Can You Hear Me Now? Examining Market Discourse as a Sensemaking Mechanism of Entrepreneurial Actions in the U.S. Wireless Telephone Industry, 1998-2007

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Livengood, R. Scott
Smith, Ken G
Entrepreneurial actions, such as new product introductions, infuse new information and drive the market process by moving the market either toward or away from existing market conditions. These products cause uncertainty for market participants, who engage in discourse as a sensemaking mechanism to reduce this uncertainty and eventually either accept or reject the new product, which is essentially the market process. Central to this process, however, is the oft-overlooked phenomenon of market discourse, or the objective and subjective information exchanged in the marketplace, that can be a key sensemaking mechanism when confronted by uncertainty surrounding new products by firms. However, little is known regarding the impact of entrepreneurial actions and the process of how market discourse moves the market. Using a unique dataset created from the United States wireless telephone industry from 1998-2007, I explore how novelty impacts various aspects of market discourse among market participants and how this discourse impacts subsequent sales of individual cell phones. Results suggest that discourse can act as a sensemaking mechanism when new products are relatively more novel than prior phones, but that reputation and competitive intensity can act as a substitute for discourse as a sensemaking mechanism to reduce uncertainty experienced by the market. In addition, discourse was found to positively influence sales but that this effect diminishes over time. Finally, findings indicate discourse acts to fully mediate the relationship between phone novelty and sales, which highlights the importance of studying discourse when examining firm actions.