Underdog brand archetype can work for PM Julia Gillard

There are many brands in the market place that know how to leverage the status of the underdog. They use the position to drive a more emotional connection with their target market. Harvard academic Anat Keinan co-authored a paper for Journal of Consumer Research, titled “The Underdog Effect: The Marketing of Disadvantage and Determination through Brand Biography.  Keinan explains, ”…through a series of experiments, we show that underdog brand biographies are effective in the marketplace because consumers identify with the disadvantaged position of the underdog and share their passion and determination to succeed when the odds are against them.”

The underdog’s external environment is largely negative: Underdogs start from a disadvantaged position and hit obstacles along the way, making it a more difficult struggle for them than for others. In competition with others that have more resources, underdogs feel the odds are against them.

The underdog’s internal characteristics are largely positive: Underdogs show perseverance in the face of adversity and are resilient even when they fail, staying focused on their end goal. Their determination forces them to pick themselves up after they lose to try to win again. They defy others’ expectations that they will fail. They are more passionate than others about their goals, which serve a central role in defining the meaning of their lives, and they remain hopeful about achieving them, even when faced with obstacles.

It is this brand approach that we suggest our PM Julia Gillard adopt. She has all the material to support such a narrative, and like all good stories it is authentic. Humble beginnings, a woman in the hurly burly of one of the most cut throat professions. Born with a dream to make Australia a place of equality, optimism and prosperity. Devastated to see it floundering under Rudd, and prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice by becoming our leader. Against all odds she becomes the country’s first female Prime Minister. Thrust into the role in dramatic fashion she has had to call on her intelligence, street smarts and pragmatic approach to simply survive in the role, let alone thrive. But she has both survived and thrived in terms of policy reform. Change she always new was not for the faint hearted but change was her mantra. Every inch of the way she would have to fight with and embrace Independents, Greens and her own party factions, but all the time holding her course.  A brilliant negotiator and tireless in the process. Piece by piece her vision was forged. Climate change tackled through a carbon tax (yes a little tricky), economic stewardship that the rest of the developed world is in awe of, a mining tax to share the nation’s prosperity, a National Broadband Network to keep us in touch with the speed of a new digital world, a revolutionary disability scheme steeped in respect and dignity and much more.

There have been stumbles along the way, but each one testimony to a passionate woman ‘having a real crack.’ Many of the hick-ups tied to the urgency of needing act to counter the onslaught of the world’s ‘Great Recession’. Some rogue pink bats, a questionable school hall here and there, but everything designed to generate immediate economic activity. A case of the end justifying the means, and certainly it did. This swift strong action keeping Australia out of a recession, people employed and most industries intact.

But she knows the job is not done. Asylum seekers remain a key agenda item, our role in the Asian Century and the bigger question of what our Nation Brand will stand for future generations still needs to be tackled. In a personal brand sense there really is no better underdog brand with such a public profile. Every low poll score screams underdog. Her power base since the last election has meant that every day is one of compromise, but everyday she is up for the fight. She fits the underdog archetype perfectly, and the underdog is something the average Australian has always been attracted to. But in the case of Julia Gillard’s underdog brand, the people who manage her brand have done an appalling job. They appear incapable of scripting a compelling and evocative narrative that allows the Australian public to embrace her journey. Give us a call Julia, we think you have one of the great political stories of all time to tell – it simply needs to framed by an inspirational vision, ensure it is personally and emotionally charged – every expression laced with an unassuming can-do attitude that reflects a true sense of personal courage and sacrifice to make this a better country. Above all else craft a narrative that embraces the vulnerability she has to endure every day.

Oh, you are still not sure of how compelling her underdog story is? Let me remind you that she also barracks for AFL team, The Bulldogs.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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