Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Rise of the Underdog

by Anushka Pinto

Underdog/challenger brands are some of the most interesting brands out there. These brands, more often than not, are brands which are a lot smaller than their competitor counterparts. As a result, they have fewer resources for their brand building. However, there is something very likable about these brands because of their authenticity and feisty “can do”attitudes. In fact, the mood is right for a lot of growth for these underdog brands.

This underdog idea is not limited to the business world and can be seen everywhere from animated movies to sports figures. People like to support the ‘little guy’ who defies obstacles and has far-reaching goals. This seems to be a universal theme that people all over the world can relate to. Here is one point of view about underdog branding and Occupy Wall Street.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the result of some deep-seeded anti-corporate sentiment that many consumer have. For the Occupy Wall Street protesters and sympathizers (which number in the millions of consumers in the USA, by the way), there is a perception of the unfairness of wealth and a lack of transparency of the wealth creation. As a result, their grass-roots movement has caught on. The movement, which takes a vocal stance against commercial giants and financial behemoths in favour of firms that advocate transparency, values and support a sustainable business purpose. Those involved with the movement (and sympathizers with the movement) are increasingly value-aligned with brands that emphasize honesty, integrity, and authenticity. These brands are more often than not, the smaller, underdog brands- they are the local coffee shops versus the coffee conglomerates; the credit unions versus the multinational banks. Especially in tough economic times, brands with these values will gain favor with consumers who are seeking an alternative to “profit at all expense, business as usual”. Millions of consumers with these values potentially mean millions in business to underdog brands.


  1. OWS changed the language...Their slogan 1% vs 99% really set the tone for the "debate"

  2. Thanks for your article, Anushka. To build on your point, there's also the 'hipster mentality" that will positively serve these underdogs. It is true that we like to "cheer for the underdog," but we also feels a sense of pride when we support something that few others in our circle know about. It's a way to express value (coming from our knowledge of this underdog brand).

    The image you shared is phenomenal, but it brought to mind a different idea. It is the 'plague of ignorance' that ensures that these customers will unknowingly continue to contribute to the cycles that keep the top 1% at the top. I would argue that even if the underdogs "emphasize honesty, integrity, and authenticity," the resistance of corporate trust (the idea that you can't trust what you hear in an advertisement) will plague the emergence of these smaller businesses.

    When a big company gives to charity, we're skeptical about its motives (goodwill vs. positive PR). Why would the actions of small companies be any different?

    - Aquil Virani

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