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It should be noted that trust is not an objective in and of itself. Rather, it is positively related to desirable outcomes. Williamson (2000) argues that, other things being equal, relationships that exhibit trust are associated with less stress and greater adaptability. Zand (2005) contends that the lack of trust will be deleterious to information exchange and to reciprocity of influence. This, in turn, will diminish the effectiveness of joint problem solving.

Channels of distribution scholars have found support for the proposition that the greater the commitment of distributors, the better the performance of the supplier in terms of market information, the greater the increased assistance from distributors, and the better the reduction of assistance and attention given by distributors to competitors’ products (Anderson & Weitz, 2002a and Anderson & Weitz, 2002b).


However, the empirical research examining the driving forces of commitment (Gundlach et al. , 2004 and Kumar et al., 2004) and the end results of commitment (Brown et al. , 2004 and Morgan & Hunt, 2000) has been primarily undertaken in domestic markets. Relatively little research has addressed commitment in an international marketing channels context. A notable exception is the international study conducted by Czinkota and Kotabe (2001), which found that a strategy lacking commitment in Japan exacerbated the U. S. exporters’ lackluster performance. Another international study consisted of a comparative study of U. S. and Japanese marketing channels.

Here, the authors found that a supplier needed to understand the importance of societal and cultural influences on distributor behavior, especially with regard to commitment and its impact on performance (Kim & Oh, 2002). Cooperation The concept of cooperation has been conceptualized by authors in many ways. For example, behavioral scholars view cooperation as organizational interdependence (Aiken & Hague, 2000) and as joint accomplishment (Schermerhorn, 2000), while Stern and Reve (2000) defined it as joint striving towards individual and mutual goals.

Similarly, Anderson and Narus (2001) define cooperation as occurring when partners work together to achieve mutual goals. All of these cooperation constructs share some elements of commonality: (1) cooperation requires interrelated behavior by two or more parties; (2) such behavior is voluntary; and (3) cooperation is motivated by the desire to achieve both individual and joint objectives. All of these elements are critical to success in strategic alliances in marketing channels.

Marketing channels are composed of interdependent institutions that must cooperate to perform distribution tasks while simultaneously pursuing independent and collective goals (Bowersox, Cooper, Lambert, & Taylor, 2000). Functional interdependence requires a substantial level of cooperation to perform the specific tasks necessary to make products and services available to final customers. In fact, it has been widely agreed that cooperation is the predominant behavior in channels of distribution (Gill & Allerheiligen, 2000).

Yet, traditionally in the marketing channels literature, much greater attention has been paid to competition and conflict in channels rather than to cooperation. This is, despite the fact that almost 40 years ago, Alderson (2000) called for a theory of cooperation to match the prevailing theories of competition and conflict. National culture In the case of inter-firm relationships such as international marketing channel alliances, one can differentiate between the “context-excluded” and “context-embedded” links among partners (Kim & Oh, 2002).

That is, some aspects of the inter-firm relationship are unaffected by cultural influences and others are. Kim and Oh (2002) argue that distributor commitment is “context-embedded. ” Other studies have shown that forces such as bilateral communication (Anderson & Weitz, 2002a and Anderson & Weitz, 2002b), trustworthiness of the supplier (Morgan & Hunt, 2000), and supplier’s commitment to the distributor (Anderson & Weitz, 2002b) are driving forces of distributor commitment. Consequently, context may be critical in inter-firm international channel relationships.

Because Hall’s framework for culture flows directly from an understanding of communication and context, his approach is used in this study. In Hall’s framework, in low context (LC) cultures, most of the information flowing between sender and receiver (exporter and foreign distributor, for example) is contained in the message itself. So, the message needs to be explicit and detailed because each party will rely almost solely on the information contained in the message itself.

On the other hand, in a high context (HC) culture, less explicit and detailed information is carried in the message. Instead, the sender and receiver rely more on the context of the communication process to convey the message. So personal relationships tend to play a much larger role in HC cultures. Commonly cited examples of countries characterized by low context cultures are the United States, Germany, and Switzerland. Examples of countries with high context cultures include Brazil, Japan, and Mexico (Table 1 for other examples).

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