Abstract: Fashions in Business Names: The Demise of an Organizational Form in Dutch Warehousing, 1871-2007

Hugo van Driel and Jeroen Kuilman

Abstract

In this study, form demise was analyzed where an organizational form was defined as a cognitively legitimate social category. Drawing on institutional and ecological arguments, the extent to which a category label is used in firm names was hypothesized to affect the salience of the category. In particular, the possible positive consequences of the use of a label in company names by firms with institutional linkages were distinguished from the possible negative consequences of its use by firms lacking such linkages. The results generally confirm our predictions on the use of the idiosyncratic label of <i>veem</i> (plural: <i>vemen</i>) in business names in the context of the warehousing industry in one of the largest ports in the world, Rotterdam, from 1871 to 2007. The main institutional linkage in this industry was accreditation, by an external body, of firms issuing warehouse warrants. On the one hand, a rise in the number of accredited veem-labelled companies fostered the total number of firms adopting the veem label in its name. On the other hand, beyond a certain threshold, an increase in the number of companies using the veem-label without having the accredited status (and sometimes without being active in warehousing at all) tended to reduce the salience of the organizational form. This contributed to the almost complete demise of the use of the label in business names.