Market Mediators and the Tradeoffs of Legitimacy-Seeking Behaviors in a Nascent Category
Forthcoming, Organization Science
54 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2015 Last revised: 3 Aug 2018
Date Written: December 22, 2016
Although existing research has demonstrated the importance of attaining legitimacy for new market categories, few scholars have considered the tradeoffs associated with such actions. Using the U.S. organic food product category as a context, we explore how one standards-based certification organization — the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) — sought to balance efforts to legitimate a nascent market category with retaining a shared, distinctive identity among its members. Our findings suggest that legitimacy-seeking behaviors undertaken by the standards organization diluted the initial collective identity and founding ethos of its membership. However, by shifting the meaning of organic from the producer to the product, CCOF was able to strengthen the categorical boundary, thereby enhancing its legitimacy. By showing how the organization managed the associated tradeoffs, this study highlights the double-edged nature of legitimacy and offers important implications for the literatures on legitimacy and new market category formation.
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