Covalence and ionic bonding in business-to-business relationships: Insights from chemistry

Frank Tian Xie, Talai Osmonbekov, Wesley Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The paper examines business-to-business (B2B) relationships using the framework of the covalence - Ionic bonding theory in chemistry as an analogy to help make soft phenomena and relationships in B2B marketing more understandable to engineers and scientists in organizations and to managers with scientific and technical backgrounds. In the tradition of cross-fertilization of various scientific fields, the authors propose that the covalence - Ionic bonding theory may provide insights in determining the factors that contribute to the emergence of bilateral, unilateral, and market relationships. This study compares and contrasts interparticle bonding with ways of managing B2B relationships. Beyond sheer analogy of the two phenomena, an explanation of B2B relationships and decision-making mechanisms is proposed. In adapting this concept theoretically, the meaning of the original parameters in physical science is assigned a new meaning in the marketing context. Furthermore, the paper extends conceptually the predictive capabilities of chemistry theories to relational behaviors in marketing. Drawing from a resource-based view of the firm, complementarity of resources and dependence levels are postulated to have critical roles in business bonding. Appropriate propositions are advanced, along with implications for managers and researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-446
Number of pages7
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Bonding theory
  • Business relationships
  • Complementary resources
  • Dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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