Thursday, September 16, 2010

Underdog Brands

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.


The Housewife said...

That is just so American to me, to want to see the underdog, succeed with determination in business,sports, etc. It brings to mind something my dad used to say all the time: "This is America; all you need is one good idea and hard work." It would be interesting to know if this attitude transfers worldwide or if it is something born out of our beginnings as an underdog nation and a history of these kinds of stories.

Michael Roberto said...

Actually, the researchers did find that this underdog phenomenon happens globally, but it is more pronounced in the US.