Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how corporate associations emerge in business networks focusing on mutually attributed identities in customer-supplier relationships. The role of the mutually perceived identities for interaction behaviours of the parties is examined and consequences of multiple emergent identities for management are discussed. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a conceptual one starting from an overview of prior research on corporate associations in marketing, findings on distinctive features of business markets and review of studies on identity in interaction processes. Findings – Departing from various strands of research on the origin and role of corporate associations in the literature the authors argue that corporate associations, in business networks are relationship specific and continuously emergent, and that businesses acquire multiple identities in relation to main stakeholders as customers and suppliers. The relationship specificity, emergent nature and multiplicity of relationship-specific identities have consequences for management. Originality/value – This study is among the few that explore the role of corporate associations in business-to-business context. It results in two propositions: first, that corporate associations are relationship specific and continuously emergent and, second, that businesses operating in business networks have to cope with multiple relationship-specific identities. Both propositions are original and contribute to the understanding of dynamics of business relationships and networks.
- Corporate associations, Business to business, Interaction, Identity, Business networks, Business relationships