Competitive Advantage

Companies are permanently seeking for success factors which enable the realization of longlasting returns. When establishing these key success factors, companies often choose one of two possibilities: market-orientation or competence-orientation.

The choice for market-orientation is comprehensible since it was frequently proven that successful companies possess a profound knowledge of their markets in general and especially of their customers. But it was just as well frequently proven that a company’s resources also have a key impact on its success.

Resources are split up in tangible as well as intangible assets, to which among others we count corporate reputation and image, brands, customer relationships, corporate culture, organizational communications, employees potential regarding innovations and ideas, entrepreneurial capital as well as property rights such as (utility) patents. The quest for and the development of success factors can therefore result primarily from a market- or resource-orientation. A concentration on only one of these two strategies will, frankly speaking, lead to a dead-end: Either, a company forgets what it is able to achieve due to a exaggerated market-orientation or it is offering products that are too complex and therefore hardly demanded.

Hence, a management’s core challenge is to effectively combine both views – a profound understanding of the market with a changing system of competences. Thus, the research area „competitive advantage” covers the part „management“ in our institute’s name. Research topics in this area are:

Long-Term Planning

In the DFG-project „scenarios in B2C e-commerce” we develop new methods of scenario-analysis.

Scenarios are for a long time now an accepted tool in the field of strategic planning. It enables the structuring of strategic communication for imaginable outcomes of the future. Thereby we explicitly highlight the interrelations between a company and its market.

Intangible Assets

Against the backdrop of increasingly mature and fundamentally interchangeable products and services, as well as intensifying and increasingly global competition, intangible assets have recently become the focus of increasing interest in science and practice as strategic success factors, since a comparatively high differentiation potential is seen here. It should also be noted that material and financial resources are subject to complete or at least partial wear and tear over time, while intangible resources can even increase in value. Typical intangible resources mentioned again and again in the relevant literature have already been listed above. In particular, corporate reputation is the focus of our research interest, since the fundamental importance of this intangible resource is widely recognized, but there is still a considerable need for research. The IMM breaks new ground in measuring corporate reputation by considering both cognitive and affective constructs and by collecting data not only from expert circles but also from the general public.

The same can be said about corporate culture, which also plays a role as a success factor in mergers. More than half of mergers and acquisitions fail to live up to expectations and must be described as a failure. In addition to "hard" factors such as excessive purchase prices, overestimation of synergy effects and a lack of analysis of the partner before the takeover, "soft" factors such as the clash of different corporate cultures are increasingly cited as reasons for failure. Until now, a consideration of cultural factors failed because no suitable instrument for measuring corporate culture existed. IMM developed a reliable and valid measurement tool that can be used to uncover and quantify cultural differences between partner companies. This allows suitable measures to be derived to reduce friction in the integration phase and increase the probability of a successful transaction.

In addition, we deal with brands, in particular brand equity and the development of brand identities. In research and practice, there are three currents in the measurement of brand equity and their influencing factors: finance-oriented approaches, behavior-oriented approaches and mixed forms. All these approaches have their justification. On the one hand, however, there are major differences between the results of the individual valuation models, and on the other hand, the factors influencing brand equity have not yet been captured to such an extent that they can be used to make clear recommendations for action. We are therefore dealing with the topic in various projects: the connection between e-commerce activities and brand value, the measurement of inner images in brands and the connection between brand strength and corporate reputation.