B2B green marketing and innovation theory for competitive advantage

Publication Date13 November 2009
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/13287260911002477
Pages315-330
Date13 November 2009
AuthorValerie L. Vaccaro
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Marketing and
innovation
theory
315
Journal of Systems and Information
Technology
Vol. 11 No. 4, 2009
pp. 315-330
#Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1328-7265
DOI 10.1108/13287260911002477
B2B green marketing and
innovation theory for competitive
advantage
Valerie L. Vaccaro
Department of Marketing, College of Business and Public Administration,
Kean University, Union, New Jersey, USA
Abstract
Purpose – In these economically and ecologically challenging times, the purpose of this paper is to
investigate how innovation theory can be used to design more effective, proactive B2B green
marketing strategies in order to meet the triple bottom line of economic, social, and ecological
sustainability.
Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper provides a literature review of green
marketing strategies and competitive advantage, and relates it to diffusion of innovation theory in a
new way. First, a brief overview is described of corporate social responsibility (CSR) theories related
to green marketing, with this paper providing value by adding innovation theory to address the gap
in the literature. Next, a discussion is provided on reactive and proactive B2B green marketing
strategies, degrees of innovation, and diffusion theory research, and propositions are developed.
Then, a new model is presented on B2B green marketing innovation strategies and competitive
advantage. Next, a conceptual analysis is presented using a diffusion of innovation characteristics
framework to show relationships of the innovation characteristics with proactive B2B green
marketing strategies and competitive advantage.
Findings – Five propositions are developed to reflect the relationship of B2B green marketing
strategies with types of innovations and competitive advantage. In addition, a conceptual analysis
found seven areas of B2B proactive green marketing strategies related to the diffusion of innovation
characteristics. Findings also showed diffusion characteristics are associated with 11 key benefits of
sustainable B2B green marketing competitive advantage.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations and managerial implications are discussed. Also,
this paper suggests recommendations relatedto diffusion ofinnovation characteristics in futureresearch.
Practical implications – This paper provides a diffusion of innovation characteristics framework
to test the effectiveness of B2B green marketing strategies and to help generate competitive
advantages in an ecologically-sustainable way. Managerial implications are discussed on how
organisations can achieve successful competitive advantage while contributing to environmental
sustainability for the common good of society.
Originality/value – This study addresses a gap in the literature on environmental/green marketing
by being the first study to expand the CSR category of instrumental theories to include diffusion of
innovation theory. Diffusion of innovation theory is applicable to green marketing because it includes
new innovations (products, services, processes, etc.). An application of diffusion of innovation
characteristicsand their relationship to proactiveB2B green marketing strategies can helpshed light on
how to increase the rate of adoption for green products, services, and processes to create a competitive
advantage, and at the same time, help move the world toward greater ecological sustainability.
Keywords Green marketing, Business-to-business marketing, Innovation, Competitive advantage
Paper type Conceptual pap er
Introduction
In industrialised nations around the world, businesses and consumers alike are
concerned about the environment and future of our planet. This concern has, in par t,
translated into corporations pursuing environmental or green marketing. Business-to-
business (B2B) green marketing includes a wide range of activities related to: product
design, the manufacturing process, service delivery processes, packaging, constr uction
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
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JSIT
11,4
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and renovation of buildings, recycling, and other areas such as marketing
communications. According to Prakash (2002), ‘‘Green marketing subsumes gre ening
products as well as greening firms... Managers ne ed to identify what ought to be
greened: systems, processes or products?’’ (p. 294).
Recently, in the area of marketing communications, due to the growth of new media
such as the internet (e.g. search engine marketing, email, e-newsletters, webinars,
online communities, etc.) and mobile marketing (e.g. M-Commerce, M-CRM, SMS, etc.),
there are new opportunities for companies to promote their products and services in an
environmentally-friendly way (Karjaluoto and Leinonen, 2009; Karjaluoto et al., 2008;
Salo et al., 2008; DiFrangia, 2008a; Standing et al., 2007).
A research survey of European multinationals found that 92 p er cent had changed
their products to address green concerns (Vandermerwe and Oliff, 1990). A Forrester
Research report ‘‘Environmental And Social Responsibility In Consumer Product
Strategies,’’ of major firms found that 84 per cent of the organisations have
environmentally conscious or socially responsible products in development or in the
marketplace which are energy efficient, recyclable, made with renewable materials or
Fair Trade. The main motivations for creating and marketing greener products are:
product differentiation to create a competitive advantage, to become a global leader, and
cost savings (Greenerdesign.com, 2009).
The objective of this study is to investigate how innovation theory can be used to
design more effective B2B green marketing strategies in order to meet the triple bottom
line of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. First, an overview is provided of
corporate social responsibility (CSR) theories relevant to g reen marketing. Diffusion of
innovation theory is added to address a gap in the literature on instr umental CSR
theories. Next, a discussion is included on reactive and proactive g reen marketing
strategies that can be utilised in B2B, and their relationship to degrees of innovation.
Further, a review is provided on diffusion of innovation theory and its relationship to
B2B research. Also, five propositions are developed, and a new conce ptual model is
presented on B2B green marketing innovation strategies and competitive advantage.
Furthermore, an analysis is presented on the relationship of diffusion of innovation
characteristics to B2B green marketing strategies, and the benefits associated with
competitive advantage for B2B organisations. Limitations and managerial implica tions
are discussed, and recommendations are provided for future research.
Theoretical background
Green marketing, CSR theories and innovation theory
Green marketing can be considered a subset of CSR strategies. Garriga and Mele
´(2004)
created a classification of four groups of CSR theories: instrumental theories, political
theories, integrative theories, and ethical theories. The instrumental theories include
strategies for achieving competitive advantage by making profits while also helping
social causessuch as: philanthropicinvestments, cause marketing activities(Varadarajan
and Menon, 1988), and using disruptive innovations to market to the bottom of the
economic pyramid (Christensen and Overdorf, 2000; Prahalad and Hammond, 2002).
Garriga and Mele
´(2004) notedthat disruptive innovationscould achieve social objectives
and create a competitive advantage for companies in ‘‘telecommunications, consumer
electronics andenergy production and manyother industries’’(p.55). (Energy production
is an important area of green innovations.) Political theories related to use of business
power and government regulation have been applied to environmental marketing
(Menon andMenon, 1997). Integrative theoriesfocus on stakeholder management, related

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