As a tribute to cute costumes and a way to help you consider a possible branding message, we want to share some highlights from Harvard Business School professor, Anat Keinan.
The weaker party is often more attractive to many people. The reason might be due to consumers wanting to identify with the underdog. In today’s economically difficult times, it appears, underdog brands are gaining power in the marketplace.
Stories about underdogs overcoming great odds through passion and determination are resonant during difficult times. They inspire and give hope when the outlook is bleak. They promise that success is still possible. Throughout history Americans have embraced the American Dream, which proclaims that through hard work and perseverance anyone can be successful.
Underdog brand biographies (that highlight the companies’ humble beginnings, hopes and dreams, and noble struggles against adversaries) are being used by both large and small companies and across categories. Even large corporations, such as Apple and Google, are careful to retain their underdog roots in their brand biographies.
The common themes that link these brands’ underdog biographies are
- a disadvantaged position in the marketplace versus a “top dog,” a well-endowed competitor with superior resources or market dominance, and
- tremendous passion and determination to succeed despite the odds.
Marketers can use underdog narratives to positively affect consumers’ perceptions of and purchase of brands. “Underdog narratives are often delivered to consumers through the rhetorical device of a brand biography, an unfolding story that chronicles the brand’s origins, life experiences, and evolution over time in a selectively constructed story.”
Many contemporary brand biographies contain underdog narratives. Product packaging, corporate Web sites, direct mail advertising, blogs, and marketing communications tell the biographical stories of brands.
- Avis’s classic slogan “we’re number 2” emphasized that it was playing second fiddle to a giant in the rental car business.
- Brands such as Google, Clif Bar, and Apple celebrate their garage origins. Hewlett-Packard recently bought, and has a whole section on its Web site dedicated to, the garage in which it started. It is now a historical landmark.
- Starbucks, in an effort to reverse declining sales, recently launched Pike Place Roast, which emphasizes the brand’s humble Seattle coffee culture beginnings.
- Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign emphasized the underdog stories of famous athletes.