The Disadvantage Advantage

The underdog organisation has two natural factors favouring its success, and they’re amazingly powerful. 

More than half of new business ventures don’t survive past five years.

Competition has never been so fierce.

Industries are full of rival organisations, all locked in battle for market share. For the mind of the customer.

It’s rare to see a market where numbers are few.

Which is seen as a disadvantage to established organisations as it is to the newly formed organisations otherwise perceived as the underdog.

But a disadvantage can produce a determination. An ability to turn an obstacle into an opportunity.

In 1940, the German battleship Bismarck was summoned to join the war. Its guns, armour and other characteristics far exceeded any other battleship.

Its most famous victory was its sinking of the Hood.

HMS Hood was the Royal Navy’s equivalent to Nazi Germany’s Bismarck, albeit not as powerful.

Decades of Royal Navy dominance on the world’s seas came to an end when its flagship was completely destroyed in seconds. The Hood’s companion ship the HMS Prince of Wales even had to turn back.

The Bismarck was invincible. Chased for months by the allied forces, it couldn’t be stopped. They couldn’t sink it.

Until a Fairey Swordfish – undetected by the Bismarck’s modern radar and automatic anti-aircraft guns – dropped a torpedo which crippled the ship. Only then was the Royal Navy able to sink her.

The Swordfish, made mostly of string and wood which didn’t have guns or a cockpit, flew undetected as it was travelling at too slow a speed.

Against the odds, a plane close to decommissioning was responsible for the sinking of the world’s most powerful battleship.

But it’s not a surprise.

Small companies with small teams and small marketing budgets have also taken on the big boys for years.

And have won.

But it’s not just about strategy. The underdog also has an advantage connected to the way we are wired as humans.

Because the disadvantaged resonate with others who’ve been in a similar position of disadvantage.

There’s a common feeling. An empathy.

In the way parents favour a vulnerable child over a stronger one, even if both are their own.

And it works the same for the brands who can bring this to their offering.

To pull it off does also require a strategy, though. A battle plan.

To position and communicate yourself in a manner that customers will really understand your purpose. Your identity. Your story.

Your energy, determination and passion (even flexibility), which will come naturally in such as position, makes this story known.

All these things combined are something which customers can see and appreciate. All the things associated with brand loyalty.

And on par with the established organisations who seem to have the upper hand.

Apple took on IBM and Microsoft from a garage.

Ernest Shackleton’s stranded Endurance crew survived in arctic conditions they should never have.

Leicester City Football Club won the league with 5,000/1 odds.

They had purpose.

Those with a purpose and a disadvantage have a great chance to succeed.

We love Apple products. We knighted Shackelton. We all supported Leicester City.

We love an underdog.

As an organisation, you therefore have a natural benefit to your situation if you’re the smaller alternative.

Decision-making, though, is key to survival. But you’ll make the right ones knowing their weight. Competition in this respect also makes us more creative and innovative.

You have focus.

The Bismarck, the world’s most feared battleship, was sunk by the hands of the “Stringbag.”

Fairey Swordfish planes sunk even more ships during the Second World War. Famously sinking and damaging battleships that belonged to the Italian Navy.

And history is full of such David and Goliath tales.

And they’re tales we all love.

Because most of us have come from underdog situations to where we are now.

They reflect the story of our lives.

That’s why the advantage is the disadvantage.

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