Underdog (credit unknown)

Breaking the Mold: The Rise of Underdog

Barney - legendary (credit unknown)That’s right, week four of 2024 is in the books. Are you still rocking your resolutions? Thanks for being here and keeping me accountable. I wouldn’t say I am going strong, that would be a stretch. Trust me, it’s not due to a lack of desire; it’s just that sometimes, this thing called ‘life’ gets in the way. That aside, let’s dive into this week’s topic: The Underdog Effect.

From the Stanley tumbler to Mugsy Bogues, from the 1984 US hockey team to Mary Lou Retton, from Buster Douglas to App State’s win over Michigan – who doesn’t love an underdog? But what is the ‘Underdog Effect’?

Well, just imagine a quirky little product born from necessity or created for a select number of people. It might have a simple design, one that the ‘cool-kids‘ find ugly. Perhaps the materials aren’t high-end suede but simple canvas. But over time, these minimalist shoes, initially designed for lanky basketball players in shorts way too short for public decency, started showing up everywhere. Converse’s (now under Nike) Chuck Taylors All-Stars are available in various colors and materials. They range from the original bone-white low tops (the only REAL version, in my humble opinion) to chunky-bottom high tops, and even calf-high boots (eww!!!!).

Chuck's by the poolSo, how does an ‘ugly’ canvas shoe like this ascend to ‘Legendary’ status? It seems almost like a secret recipe: one-part unique charm and a dash of perfect timing. But, as my dad always said, “It’s better to be lucky than good.”

I do wonder if we will see more and more of these underdogs in the future. Will the frenzy created by influencers on social media translate into staying power? Can a viral tweet from the ‘right’ person transform a ‘zero’ into a ‘hero’ overnight? And more importantly, can it go beyond being an 80’s one-hit wonder like Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ or a passing fad like the fidget spinner?

Nevertheless, we consumers love the idea of an underdog. We love feeling like we are in on something only a few people are aware of or understand. I mean, how many people truly appreciate the unique sound of the Talking Heads or the dancing of their frontman, David Byrne? Only the coolest of the cool, that’s who.

But if you are working on an underdog product or service, beware – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Scaling up or creating staying power could be tough. The real question is, how do you maintain that ‘cool factor’ when you’re no longer the new kid on the block? When your spokesperson is Billy Idol, how do you stay relevant to kids who wonder why that old dude has on a leather jacket and chains? Being unique is a tightrope, even The Flying Wallendas could struggle to walk.

Alright folks, let’s tie up our chat on the ‘Underdog Effect.’ It’s all about cheering for those unexpected gems – the products, services, and local talents that start small but dream big. You never know when a handful of dedicated fans might catapult an underdog from a local hero to a global sensation.

Till next time.

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