How to win at being the underdog

How to win at being the underdog

Way back when in 1962 the car rental company Avis was having a torrid time trying to compete with industry #1 Hertz. No matter what they did they couldn’t seem to knock Hertz of that number 1 spot, and annual losses continued to rack up (they hadn’t been profitable for a decade or so). Hertz commanded some 60% of the market versus a lowly 30% for Avis, a 30-point gap that was slowly killing Avis.

Then in 1962 things started to change. Avis created an advertising campaign that acknowledged the fact that they were not the industry leaders. Their ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach produced a raft of ads based around the giant-killer theme of “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder”…

“Avis is only No.2 in rent cars. So why go with us?

“Avis can’t afford dirty ashtrays”

“Avis can’t afford to make you wait”

“Avis is only No.2. But we don’t want your sympathy.”

The results from the campaign were nothing short of astounding because within a single year, Avis turned a $3.2million loss into a $1.2million profit, and within 5 years the gap in market share between the two companies had shrunk from 30 points to just 12!


Coming across as being fallible can go a long way to help convince your target audience that you are genuine and likeable. Social Psychologists call this the “Pratfall effect”. Based on the general perception of an individuals ability to perform well, the pratfall effect describes an increase or decrease in likability after someone makes a mistake.

So for example, if a person generally perceived as incompetent makes a mistake, their likability will fall slightly (because they have confirmed the perceived view of them). However if a person perceived as competent makes a mistake, their likability will actually increase slightly.


So have the courage to show your shortcomings and expose your authentic self. People will be much more forgiving and more likely to become a brand ambassador for you and your products.

Select a weakness that can be turned into a strength. Avis may not be number 1 but they try harder to please you. The Volkswagen Beetle may not be much to look at, but inside its a real beauty. A Guinness may take longer to pour but the taste sure is worth it. 

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Andy Wood

Andy Wood

My mission is to guide and empower you with the tools, resources, strategies, and tactics to help you succeed in your online business, and (of course) EXPLODE your income so you can live life on your own terms.

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