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Paper info: Clearing the Paradigmatic Fog – Contrasting the IMP and the Mainstream in B2B Research


Clearing the Paradigmatic Fog – Contrasting the IMP and the Mainstream in B2B Research


Kristian Moller
Aalto University
Kristian Moller and
Aino Halinen
Turku School of Economics and Business Administration
Aino Halinen

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.


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Theory development in business marketing has gained increased traction in recent years as evidenced by the IMM (2013) Special Issue on “Theoretical perspectives in industrial marketing management” and the research movement driven by the Service Dominant Logic (Vargo and Lusch, 2011; Vargo and Lusch, 2017). While research in B2B marketing has significantly increased and become more fragmented, it is essential to create a better understanding of the current knowledge bases of the domain and analyze where the field is heading. An obvious approach for creating such an understanding is to examine the principal research paradigms (or research approaches) to business marketing (see e.g. Nicholson, Brennan, and Midgley, 2014; Pels, Möller, and Saren, 2009). The objective of the paper is to provide a meta-theoretical analysis of the B2B research domain by making the underlying assumptions and intellectual goals of its key research paradigms transparent, and thus enable a rational assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm. The key premise of the study is that the North American mainstream tradition (NAM) and the IMP Group driven research approach (IMP) form the dominant paradigms of B2B marketing. Paradigmatic profiling is used as a method of analysis (Möller, 2013; Nicholson et al., 2014; Peters, Pressey, Vanharanta, and Johnston, 2013). As a form of meta-theoretical mapping it allows us to gain a better understanding of the fragmented knowledge base, to identify the white domains, and to provide suggestions on how to enhance theory construction in the field. Through an analysis of implicit assumptions and key drivers of paradigm development, the study also adds to our understanding of why we are doing specific kind of research, and how we could make better informed decisions concerning our studies.