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International Marketing Agility

Special issue call for papers from International Marketing Review

Guest Editors:

Dr. Emanuel Gomes, Birmingham Business School, The University of Birmingham, UK, e.gomes@bham.ac.uk
Professor Carlos M. P. Sousa, Durham University Business School, Durham University, UK, carlos.sousa@durham.ac.uk
Dr. Ferran Vendrell-Herrero, Birmingham Business School, The University of Birmingham, UK, F.Vendrell-Herrero@bham.ac.uk

Rationale for the special issue

One of the central questions of international marketing is the standardization vs. adaptation debate (Jain, 1989; Szymanski et al., 1993; Tan and Sousa, 2013). When doing business abroad, every firm must decide whether to use the same marketing approach formulated for the domestic market (standardize) or to customize its marketing strategy at extra cost (adapt). Adaptation strategy refers to a firm’s decision to change the elements of its domestic marketing mix to appeal to particular foreign markets. When using an adaptation strategy, a firm recognizes the differences between countries and the need to customize its marketing strategy to each country’s culture and regulatory laws, purchasing power, and consumer needs (Rao-Nicholson and Khan, 2016). Over the years, a major debate has occurred over whether firms should standardize or adapt their marketing strategy when engaging in business abroad, with some voices arguing that the optimal decision can be a mixture of both strategies (Theodosiou and Leonidou, 2003). While academics and practitioners have debated these questions for the last four decades, the current models do not yet fully represent the complexities of the contemporary competitive landscape.

In an increasingly fast changing global arena firms need to consider how environmental changes influence firms’ capability to compete in international markets. Similarly, firms need to be able to constantly develop and reconfigure their resources and capabilities, as these influence the decision of whether or not to innovate in their marketing approach when entering foreign markets (Vendrell-Herrero et al., 2016a).

Firms from a particular country pursue best marketing practices and manage their marketing capabilities in ways distinct from those of their host country (Gomes et al., 2011; Vrontis et al., 2009). Within the context of rapidly changing international environments, well-established concepts such as sustained competitive advantage, resource-based theories, and strategic planning have been deemed vague, tautological, and inadequate for preparing companies to cope with the rate and complexity of environmental and market changes (Chen et al., 2010; Kraaijenbrink et al., 2010). It thus becomes essential for firms operating in international markets to develop the capability to reconfigure both their international marketing approaches and their operational mechanisms rapidly as ways to exploit different consumer needs effectively across countries and to accelerate international growth (Bock et al., 2012; Theodosiou and Leonidou, 2003; Vendrell-Herrero et al., 2016b).

Developing a new concept: International Marketing Agility

In addition to strategizing the timing of foreign market entry (Murray et al., 2012), when entering new markets firms pursue distinct marketing paradigms in ways that are distinct from those of their home country (Gomes et al., 2011; Vrontis et al., 2009). Some authors argue the need for marketing managers to develop time-oriented marketing strategies that provide organizational agility–i.e., flexibility and time responsiveness to competitive activity (Barkema et al., 2002; Grewal and Thansuhaj, 2001; Levine, 1988; Poolton, 2006). Following this intuition and building on contemporary issues in the field of strategy (Junni et al., 2015; Weber and Tarba, 2014), we dub the concept international marketing agility.
International marketing agility copes with growing market discontinuities and technological disruptions. Agile companies identify new ways to manage business transformation, develop dynamic capabilities, create imitation abilities, maintain a high level of flexibility of international marketing strategies and ambidexterity, and/or develop learning and knowledge transfer skills (Doz and Kosonen, 2010; Shenkar, 2010).  International marketing agility is not only about how to cope with a specific challenge or crisis the organization faces, but rather implies that a firm possesses constant ability to change its course of action effectively to retain and sustain its competitive edge (Goldman et al., 1995; Volberda, 1996). Our special issue is to call for studies which propose conceptualization and measurement of this construct.

The importance of the idea and novelty of the special issue

The novelty of the proposed special issue lies in its highlighting the importance of the international marketing agility in different organizational and national contexts. The current proposal for International Marketing Review contributes to the standardization vs. adaptation debate by proposing a new concept, international marketing agility. In a similar vein, the special issue also contributes to the literature on strategic agility in marketing by identifying gaps in the existing yet fragmented prior research and by consolidating existing theoretical concepts and empirical findings. The issue aims to provide novel insights into the performance implications of marketing agility in internationalized firms, the identification of marketing agility antecedents and their interaction effects, and the influence of different contexts (intra-firm, inter-firm, network) and different levels of analysis (firm level, business-unit level, top management team, individual), as well as to propose new paths of inquiry for future research.

Topics for the special issue

Papers submitted should explore international marketing agility through various theoretical and practical lenses to examine their complexity and the methodologies suited to analyzing this phenomenon in both national and international arenas, and emerging as well as developed markets.
As this special issue is devoted to development of a new concept, we encourage theoretical and conceptual pieces. Empirical contributions providing guidance on how to operationalize and measure such a concept, as well as to identify antecedents and outcomes, are also welcome. Contributions may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

1.    Conceptual models, taxonomies, and definitions of the concept of international marketing agility.
2.    Conceptual and empirical studies identifying and analyzing the organizational capabilities behind international marketing agility. What skills, personal competencies, and behaviors do incumbent marketing managers and employees need to learn and practice, and how?
3.    Real-world case studies of firms developing and deploying international marketing agility.
4.    Value-creating and value-capturing factors and their impact on international marketing agility.
5.    Antecedents and moderators of international marketing agility on firm’s international performance.
6.    The role of new technologies in influencing relationships of competitive strategy, international marketing agility, and performance in global market operations.
7.    The effect of national and organizational cultures’ differences on marketing practices and their interrelationships to international marketing agility.
8.    Marketing performance appraisal, feedback systems, and international marketing agility.
9.    The relationship between global branding strategy standardization and international marketing agility in international operations.
10.    Exporting issues such as drivers of international marketing agility on export performance.
11.    The role of learning processes (e.g., exploration versus exploitation) as drivers of international marketing agility.
12.    First mover vs. late entrant advantages and international marketing agility.
13.    The link between international entry mode (e.g. mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances, IJV, exports) choice and international marketing agility.
14.    The relationship and role of international marketing strategy standardization and international marketing agility in achieving superior performance in international markets.
15.    Strategic flexibility and international marketing agility.
16.    International entrepreneurship and international marketing agility.
17.    International marketing agility and challenges facing the multinational firm.


