Article | European Business Review | May 2011

Underdog Branding: Why Underdogs Win in Recessions

by Neeru Paharia, Anat Keinan and Jill Avery


Underdog stories about overcoming great odds through passion and determination are particularly resonant during difficult times as they inspire us and give us hope when the outlook we face is bleak. They promise that success is still possible, a much needed message in challenging social, political, and economic times. In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the economic challenges facing people have intensified due to the financial crisis of 2008, the collapse of the housing market, widespread job losses, rising health care costs, and crushing amounts of consumer debt. During recessionary time periods such as this, people feel increasingly disadvantaged, making them even more likely to identify with the struggles of underdogs. Firms can capitalize on this through the use of underdog brand biographies. Through the stories of brands ranging from Virgin, Lindt, and Adidas, we illustrate how effective underdog stories can catapult brands into the spotlight and sustain them as they grow.

Keywords: marketing; brand building; brand management; brands and branding; brand positioning; competitive positioning; Brands and Branding; Economics; Marketing Communications; Marketing Strategy; Advertising Campaigns; Advertising Industry; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Consumer Products Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry;


Paharia, Neeru, Anat Keinan, and Jill Avery. "Underdog Branding: Why Underdogs Win in Recessions." European Business Review (May 2011): 53–56. (Invited Article.)