). Still
other unauthorized biographies accused early auto-
biographies and biographies of opacity (e.g., Schlosser,
2001). Ritzers (1993/2002) sociological study of
McDonalds equated it with cultural imperialism
and McDonaldization. In response, Watson (1997),
through ethnographies in East Asia, argued that locals
appropriated McDonalds for their needs: for example,
in China, lingering customers subverted fast food and
turned McDonalds into Beijing social clubs.
Simultaneously, advertising agencies broadcasted
inclusive stories to children and women, social seg-
ments that may experience powerlessness. In televi-
sion commercials, eating at McDonaldssignied self-
actualization through relaxation, fun or empower-
ment. A Chinese commercial showed tired young
children learning English numbers; in an inspiring
ash they realize that the time 3 turned counter-
clockwise forms an M, an outlet for fun and relaxation.
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
They escape tedium as the teacher understands the
universal symbol for McDonalds. In a Japanese
commercial, a demure woman sits under a tree,
reading a book and drinking a McDonalds shake,
while men play soccer. The ball veers near her and a
player orders its return. A sip of the shake instantly
empowers her. Bursting out of demurity, she kicks
the ball the length of a eld, while the man watches
Historical Inversion
To reinvigorate managerial narratives, historical
inversion occurs: purpose, ideals, justice, perfection,
harmony and myths about a Golden Age shift to the
past, and past myths and ideals transpose to the
present. Stakeholders actively dive into adventure
and through heroic deeds glorify themselves and
others. Heroes are individualized, yet symbolic. In
this environment outside time, true meanings sur-
face of that which was, and which is and which
shall be(Bakhtin, 1981). In stories of alternative
worlds, McDonalds transformed through stories of
mythic pasts, making concrete in the present an
otherwise ephemeral and fragmented future.
In the McDonaldland video, Have Time Will Travel,
the characters travel to a past alternate world to learn
about themselves through mirrored, folkloric char-
acters, including Ronald and Mayor McCheese in
their disco period. Though they enjoy time away,
the characters long to return to the present. Through
Historical Inversion, the characterspresent becomes
concrete and less fragmented through trips into the
past to reclaim values and legacy.
Similarly, in the alternative reality game (ARG)
(MarchAugust 2008), McDonalds successfully used
branded narrative of heroic deeds. Beijings Summer
Olympic Games, saturated with advertising, pro-
vided the nale for this global story that used a
Golden Age, and bloggerscooperation, to shape an
emergent present. The free game involved six char-
acters, who along with 2.9 million players in over
100 countries, unraveled the truth to save the world.
The AvantGame creatorsinitial package to bloggers
made no mention of McDonalds, and symbols, such
as the Golden Arches, only appeared at the end. The
game generated 10 million blog and 400 million
media and public-relations impressions, bringing
ARG into mainstream advertising. The managers
took risks by avoiding product placements and overt
pitches. McDonalds believed that if we could tell
an amazing story about saving the world and give
young people around the world the chance to be the
heroes of that story, they would passionately
embrace it and tell others,the AvantGames
designer said (Brunelli, 2008).
Chivalric Adventure
Bakhtins (1981: 1512) technically and systemically
organized spacetime appeared in stories of techno-
cratic chivalric codes that informed McDonalds
planning efforts. Internal and external stakeholders
conicting stories tested delity to the codes. Tech-
nocratic stories, based on sensemaking of the past,
aligned and re-aligned managerial narratives in
response to changing environments. Barry and
Elmes (1997) also saw recovering from divergence
with a founders vision as a chivalric story.
In McDonaldsofcial chronology, Richard and
Maurice McDonald designed the organizational sys-
tem, and resisted Ray Krocs efforts to change it. Kroc
replicated the brotherssystem around the world,
further standardizing and systematizing the design.
In 1957, Kroc crafted the chivalric-type operational
code of McDonalds Quality, Service, Cleanliness
and Value (QSCV). By 1990, McDonalds stopped
narrating heroic founder, Ray Krocs QSCV code, and
focused instead on internationalization stories.
However, by the decades end, stock values and
same-store sales plummeted. Jim Cantalupo rein-
stated the QSCV code for more health-conscious
customers. In short, Kroc narrated the chivalric code,
succeeding CEOs lost it, and Cantalupo reinstated a
tweaked version for new and international custo-
mers. Each CEO as chivalric hero was tested against
the past chivalric code.
