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University of Southern California

1. Rhee, Eunice Yunjin. Essays on strategic categorization.

Degree: PhD, Business Administration, 2014, University of Southern California

This dissertation proposes the notion of strategic categorization and explores how organizations can strategically influence the categorization process of external audiences. Extant studies on categorization have shown that organizations that do not fit into an external audiences’ category structure are devalued. These studies, however, have not examined the role of organizations in influencing their categorization and thus have failed to develop an understanding of the categorization process that encompasses both the organization’s categorical sensegiving and audience’s categorical sensemaking. This dissertation helps to fill this gap by building on micro and macro perspectives of categorization and insights from the literature on organizational identity and identity management to argue that organizations can influence the categorization process of external audiences by engaging in self-categorization strategies. The first essay develops a theoretical framework for understanding the concept of and the process by which organizations can engage in strategic categorization. In particular, it argues that category studies need to investigate insights drawn from the vertical structure of categories in addition to the horizontal structure of categories that has been the focus of prior studies. The second essay empirically examines the effect of strategic categorization on audience’s evaluations. The results based on firms that had gone through the initial public offering (IPO) process demonstrate that organizations can manage the degree of category inclusiveness and range of category spanning to influence potential investors’ evaluation and that the effectiveness of such strategic categorization depends on the level of audience knowledge and the prevailing logic of valuation. Specifically, while the overall results suggest that changing category inclusiveness to take on a broader identity and changing category spanning to create a more focused identity are positively evaluated by IPO investors, they also show that institutional investors are influenced more by reducing the number of categories spanned, and retail investors are influenced more by increasing the degree of category inclusiveness. This dissertation considerably advances the categorization literature by revealing the role of organizational agency in the categorization process and ways in which organizations can engage in strategic categorization based on both vertical and horizontal structures of categories. Advisors/Committee Members: Fiss, Peer C. (Committee Chair), Rajagopalan, Nandini (Committee Member), Monge, Peter R. (Committee Member), Zhu, Feng (Committee Member).

Subjects/Keywords: categories; strategic categorization; category inclusiveness; labels; initial public offering; IPO

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APA (6th Edition):

Rhee, E. Y. (2014). Essays on strategic categorization. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Southern California. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Rhee, Eunice Yunjin. “Essays on strategic categorization.” 2014. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Southern California. Accessed December 04, 2020.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Rhee, Eunice Yunjin. “Essays on strategic categorization.” 2014. Web. 04 Dec 2020.


Rhee EY. Essays on strategic categorization. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Southern California; 2014. [cited 2020 Dec 04]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Rhee EY. Essays on strategic categorization. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Southern California; 2014. Available from: