• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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How to succeed as an underdog brand

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It’s difficult for a business to stand out in a competitive market. But it’s not impossible. Underdog brands lack the resources and the recognition of the leading brand in their market. This is especially true if you’re just starting a new business and nobody knows about your brand.

But people love to root for the underdog and often support underdog brands. So, how can you capitalise on the underdog effect and stand out when you’re not the market leader?
Let’s take a closer look at six proven marketing strategies that can help underdog brands grow and compete against established brands.

1. Be more innovative than the market leaders

You don’t have to invent something new to win as an underdog brand. Most new products and services are variations of other products and services. But you can’t simply sell identical products and services and expect to gain market share. You must innovate.
So, look at ways to improve products or services in your market and make people’s lives easier

2. Use emotion to appeal to your target audience
People love to see underdogs win. Take advantage of being an underdog by evoking emotional support from your audience. Your goal is to build brand awareness for your business and help more people discover your underdog brand.

When telling your brand story, be humble. People love to support businesses that started from humble beginnings. People also love to know what inspired your business and to hear how you’re overcoming challenges.

Large companies often struggle to relate to customers. That’s why even successful brands like Apple often talk about their origins in a garage. Your brand will be more human, genuine and relatable by telling your story, sharing your challenges and talking about your inspirations.

3. Show why your brand is more relevant
When companies fail to evolve, they become stale and lose relevance. This is true about most existing brands. This happens naturally, over time. It’s one reason why even market leaders rebrand from time to time.
As an underdog brand, you have an opportunity to show how you’re fresh, innovative, and more relevant.

You can do this in several ways. For example, you can build a fresh brand identity for your company that shows you understand your target audience. Uber did this effectively when it challenged it challenged the taxi and limo industries

4. Be relatable

Being relatable and human can help establish a personal connection that will help build trust around your brand. Most people distrust brands that are not authentic. You can capitalise on this by showing off your brand’s relatable side.

Read also: ‘Let them’ and unlock your healing and success

5. Offer better alternatives

Market leaders often charge a premium price for their products and services. But not everyone can afford that premium. This offers an opportunity for underdog brands to provide better, more affordable options.
People don’t typically want to sacrifice quality. So, you’ll need to prove that your products or services are comparable, if not better. You should not merely copy the products or services offered by the market leaders. Find ways to improve those products and services and offer them at a more competitive price.

6. Provide a better customer experience

Customers want companies to listen to their concerns and needs. But most market leaders do a poor job of listening. This is an opportunity for brands with a more intimate customer base to provide a better customer experience.

This is how Apple became successful. They had a small market share and focused exclusively on building great products and a great experience. And today, they dominate many markets with their products while providing a great customer experience.

You don’t have to guess what your customers and prospects want. Make this part of your brand strategy and ask your target audience directly. For example, ask:
• What do you think of our products or services?
• How can we improve our products or services?
• How can we offer better services?
• How can we communicate better?

These questions not only help address your customers’ needs but also provide helpful feedback for your business.

Underdog brands that succeeded

Let’s look at two underdog brands that became successful brands in their industries and how they did it.


Netflix has a classic underdog story. It nearly went bankrupt, tried to sell itself for peanuts to the market leader (Blockbuster), and then became one of the leading technology companies in the world. Netflix became successful by out-innovating the competition.

After it disrupted Blockbuster, the market leader, it disrupted itself. By offering a more accessible and affordable alternative to movie theaters and video rental stores, Netflix not only displaced the market leader but showed how underdogs could win.


Apple had a very humble beginning. The company started from Steve Jobs’ garage and has become the world’s most valuable company. The secret to Apple’s success? Strong branding (including the iconic Apple logo), consistent marketing, and innovative products.

When the company started, it tried competing with many computer companies. But its products were rarely differentiated before 2001.

Apple released the iPod in 2001 and changed the way we listen to music. Since then, Apple has created new markets with smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other products.

Apple followed all of the marketing strategies we shared above to turn its original business into one of the world’s leading brands. And it showed how strong branding and consistent marketing could help a business succeed. It would not be as successful today if not for that golden combination.

Last line

Competing as an underdog brand is not easy. You have to exert multiple times the effort of an already known brand. And you must be creative and resourceful in your marketing. Successful underdog brands use a combination of the strategies shared above. And most importantly, they put customers first.