Rogue, Clown and Fool
The rogue, the clown and the fool were rst present
in the very cradle of the modern European novel,
and there left behind their foolscap and bells
among swaddling clothes(Bakhtin, 1981: 406). As
hyperbolic metaphors of the past, the Rogue, Clown
and Fool represent common peoples literature in
public rather than private spheres. In stories of
human and institutional failings, the three medieval
masks saw situationsfalseness, made public the
private, and unmasked feudal and institutional
hypocrisy in theatrical, public spaces.
In Klasky-Csupos McDonaldland videos, Ronald
McDonald (the clown created in 1963), Hamburglar
(the rogue) and Grimace (the fool) illustrate this
conception. The clown is one of the most ancient of
literatures images, and the clownsspeech,deter-
mined by his specic social orientation (by his privi-
forms of human discourse(Bakhtin, 1981: 405).
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
The clowns privileges include speaking back to
corporate power, which Ronald has done. The
rogues privileges include acting outside social
norms, and Hamburglar has lied, stolen and played
cruel pranks on friends. The fools privileges include
miscomprehending high languages and the modern
world, and Grimaces pre-modern, folk-island cul-
ture had discarded technology.
Ronald occupies a unique place in McDonalds
stories. The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonalds
credits identied charactersreal voices; yet, Ronald
played himself. In each Klasky-Csupo story, Ronald
began as a real clown who magically transformed
into a cartoon clown as he entered McDonaldland,
from which he brought lessons back to the real,
public world as a costumed human. In Visitors from
Outer Space, the characters discovered that Hambur-
glar lied and stole. Yet Ronald reset narrative expec-
tations by acknowledging that Hamburglar had a
right to be otherin this worldby stating Which I
know you cant help, being the H, and all.Hambur-
glar received no punishment and thanked Ronald
for his understanding, which came from the clowns
world with different rules. Since 2003, managers
styled Ronald as Chief Happiness Ofcerand
presented him as someone who sees the underside
of every situation(Bakhtin, 1981: 159), that which
should not be anywhere in the world.
Rabelaisian Purge
Here, humor and satire expose problems as new
matrices between words, objects and phenomena
destroy and replace old ones. Space emerges from
the human event that occurred there and that gave to
the place its name and its physiognomy(Bakhtin,
1981: 189). The Rabelaisian purges inauthentic and
renews managerial narratives as in mocking, self-
deprecating stories involving the body.
Invited changes to managerial narratives come
through emergent stories of a sardonic world struc-
tured around the human body. Grotesque charac-
ters, banquets and lofty spiritual themes elicit
Rabelaisian laughter in McDonalds commercials
and videos. At McDonalds, as Bakhtin (1981: 178)
indicated, the most varied objects and phenomena
of the world are brought into direct contact with
food and drink including the most lofty and
spiritual things.For example, the McDonaldland
videos included religious parodies of Jonah and the
Whale (Have Time will Travel) and hell (Birthday
World and Scared Silly); and literary parodies of
Platos Cave (Time Travel), and the Trojan War
(McDonaldland Loch). Grotesqueness emerged as
hybrid human, food and animal parts in McDonald-
land characters: Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and
Sheriff Big Mac have human bodies and burger
As Figure 2 shows, discourse with international
stakeholders has occurred through carnivalesque
images and metaphors. To encourage Indian
mothers to bring babies to McDonalds, Leo Burnett
India started the Baby Ronald campaign. In the
Rabelaisian tradition, Baby Ronald wore a white-face
comic mask. In Holland, Rabelaisian clownslips
served as urinals in a restaurant. In a Japanese print
advertisement, Ronald appeared as a cross-dresser.
Through a taking-apart and putting together of
social every day time,time becomes collective and
mystical. To retain their signicance in narrative
[human life and nature] must undergo one or
another form of sublimation, a metaphorical
Baby clown in India Caricatured clown lips at urinal in Holland Clown as woman in Japan
Figure 2 Rabelaisian purge in McDonalds stories.
Source: Adapted from postings on various websites and from articles since 2005, including, www,,,,
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
broadening of their signicance(Bakhtin, 1981:
215). Stories of constructed, mythical times take
apart existing individual and social time cycles, to
reassemble them as collective time, as with man-
agersbranded narratives on collective, food-eating
Historically, food has temporal characteristics
grounded in crop and seasonal cycles as well as
culturally inuenced dining times and preferences.