  • Submission deadline: December 30, 2017
  • First round decisions: April 30, 2018
  • Revision due date: July 30, 2018
  • Second round decisions: November 30, 2018
  • Final editorial decision February 22, 2019

Submissions should be accompanied by an assurance of originality and exclusivity and should adhere to the ‘Style and Format’ author guidelines that can be found on the journal’s website at http://emeraldgrouppublishing.com/imr.htm All submissions are through the online submission system ScholarOne. Full submission details are in the author guidelines. Please ensure you submit to this special issue using the drop down menu on ScholarOne.

All submissions will be subject to a rigorous double-blind peer review process, with one or more of the guest editors acting as action editor.

For further information, please contact any of the guest editors for this special issue:

Dr Emanuel Gomes, The University of Birmingham, e.gomes@bham.ac.uk

Professor Carlos M. P. Sousa, Durham University, carlos.sousa@durham.ac.uk

Dr. Ferran Vendrell-Herrero, The University of Birmingham, F.Vendrell-Herrero@bham.ac.uk


Barkema, H.G., Baum, J.A., and Mannix, E.A. (2002), “Management challenges in a new time”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 45 No. 5, pp. 916-930.
Bock, A.J., Opsahl, T., George, G., and Gann, D.M. (2012), “The effects of culture and structure on strategic flexibility during business model innovation”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 279-305.
Chen, E.L., Katila, R., McDonald, R., and Eisenhardt, K.M. (2010), “Life in the fast lane: origins of competitive interaction in new vs. established markets”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 31 No. 13, pp. 1527-1547.
Doz, Y.L. and Kosonen, M. (2010), “Embedding strategic agility: a leadership agenda for accelerating business model renewal”, Long Range Planning, Vol. 43 No. 2/3, pp. 370-382.
Goldman, S.L., Nagel, R.N., and Preiss, K. (1995), Agile Competitors and Virtual Organizations: Strategies for Enriching the Customer, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY.
Gomes, E., Weber, Y., Brown, C., and Tarba, S.Y. (2011), Mergers, Acquisitions and Strategic Alliances: Understanding The Process, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.
Grewal, R. and Thansuhaj, P. (2001), “Building organizational capabilities for managing economic crisis: the role of market orientation and strategic flexibility”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 65 No. 2, pp. 67-80.
Jain, S.C. (1989), “Standardization of international marketing strategy: some research hypotheses”, The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 70-79.
Junni, P., Sarala, R.M., Tarba, S.Y., and Weber, Y. (2015), “The role of strategic agility in acquisitions”, British Journal of Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 596-616.
Kraaijenbrink, J., Spender, J.C., and Groen, A.J. (2010), “The resource-based view: a review and assessment of its critiques”, Journal of Management, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 349-372.
Levine, R. (1988), “The pace of life across cultures”, in McGrath, J. (Ed.), The Social Psychology of Time, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 39‐62.
Murray, J.Y., Ju, M., and Gao, G.Y., (2012), “Foreign market entry timing revisited: trade-off between market share performance and firm survival”, Journal of International Marketing, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 50-64.
Poolton, J., Ismail, H.S., Reid, I.R., and Arokiam, I.C. (2006), “Agile marketing for the manufacturing-based SME”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 681-693.
Rao-Nicholson, R. and Khan, Z. (2016), “Standardization versus adaptation of global marketing strategies in emerging market cross-border acquisitions”, International Marketing Review, In press.
Shenkar, O. (2010), Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
Szymanski, D.M., Bharadwaj, S.G., and Varadarajan, P.R. (1993), “Standardization versus adaptation of international marketing strategy: an empirical investigation”, The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 4, pp. 1-17.
Tan, Q. and Sousa, C.M. (2013), “International marketing standardization: a meta-analytic estimation of its antecedents and consequences”, Management International Review, Vol. 53 No. 5, pp. 711-739.
Theodosiou, M. and Leonidou, L.C. (2003), “Standardization versus adaptation of international marketing strategy: an integrative assessment of the empirical research”, International Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 141-171.
Vendrell-Herrero, F., Gomes, E., Mellahi, K., and Child, J. (2016a), “Building international business bridges in geographically isolated areas: the role of foreign market focus and outward looking competences in Latin American SMEs”, Journal of World Business, In press.
Vendrell-Herrero, F., Bustinza, O.F., Parry, G., and Georgantzis, N. (2016b), “Servitization, digitization and supply chain interdependency”, Industrial Marketing Management, In press.
Volberda, H.W. (1996), “Toward the flexible form: how to remain vital in hypercompetitive environments”, Organization Science, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 359-374.
Vrontis, D., Thrassou, A., and Lamprianou, I. (2009), “International marketing adaptation versus standardisation of multinational companies”, International Marketing Review, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 477-500.
Weber, Y. and Tarba, S.Y. (2014), “Strategic agility: a state of the art”, California Management Review, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 5-12.