Abstract: Shifting Focus: Enron's Change in Corporate Rhetoric and Practice

Gavin Benke


Before its name became synonymous with corporate fraud and deception, Enron Corporation was a darling of the business press, praised for its "innovative" practices. However, the company was not always so closely tied to that term. Rather, Enron emphasized several different values over its relatively brief existence. For instance, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, amid concerns in the United States over acid rain and global warming, the company's marketing literature presented Enron as an environmentally sound company. However, over the course of the 1990s Enron began to de-emphasize these issues and mimicked the rhetorical and visual style of the "new economy" instead. These shifts in Enron's focus throughout the course of the decade reveal both the company's sensitivity to wider cultural trends and their attempt to influence those trends. Through examining Enron's marketing literature, I argue that the company's shift in rhetoric demonstrates the influence of culture on a firm, as well as how a firm tries to both capitalize on and shape the culture around it.