McDonalds Time, however, reconstructs individual
and social cycles. In 1973, managers introduced
the Egg McMufn and later instituted Breakfast
Time across the world, distinct from geography,
culture and personal time. The mystical reconstruc-
tion of Breakfast Time proved protable. In 2007,
McDonalds breakfast sales accounted for approxi-
mately $6.6 billion, about 30% of sales. We
invented the category,said McDonalds spokes-
woman Danya Proud, and we are extremely bullish
as it continues to be a priority(Holaday, 2009).
McDonalds competitors, like Dennys, reacted to
the reconstruction of time cycles. Acknowledging
McDonaldsinuential stories, a Dennys corporate
manager said Our challenge was to create craveable
breakfast items that consumers would want to eat
all day long.
Here, a future trajectory of family, nature, agricul-
tural labor and craft-work combine. The Idyllic space
provides glimpses of a future for an organic fasten-
ing-down, a grafting of life and its events to a place,
to a familiar territory with all its nooks and crannies,
its familiar mountains, valleys, elds, rivers and
forests, and ones own home(Bakhtin, 1981: 225).
In Idyllic, marketers and advertisers melded local
and global stories of agricultural life, handcrafted
products and family to stakeholdersfamiliar terri-
tory, distinct from technocratic stories.
McDonalds videos, including Legend of Grimace
Island, memorialized extended families of children,
aunts, uncles and parents in an Idyllic pre-class,
agrarian society that grew and consumed its food.
For McDonalds, this family bond also became bill-
board story: the Adult Happy Meal –“For kids, moms
and everyone in-between.Stories emphasized con-
cepts of groundedness. One side of its packaging
described the Big Macs height while another high-
lighted the vegetables, cheese and cooking utensils
that go into making the hamburger. McDonalds
global CMO, Mary Dillon said the goal was to create
unique personalities for our menu items by telling
a story about each one(Vella, 2008). Color
photographs of ingredients reminded customers
that real food goes into a Quarter Pounder. The
french-fry package featured a partially peeled potato.
From 2008 to 2010, managers introduced this Idyllic
story to 118 countries, including translations into 21
languages with adjustments for local stakeholders.
In Australia, for example, packaging highlighted
beef sourced in neighboring New Zealand.
Control of Idyllic space through global sourcing
and production has encountered counter stories.
Opponents of managerial narratives included the
organic-food movement opposing genetically mod-
ied beef and chicken; environmental groups object-
ing to packaging waste; non-governmental groups
such as People for Ethical Treatment of Animals; and
unions. In response, managers altered narratives
with green stories on food science, homogenous
systems, fresh vegetables and eco-friendly business
practices. Yet Starkey and Crane (2003: 222) noted
McDonalds strained alliance with the Environmen-
tal Defense Fund located in the space where the
natural environment is made meaningful to human
identity, experience, and relationships through story.
They (2003: 231) argued: McDonalds cannot turn
its golden arches green.In 2009, as stories extended
branded green space, managers changed the Golden
from yellow to green (Associated Press, 2009).
SpaceTime Matrices
Interplaying stakeholdersstories emerged as space
time matrices in McDonalds internationalization.
Activists alerted customers to McDonalds effects on
environment and labor. Yet Historical Inversion,
Idyllic and Folkloric stories allowed managers to
make mythical links around fast food, and to negoti-
ate criticisms. Romance and Chivalric Adventure
stories highlighted how McDonalds successfully
replicated to internationalize. Yet Everyday Adven-
ture stories revealed that managerial narratives chan-
ged through unanticipated circumstances. Through
Rabelaisian laughter, Biography and the Rogue,
Clown and Fool, McDonalds invited pluralistic
views, including mockery of managerial narratives,
for incremental change as it internationalized. We
next propose avenues for theory building.
Small-N studies, such as the McDonalds case, con-
tribute to developing theory. McDonalds represents
an MNE that has successfully managed its interna-
tionalization through enfolding contradictory forces
for change and continuity in narrative. As IB lacks a
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
theory of international storytelling, discussing what
we can learn and propose from the case assumes
importance. In this section, we present some propo-
sitions derived from the McDonalds case to aid in
developing theory.
As in Historical Inversion, Folkloric and Idyllic,
managersinternationalization narratives for ef-
ciency and markets aimed to attain legitimacy and
resources for McDonaldsthroughshapingeco-
nomic orders and creating discursive spaces by
localizing global, expanding consumption space
and institutionalizing time norms (Foucault,
1977). Yet as global cultural scripts interacted with
local beliefs, norms and values, managers appeared
to re-align narratives in response to conicting
stories (Delmestri & Wezel, 2011). Consequently,
McDonalds marketing and advertising depart-
ments strove to make global brands into global
stories, presenting alternative mythical worlds that
cooperating stakeholders could enjoy. Thereby,
the dominant managerial narrative explicated
order and constrained change (Näslund & Pemer,
2012): managers afxed meanings to central con-
cepts that constructed stories about food items, so
that specic associative connotations occurred in
the MNEs local linguistic context to contain
change. Successful managerial narratives could
therefore become the source of inertia (Geiger &
Antonacopoulou, 2009), enacting the resilience
of dominant stories(Näslund & Pemer, 2012: 91).
