People love the story of an underdog: a journey that captures relatable challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds, only to be overcome by the little guy in the face of adversity.
There’s something intrinsically human about the tale of an underdog, and it taps into our capacity to hope for the future and dream big. It also teaches us about disrupting common beliefs and overcoming and confronting society’s stigmas.
Arguably, most businesses begin in underdog mode and start their path to success with lots of obstacles. Pulling your business up from the bottom through sheer grit and determination is a story that can connect and resonate with any consumer, regardless of their background. Everyone has been in a situation where they’re not the top dog – maybe they’re not top of the class or not picked first for sports teams.
Being open with consumers and sharing your story, however difficult, can show a more human side to your business and inspire others to succeed.
One of the best tech examples of how people galvanize and get behind an idea, follow its journey and root for its success is with Kickstarter projects. This platform is an ideal tool that allows the story of the underdog to be celebrated.
What’s the secret to Kickstarter success? Emotive stories that connect with an audience. The popular social fundraising platform is perfect for illustrating challenges and stigmas that underdogs face. Stories that capture adversity, hope, determination and hard work always resonate with audiences, and Kickstarter’s fundraising model exemplifies the power an underdog story can possess.
Kickstarter donors are actually labeled as “backers” on the platform. It creates an image of the underdog with a supportive crowd behind them, encouraging them toward their idea and being their personal cheerleaders. Entrepreneurs can collaborate and create a loyal community where backers are drawn toward an idea because they want to be part of something growing and on the rise.
Stories help us to form relationships with each other, and the carefully crafted stories that appear on Kickstarter projects allow a narrative to forge more of an emotional backstory. Stories bind us and bring us closer together. Using your unique storytelling and your business journey is a way to get your own backers on board, build a community and grow your brand.
Spirit Of The Underdog
Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth — you’re starting from the very bottom or your personal circumstances are problematic — but your spirit to succeed burns brighter than ever. The dogged determination to make a better life for yourself or turn your passion into a profitable business becomes your driving motivation.
Not having a safety net to fall back on and putting your absolute all into a project means that you can have more to lose if a business idea doesn’t take off.
Alexis Ohanian co-founded the wildly popular Reddit and he faced several testing problems in the infancy of the platform: His then-girlfriend fell into a coma and his mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. With the long hours and grueling meetings that are required to get a business off the ground, Alexis was facing incredibly difficult personal issues at the same time. But he was even more determined to succeed and wrote a blog post in 2010 that summed up his ethos:
“And you’d better believe that when you come home to a mother battling brain cancer and a father spending every waking hour taking care of her and running his own business, you don’t complain, you don’t cower, and you most certainly don’t quit.”
Like life, business is never simple, but it’s the challenges that life throws at us that make us stronger, more resilient and even hungrier to succeed.
Underdogs Can Afford To Experiment
Smaller businesses can sink or swim in an instant and be faced with massive, shark-like competitors. This can really expose the true character of a business owner. Being an underdog can give you a flexibility and agility that lets you duck and dive under whatever big business throws at you and can give you new insight into how to disrupt the status quo.
Take everyone’s favorite ice cream connoisseurs, Ben & Jerry’s, for example. They took a $5 correspondence course in ice-cream making and started selling their very first flavors at a local gas station in Burlington, Vermont. When they started to branch out into local restaurants and shops, Haagen-Dazs started responding. It tried to push them out of the marketplace, but Ben & Jerry’s had a unique product that people loved.
Ben & Jerry’s continued to make more and more localized products using local milk, cream, and fruit and experimented with bright, vibrant packaging that’s now instantly recognizable to consumers around the globe.
One of the most distinctive things about the Ben & Jerry’s brand is its fun, tongue-in-cheek ice cream names. It’s managed to make itself stand out from the rest of the ground with its personality.
From a $5 course to making hundreds of millions of dollars, Ben & Jerry’s could afford to be different and use its underdog status and local story to connect with customers.
Underdogs Have A Unique Perspective
Ultimately, being an underdog allows you to see a bigger, clearer picture. There’s so much more to do, and starting from the bottom gives you a unique perspective about what it takes to move your business to the next level.
Being an underdog can be tough, but it teaches you important skills as a business owner and a human being. The ability to be humble, empathetic and understanding are emotionally intelligent skills that you can develop when you’re starting out and you don’t have any big backers to fall back on.
In truth, other people connect to people when they are open, honest and authentic. Being transparent about your status or vulnerabilities as a business can help consumers connect with you better.
The power of the underdog can be what makes your business distinctive and stand out from the crowd.