The Underdog Effect: the Marketing of Disadvantage Through Brand Biography

Neeru Paharia, Harvard University, USA
Anat Keinan, Harvard Business School, USA
Jill Avery, Simmons School of Management, USA
Juliet Schor, Boston College, USA
We introduce the concept of an underdog brand biography (UBB) to describe an emerging trend in branding in which firms author a historical account of their humble origins, lack of resources, and determined struggle against the odds. We identify two essential dimensions of an underdog biography: external disadvantage, and passion and determination. We demonstrate that a UBB can increase purchase intentions, real choice, and brand loyalty. We argue that UBBs are effective because consumers react positively when they see the underdog aspects of their own lives being reflected in branded products. Five studies demonstrate that the UBB effect is driven by identity mechanisms: we show that the effect is a) mediated by consumers' identification with the brand, b) stronger for consumers who strongly self-identify as underdogs, c) stronger in purchase contexts that are symbolic of identity, and d) stronger for cultures in which underdog narratives are part of the national identity.
[ to cite ]:
Neeru Paharia, Anat Keinan, Jill Avery, and Juliet Schor (2010) ,"The Underdog Effect: the Marketing of Disadvantage Through Brand Biography", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 708-709 .