We propose:
Proposition 1: The more stabilized and branded
the dominant managerial narrative, the more it
legitimizes, displaces and otherwise controls space
and time.
As in Chivalric Adventure, successful technocratic
stories brought legitimacy, resources and increased
opportunity for McDonalds (Meyer & Rowan,
1977). However, successive CEOsstories communi-
cated interfering and conicting logics that man-
agers needed to address with existing storytelling
repertoires (Gertsen & Søderberg, 2011). Techno-
cratic tweaking of quality, modernity and progress
enabled integration of managerial narratives and
conicting logics, contributing to the narratives
evolution (Delmestri & Wezel, 2011). Effective man-
agement of centripetal and centrifugal forces
depends on managerial narrativesresponsiveness
and also on saturation (Koschmann, Kuhn, &
Pfarrer, 2012). Managerial narrativesreceptivity (or
resistance) may also vary over time and circum-
stance. However, narratives more receptive to
textual inuences should show more responsiveness
to environmental changes, membership turnover,
resource constraints or new denitions of relevant
issues, and therefore more willingness to manage
conict. We propose:
Proposition 2: The greater the dominant man-
agerial narratives ability to respond to interfer-
ence, the greater the MNEs strategic success.
As in Biography, Rogue, Clown and Fool, and
Rabelaisian Purge, raconteurs,advertisingagen-
ciesand consumersconversational competition
to insert texts may shape managerial narratives
through mutual learning and collaboration
(Gertsen & Søderberg, 2011). Compilations of
texts can also become distancedand expand
inuence beyond situated conversational circum-
stances (Taylor, Cooren, Giroux, & Robichaud,
1996), as with the mascot Ronald McDonald.
Multilayered food stories from managers, consu-
mers, investors and other stakeholders fashioned
McDonalds narratives of personal, group and
organizational identity (Hardy, Lawrence, &
Grant, 2005). Management narratives can absorb,
caricature, ignore or complement organizational
detractorsconicting stories (Gardiner, 1992).
Consequently, managerial narratives may appear
to deviate from legitimizing, economic rules of
standardization including efciency, calculability,
predictability and control. For example, McDo-
cooking and rituals of fast-food eating through
grotesque depictions to remake presentations of
consumption. We propose:
Proposition 3: The greater the number of emer-
gent stories, the more the MNE invites changes to
the dominant managerial narrative.
As in Romance Adventure, the capacity of Canta-
luposTheoremto attract economic, social and
cultural resources, and to marshal some stake-
holdersconsent, reinforced the managerial
narratives trajectory (Koschmann et al., 2012).
Therefore managing, not resolving, conicting
narratives increased the resources that McDonalds
managers could attract (Lounsbury & Glynn,
2001). Czarniawska (2004) argued that more petri-
ed narratives characterize strong, long-lived and
successful corporate cultures; long-lived narratives
incorporate reinforced sediments of norms and
practices. Consequently, strategic success may
contribute to increased petrication of managerial
narratives. As McDonaldsmanagersaligned
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
strategies and systems to extract maximal benets,
they may also have reinforced managerial narra-
tives (Sabherwal, Hirschheim, & Goles, 2001). We
Proposition 4: The more the environment offers
legitimacy and resources, the more petried the
dominant managerial narrative.
As in Everyday Adventure, managerial narratives
receptivity does not necessarily produce change;
openness to new textual inuences conrmed trajec-
tories offensive to consumers, such as McDonalds
beef-laced fries, as information deemed irrelevant
got blocked. However, the narratives lost value
through rigidity and unresponsiveness to other stor-
ies, indicating the practice of normalization (Weick,
2012). Tactical storytelling encourages storytellers
to meander when erosion of space and time makes
stories less useful. Yet successful managers can
become unresponsive to conicting stories. For
McDonalds, environmental changes such as obesity
consciousness may also have made managerial nar-
ratives obsolete; however, the managers continued
to operate as if old narratives explained changed
circumstances (Starbuck & Milliken, 1988). Conse-
quently, managerial narratives that appealed to
stakeholders in earlier spaces and times, no longer
meaningfully engaged them. As legitimacy and
resources evaporate, even the most petried man-
agerial narrative must be restoried for continued
success. We propose:
Proposition 5: The more petried the dominant
managerial narrative, the more it misses conict-
ing narratives, leading to its replacement for con-
tinued success.
