Thursday, September 16, 2010
Harvard Business School Professor Anat Keinan has done some interesting new work on what she calls "underdog brands." According to her, "Through a series of experiments, we show that underdog brand biographies are effective in the marketplace because consumers identify with the disadvantaged position of the underdog and share their passion and determination to succeed when the odds are against them." An underdog brand story largely recounts the tough external conditions faced by a firm and the amazing persistence, determination, and resilience of the firm/brand in overcoming those obstacles. As examples, she points to the many Silicon Valley firms who often refer to their garage origins, most famously firms such as Google, Apple, Clif Bar, and HP. She also points to firms such as Nantucket Nectars, which refer to starting out "with only a blender and a dream." Keinan also argues that these underdog stories may be particularly useful during tough economic times, as people gravitate toward stories of overcoming adversity. In some sense, the stories give people hope. On the down side, Keinan points out that various actions, including an acquisition by a larger company, can erode the authenticity and credibility of an underdog positioning.