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EMAC 2020 Annual Conference

Social Control Theory: Toward a Unifying Framework for Channel Governance

Published: May 27, 2020


David Gilliland, Colorado State University


Channels; Governance; Control


Marketing channel control considers how channels of distribution are governed and coordinated. Despite the existence of mature, robust theories in the marketing channels literature such as transaction cost economics, agency theory, organizational control theory, and the theory of relational exchange, questions of control remain. For instance, two areas not addressed by extant channels theory are self-control (control by and of the actor) and third party control (control of a non-dyadic constituent). Because more and creative channel structures rely on self-control and third party control, we content that channels’ existing frameworks are suboptimal for moving channel scholarship forward. Social control theory is a general theory of control that offers a framework to examine issues of control and governance in a channel. This framework considers control systems (self-, dyadic, and third party control) and control modes (formal and informal control). This paper explicates a social control framework and demonstrates its use in marketing channel governance. Social control is explained and research propositions are offered.