Figure 3 categorizes spacetime conceptions for
and against changes in the MNEs stories. Some
conceptions may have bolstered McDonalds narra-
tives through sensemaking, while others may have
threatened with conict or crisis. Managerial narra-
tives sometimes conicted with other stories ema-
nating from diverse cultural, social and ecological
environments. Ofcial McDonalds chronologies
reveal struggles between competing stories (Floris
et al., 2013) and a kaleidoscope of stakeholders
stories, not just managers, explained internationali-
zation and presence abroad. Bakhtins nine concep-
tions map onto these stories, sometimes aligning
them to an imagined past (Chivalric Adventure,
Romance Adventure, Rogue Clown and Fool); simul-
taneously mocking present tradition (Rabelaisian
Purge) as well as providing alternative worldviews
(Historical Inversion, Biography); and offering pro-
spective senses of future possibilities (Folkloric and
Idyllic). When narratives no longer ensured strategic
Forces FOR Change Forces AGAINST Change
Rogue, Clown & Fool
Rabelaisian Purge
Everyday Adventure
P1: The more stabilized and branded the
dominant managerial narrative, the more
it legitimizes, displaces and otherwise
controls time and space
P2: The greater the dominant managerial
narrative’s ability to respond to
interference, the greater the MNE’s
strategic success
P3: The greater the number of emergent
stories, the more the MNE invites changes
to the dominant managerial narrative
P4: The more the environment offers
legitimacy and resources, the more
petrified the dominant managerial
P5: The more petrified the dominant
managerial narrative, the more it misses
conflicting narratives, leading to its
replacement for continued success
Historical Inversion
Chivalric Adventure
Romance Adventure
Figure 3 Force fields around dominant managerial narratives.
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
success, managers changed them (Everyday Adven-
ture). The nal section outlines this researchs con-
tribution to IB theory and practice.
Lefebvre (2004) identied how interplaying space
and nonlinear time affect comprehensions of every-
day life, and we extended that to accountings of
internationalization. We presented internationaliza-
tion through the lens of McDonalds international
storytelling. We showed how dominant narratives
may fall into crisis, disrupting rhythms of space
time. Rather than a simple search for locational
advantages, internationalization then becomes a
nonlinear combination of mundane and strategic
repetitions of storytelling events. Shadows of past,
present and future offer alternatives that could have
been, or in the future still might emerge as options
for stakeholders, all in dialogic relationships to one
another, and as alternative temporalities. This view
challenges the dominant IB paradigm of MNEs as
hierarchies with omniscient managers narrating
for other stakeholders; instead, the saturated space
around the process of internationalization becomes
pluralistic, polyphonic, localglobal environments
that include multiple points of view that emerge in
successful narratives. Our storytellers use metaphor
and logic as they use words and internationalization
gets represented through storytelling, in television
commercials, billboards, and news and print adver-
tisements. Table 2 identies how the conceptions
capture the rhythm of storytelling time in local and
global space.
