Beware An Underdog May Bite

“Everyone loves an underdog story until you’re the underdog”, is how the baritone voiceover starts the @Yoco_ZA card machines’ We the Underdog advertisement. ..

Beware An Underdog May Bite
Dr Pieter Steenkamp - Brand Strategist

1 Idea – 1 Challenge – 1 Quote

Idea From Me

“Everyone loves an underdog story until you’re the underdog”, is how the baritone voiceover starts the @Yoco_ZA card machines’ We the Underdogadvertisement. In our article that was published in the highly acclaimed Journal of Brand Management, we define an underdog brand as “a brand with humble resources that competes with passion and determination against competitors that dominate a market”.

The underdog storyline of Rocky Balboa in the Rocky films offers valuable insights. First, we are introduced to the underdog Rocky Balboa and his physical and emotional struggles, who then overcomes significant obstacles through sheer guts and determination to ultimately fight and (just) win against the top dog. There are only a few top dogs in each industry, so most business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers can relate to the underdog story. But being an underdog does not only have to be your status, it can be your strategy.

The lesser studied “underdog effect” is at the heart of underdog brand management. Based on our research findings, we define the underdog effect as “the consumer’s affection for and support of underdog brands or of brands that build on their underdog heritage”. This means that not everyone supports the top dogs and that there are people that will support you as an underdog brand because you are an underdog. The secret is to not merely bear your underdog status, rather you need to position your brand as the underdog and tap into the underdog effect for it to become your strategy.

Based on the definitions of underdog and the underdog effect, ponder the questions: Do you consider your brand an underdog? Could your underdog status be used as a strategy to position your brand as a underdog to take advantage of the underdog effect?

Challenge To You

If your brand started from humble beginnings and is fighting agains bigger brands, consider positioning your brand as an underdog brand. You may just be surprise with the support you get.


"What counts is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." - Arthur G. Lewis, 1911
Let’s Brand for Success!
Meet Dr Pieter Steenkamp
I am a brand strategist and academic and hold a PhD specialising in brand management. As a brand management lecturer and researcher at a university in Cape Town, South Africa and an occasional visiting professor at universities in Germany, I stay updated with the latest brand management developments. This affords me the incredible opportunity to help Entrepreneurs and Business Owners/Leader Brand for Success.