Implications for Theory
McCloskey (1990) argued metaphors (models, equa-
tions) and stories (history) offer complementary
answers the former explain, the latter aid under-
standing. IB researchers have relied primarily on
efciency and rationality metaphors to explain inter-
nationalization (Haley & Haley, 2013). Some pre-
sented internationalization as logical, external
activity to implement plans and data analysis; others,
as replicating MNEsintangible assets through homo-
genous subsidiaries. Yet metaphors unravel when
faced with paradox: storytelling answers some of the
Table 2 Language in storytelling spacetime
Conception Text and performance Space Time
In planning stories; managers and agents use past events to plan
future, travel diverse geographic terrains, encounter diverse
stakeholders, yet retain identity
Local becomes more Global Retrospective past evolves into
Prospective future
In stories of reactions to external, unforeseen events through
public trial and revelation; MNEsmetamorphoses become
mythological cycles of crisis changing everyday workings
Global sensitized and
responsive to Local accident
Emergent present
Biography In personal stories; internalexternal, localglobal stakeholders
discover hidden, latent traits by publicly illuminating lives
Many Locals within Global Emergent present refashioned
into Retrospective attachment
with past
In alternative, mythical-world stories; MNEs transform through
stories of mythic pasts to make ephemeral, fragmented future
concrete in present
Many Locals within Global Emergent present transformed
by Retrospective trips into past
In technocratic stories; technocratic chivalric codes inform
planning, test fidelity to codes
Global values subordinate
Retrospective fidelity to past
informing Emergent present
Clown and
In human and institutional-failing stories; three medieval masks
see falseness, publicly unmasking feudal and institutional
Local plays on Global stage Retrospectively imagined past
shows falseness of Emergent
In mocking, self-deprecating stories; laughter makes managerial
narrative and chivalric code less pompous and pretentious
Global contested by Local Emergent present mockingly
purged of counter-realism
Folkloric In mythical-time stories; managers and agents take apart and
reassemble individual and social time cycles for collective
Global imagined time
sublimates Local
compartmentalized time
Prospective future attains new
significance through new
collective cycles
Idyllic In grounded-space stories; managers and agents unify and graft
stories of agricultural life, handcrafted products and family to
stakeholdersfamiliar territory
Local strategically storied
spaces makeup Global idyllic
Prospective future restoried
through Retrospective grounded
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
paradoxical whyin IB internationalization models.
Sidestepping Cartesian subjectobject cuts and inter-
nalization theories, storytelling offers internationali-
zation as local resolution within MNEs of exteriority-
within-phenomena (Barad, 2010).
Emphasizing inter-textuality, we showed how
McDonalds learned to understand internationaliza-
tion as part of and activated by waves of relational
stakeholderscollaborations and meanings and in
active encounters with planning and analysis. We
proposed internationalization not as trajectories of
narrative continuity as in planning, but as disrup-
tions of continuity with pasts or futures (Barad,
2011), and as complex materiality. In internationa-
lization, MNEs recongure and thread some living
stories with overarching narratives, and discard
others, to highlight collaborations across space
time. This dis/continuityrefracted through local,
global, past, present and future represents not abso-
lute separation between spaces and times, subsidi-
aries and headquarters, but a cutting together/apart
a holding together of the disparate without
effacing heterogeneity(Barad, 2010: 265) or redu-
cing differences to sameness. Distinctions between
temporal and contextual variables became local and
emergent: in specic collaborations, conceptions of
spacetime emerged for McDonaldsbut did not
necessarily pre-exist. How managers understood and
appropriated these conceptions changed external
environments: for example, reacting to US litigation
and a movie, McDonalds adopted healthy-menu
items worldwide, thereby materially changing the
global food-service industry. Spacetime concep-
tions can also identify simultaneous causality from
multiple origins, and internationalizations ripples
within relationships. To aid our analysis, we asked
questions to position stories in texts that precede/
anticipate other texts and in localglobal contexts.
Similar questions could situate other MNEsinter-
nationalization in dynamic storytelling networks of
production, distribution and consumption, and as
sociocultural but also hegemonic activities. Thus, we
propose storytelling could add nuance and depth to
both discursive and metaphoric approaches to
understanding internationalization.
Our exploratory case study connects to previous
theoretical ndings. McDonaldsstoriesspanned
national spacetime boundaries to support or to top-
ple dominant narratives, indicating that as a complex
organizational process, internationalization includes
cultural-identity negotiation across countries, as Yagi
and Kleinberg (2011) proposed. In these varied cul-
tural environments, as Barkema and Drogendijk
(2007) suggested, McDonalds engaged in past knowl-
edge exploitationthrough injected dominant narra-
tive as well as future explorationthrough living-
story collaborations. Santangelo and Meyer (2011)
concluded that rms internationalize through itera-
tive cycles of learning and changes in commitment;
though rarely studied, subsidiariescommitments to
prior actions may decrease as well as increase. Our case
shows how and why managers justied changes in
commitment and divergence with foundersprinciples
as well as how narratives changed in response to
stakeholdersstories. Similar to Jonsson and Fosss
(2011) observations on Ikeas internationalization,
stories allowed for lower-level market changes in
McDonalds products, occasionally leading to changes
in higher-level dominant narratives. Burgelman
(2011) pointed to strategic recognitionas key for
adaptive organizational capabilities. Through recog-
nizing the conuence of internal and external stories
that affect successful internationalization, McDonalds
managers showed how needs for adaptation arise and
how managers justify them through references to the
past and future in the present.
Implications for Practice
Combined with more-traditional IB analyses (Cuervo-
Cazurra, Caligiuri, Andersson, & Brannen, 2013),
storytelling offers guidance for managers to choose
from a wider web of stakeholders for inclusion in
global narratives. Multiple MNEs across nations
attempt to coordinate conceptions of abstract and
concrete everyday-life moments for added value.
Managers rely heavily on projections from nancial
and economic models, and competitorsstrategies, to
identify stakeholdersstories for inclusion in strategic
planning, with mixed results. Our research suggests
that successful internationalization may also entail
incorporating conicting stories that bubble up from
mundane, local collaborations.
Avenues for effective storytelling exist in the
same food-service industry. Since the 1990s, com-
petitor Burger King (BK) has experienced angry
stakeholders and growing competition, followed
by steeply falling international prots and sales.
BK responded by openly imitating McDonalds
food stories worldwide: for example, the Big King
burger looked and sounded exactly like McDonalds
Big Mac ( Jargon, 2013). BK parodied its imitation of
McDonalds food stories in television commercials
(Wei, 2010): in one, its King mascot breaks into
McDonalds headquarters late at night and steals
notthatoriginal,butits super affordable,the
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies
commercial intones. In 2012, BKs managers
announced aggressive international expansion for
new markets with younger demographics, as well as
imitation of McDonalds international storytelling:
with similar food stories, Chief Financial Ofcer
Daniel Schwartz hoped for similar success with
price-sensitive consumers (Brown, 2012). Yet
despitesomesuccess,BKs stories also spawned
additional conicts with Hindus (goddess Maha-
lakshmi on a ham sandwich), UK women (bikini-
clad showering women indicating Breakfast Time),
Singaporean women (Super 7-incher), anthropolo-
gists (Whopper Virgin advertisements), childrens
advocates (Sponge Bob Square Butt commercial)
and the Mexican government (stereotyped Mexi-
cans). Allowing selective lower-level changes in
subsidiariesmundane stories may enhance effec-
tiveness of BKs higher-level narratives. In addition
to headquartersstories on low prices, BKs narra-
tive may incorporate local, conicting stakeholders
stories, thereby developing unique, collaborative
accounts of internationalization for added value.
Non-commonsensical avenues to understand
effective stakeholder collaborations in internatio-
nalization may usefully begin from the ve propo-
sitions we presented. Rather than focusing on
narratives that reinforce historical and planning
trajectories, our theory of international storytelling
could sensitize researchers and managers to how
MNEs may shape futures through re-imagining the
past, and noticing differently in the present, while
incorporating some contradictory cultures and
interests, and discarding others. Thus, MNEsmulti-
actor, learned narratives in spacetime can comple-
ment theoretical and managerial analyses for
greater understanding into the core IB concept of
We define strategy as realized or emergent patterns
in a companys decisions or actions (Mintzberg, 1994).
Karen Barad proposed (ac)counting as both counting
and accounting for holding together the disparate. Barad
(2011: 146) elaborated that (ac)counting cannot be a
straight forward calculation, since it cannot be based on
the assumed existence of individual entities that can be
added to, subtracted from, or equated with one
another.In MNEsstorytelling, (ac)counting occurs
between the mundane and strategic, between past-
oriented narrative and living story.
We accept that petrification may sometimes be
comprehended post hoc; petrified dominant narratives
stamp strong organizational cultures and may provide
needed continuity for organizations under certain
Ferdinand de Saussure depicted language as a
collective product of social interaction, and essential
instrument to constitute and articulate the world,
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relevance for storytelling.
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global. We interpret his use of local as referring to
individuals and small social groups, and global to
collectives (including nations) and (global) society. We
interpret present time to include maintaining activities
that contribute to value creation.
We selected stakeholdersstories that interviews and
analysis revealed provided justification or opposition for
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Usha CV Haley (PhD, New York University) is
Professor of Management, College of Business &
Economics, West Virginia University. Her research
on international business, corporate and govern-
ment strategy has been incorporated into US and
EU federal regulation; awards include the Academy
of Managements Research Impact on Practice
and Economists Thought Leadership on Emerging
Markets. Born in India, she is a US citizen (uhaley@
David M Boje (PhD, University of Illinois) is Wells
Fargo Professor, Distinguished University Professor,
and Bill Daniels Ethics Fellow, Management Depart-
ment, New Mexico State University, with an honor-
ary doctorate from Aalborg University, Denmark. He
researches storytelling using qualitative methods
and chaired the Academy of Managements Research
Methods Division. Born in Spokane, Washington, he
is a US citizen (
Accepted by Mary Yoko Brannen, Deputy Editor, 4 May 2014. This article has been with the authors for four revisions.
Storytelling the internationalization of the MNE Usha CV Haley and David M Boje
Journal of International Business Studies

Supplementary resources (2)

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In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, responses by governments to global shocks will vary in substance and rate of success. We argue that policymakers can make better decisions when high-quality evidence is incorporated into an evidence-based policymaking (EBP) process. To generate high-quality evidence for analysing shock events, researchers should use event analysis, a methodological approach for exploring research questions such as the timing, frequency and patterns of events and their antecedents and consequences. We discuss four types of research methods used in event analysis and their relative appropriateness for analysing different categories of events. In particular, we argue that one method-the event study-is well suited for analysing crises, i.e. shock events that involve high threat, short decision-making time and surprise. We conclude that understanding and using the tools of event analysis is key to successful EBP in a VUCA world.
The need for collaboration has become self‐evident for the performance of the construction industry, seeking to positively influence the procurement and contractual arrangements through which construction projects are organized. Over time, more than 15 000 varieties of procurement models have become available to clients showing that procurement is a dominant force in construction project organising, whatever the requirements and specification of the building. This chapter suggests that this large variety of models is a key factor that constrains more than it enables our performance as an industry. It discusses the role of language in organising and presents Mikhail Bakhtin's Dialogism and his concept of chronotope as a lens for understanding dialogic action. The chapter also discusses the findings in relation to the incompleteness of construction project organising and what this means for collaborative working practices. Procurement models will always contain different aspects of incompleteness that require collaboration.
Conference Paper
The engagement of multinational corporations from different nationalities in corrupt operations in every corner of the world has more recently driven an extensive scholarly interest for the antecedents and outcomes of corruption. Indeed, exploring corruption around and between organizations, has significantly advanced the field of international business, but yet, there are still important issues underdeveloped. How multinational corporations engage in corruption, how this is internally developed, sustained and then spread across its various units at home and even abroad is still an uncharted research field. Our paper addresses this gap drawing upon a case study of the EMNE Odebrecht – one of the largest construction companies in Latin America. We bring together conventional theories of international business, and the institutionalization perspective to understand what enabled the company to institutionalize and reproduce corrupt practices not only with the country of origin but also around subsidiaries around the world.
Time plays an integral role in understanding International Business (IB) phenomena, and so does qualitative inquiry. Despite this, time has received little attention in qualitative IB research. To rectify this, we engage in a qualitative content analysis of qualitative articles published from 1999 until 2020 in the Journal of World Business, Journal of International Business Studies, as well as the Academy of Management Journal, and Journal of Management Studies. Our findings suggest four temporal theorizing styles, namely temporal variation, temporal accumulation, temporal evolution, and temporal story. We add further granularity by distinguishing for each how time (i.e., snapshots, incremental, evolutionary, discursive), and context (detached context, descriptive context, contextual specificity, intertwined context), generate different theorizing outputs (variation, staged process, evolutionary process, (process) story). Our paper contributes by offering researchers a rich vocabulary and conceptual building blocks to engage with different temporal theorizing styles in qualitative IB research.
Our study provides a systematic theoretical review of 304 qualitative-based articles published in seven international business journals from 2010 to 2020. We constructed a typology that provides alternative ways of studying time and is constituted by two dimensions: ontological conceptions of time (objective vs subjective) and theorising style of research (variance vs process). Our analysis and findings illustrate that time is mostly treated as objective and linear, and they highlight some concerning trends: lack of conceptual clarity; lack of diversity within and between paradigms; and lack of methodological clarity. We propose three pathways for advancing future research on time.
In our Decade Award-winning article from 2011 we argued that it is not possible to explain social phenomena without consideration of their contexts. However, a persistent assumption in international business (IB) is that theories should be context-free. This affects the methodological choices we make, favoring the inductive theory-building approach to theorizing from case studies. In 2011, we proposed an alternative – contextualized explanations – that in our view better utilizes the main strength of the case study: reconciling theory and context. In this Retrospective, we further develop our original argument that context is essential, and not a hindrance, to theorizing, as well as elaborate on how decontextualization impoverishes theoretical insights. In order to achieve contextualized explanation, we offer four alternatives: process research, historical research, the extended case method, and configurational theorizing. We argue that, for the IB field to take contextualization seriously, we need an open debate about what theory is and how we produce it. We hope this paper will broaden the scope of our discussion from the need for methodological pluralism to the need for theoretical pluralism, thereby setting a new agenda for future IB research.