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The Stupid Majority PR Strategy: How Underdogs Dominate

How to create the best PR campaign of your career.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Have you iden­ti­fied your stu­pid major­ity yet?

The story of the pre­vail­ing under­dog seems to be as old as human­ity itself. And the under­dog strategy is help­ful in PR, too.

As a PR advisor since 2005, I’ve helped many brands side with a smart minor­ity in the fight against a stu­pid major­ity — often with spec­tac­u­lar results.

This blog art­icle will out­line how this under­dog PR strategy works.

Here we go:

The Conversion Theory: The Disproportional Influence of Minorities

The Conversion Theory: The Misrepresented Minority

The dis­pro­por­tion­al power of minor­it­ies is known as the con­ver­sion the­ory.

How does it work?

The social cost of hold­ing a dif­fer­ent view than the major­ity is high. This increased cost explains why minor­it­ies often hold their opin­ions more firmly. It takes determ­in­a­tion to go against the norm. 1Moscovici, S. (1980). Toward a the­ory of con­ver­sion beha­viour. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 209 – 239. New York: Academic Press.

In con­trast, many major­ity mem­bers don’t hold their opin­ions so firmly. They might belong to the major­ity for no oth­er reas­on than that every­one else seems to be. 2Chryssochoou, X. and Volpato, C. (2004). Social Influence and the Power of Minorities: An Analysis of the Communist Manifesto, Social Justice Research, 17, 4, 357 – 388.

In groups, the minor­ity can have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate effect, con­vert­ing many ‘major­ity’ mem­bers to their own cause. This is because many major­ity group mem­bers are not strong believ­ers in its cause. They may be simply going along because it seems easi­er or that there is no real altern­at­ive. They may also have become dis­il­lu­sioned with the group pur­pose, pro­cess, or lead­er­ship and are seek­ing a viable altern­at­ive.”

According to con­ver­sion the­ory, while major­it­ies often claim norm­at­ive social influ­ence, minor­it­ies strive for eth­ic­al high ground. 

Given the power of norm­at­ive social influ­ence, minor­it­ies must stick togeth­er in tight-knit groups that can verb­al­ise the same mes­sage repeatedly.

Read also: Conversion Theory: The Disproportionate Influence of Minorities

The Stupid Majority PR Strategy

PR Strategy: The Stupid Majority

From what con­ver­sion the­ory tells us, minor­it­ies tend to hold their opin­ions more firmly. This is reas­on­able since going against the major­ity comes at a high­er social cost.

But some minor­it­ies have an addi­tion­al advantage:

Some minor­it­ies of today are the start of the new major­it­ies of tomor­row (smart minor­it­ies).

In con­trast, some major­it­ies have an addi­tion­al disadvantage:

Some major­it­ies of today will be gone entirely tomor­row (stu­pid major­it­ies).

Examples of Stupid Majorities

Stupid major­it­ies are to be found everywhere:

Riding a skate­board isn’t a real sport!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Red Bull)

Computing is about bits and bytes, not design!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Apple)

Websites and apps can­’t pro­duce movies and tele­vi­sion shows!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Netflix)

Electric cars can­’t com­pete with gas cars!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Tesla Motors)

Hotels must have hotel rooms!”
(Stupid major­ity vs AirBnB)

Taxi com­pan­ies must have tax­is!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Uber)

Media com­pan­ies must pro­duce media!”
(Stupid major­ity vs Facebook)

Identifying a stu­pid major­ity (and sid­ing with a smart minor­ity) will cla­ri­fy your core mes­sage and attract highly engaged minor­ity supporters.

Since time’s by your side (the stu­pid major­ity will be gone no mat­ter what), tar­get­ing a stu­pid major­ity might become your career­’s most influ­en­tial PR strategy.

Read also: The Stupid Majority PR Strategy: How Underdogs Dominate

David and Goliath: The OG Underdog Success Story

Giants are not what we think they are. The same qual­it­ies that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weak­ness.”
— Malcolm Gladwell

We all know the story. Goliath, the giant Philistine war­ri­or, was defeated by the young David, who would later become the king of Israel. Being inferi­or in size and com­bat exper­i­ence, David used a sling­shot to defeat the mighty Goliath from a distance. 

Instead of fight­ing Goliath on his terms (strength and power), David used his advant­ages (speed and accuracy).

In David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell out­lines the dynam­ic between map­ping your and your oppon­ent’s strengths and weak­nesses. He goes on to sug­gest that under­dogs have sig­ni­fic­ant advantages:

One could argue that David’s dis­ad­vant­ages (being more neg­li­gible and less exper­i­enced) forced him to out­smart his opponent. 

If David had been an exper­i­enced war­ri­or with the phys­ic­al size to match Goliath’s prowess, David would prob­ably have decided to fight him on equal terms, right?

How We Admire Underdogs and Sympathise With Their Struggles

There is no good or bad without us, there is only per­cep­tion. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
— Ryan Holiday

The legend of David and Goliath endures as we find com­fort in know­ing that the strongest does­n’t always win. The under­dog approach isn’t just help­ful in fight­ing; it has a proven track record of being highly use­ful in pub­lic rela­tions.

In The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Ryan Holiday describes how choos­ing the path of the most res­ist­ance max­im­ises our growth as both indi­vidu­als and organisations:

Having the odds stacked against you might not be as bad as it seems at first glance. If noth­ing else, it’s the start of a great story.

Yes, David exploits Goliath’s weak­nesses (not being fast or accur­ate enough to beat David from a dis­tance). However, David still chooses to fight Goliath on “his” grounds — to steal away “his” audi­ence. It’s safe to say that only a minor­ity thought that David would beat Goliath before the actu­al fight. 

From a PR per­spect­ive, David could sweep in from nowhere and beat the mar­ket lead­er by exploit­ing an inter­est­ing social phe­nomen­on … that the major­ity is some­times just wrong.

Stupid, even.

We cel­eb­rate that David chose a bet­ter weapon when we instead should cel­eb­rate his suc­cess­ful manip­u­la­tion of the stu­pid major­ity; from nowhere, David inser­ted him­self into the top spot — in just one bold move.

We respect David not only for his wits but for his guts.
After all, David did bring a fuck­ing sling­shot to a sword fight. 

The fact that a stag­ger­ing major­ity of bystand­ers — includ­ing one con­fid­ent Goliath — nev­er expec­ted David to stand a chance, well, that was what gave him the upper hand. 

Goliath? He was destined to fail. 

The Stupid Majority PR Strategy

When lever­aging an under­dog pub­lic rela­tions strategy to beat a major­ity lead­er, it’s not about bring­ing bet­ter weapons; it’s about hav­ing guts and tak­ing on a major­ity that is stu­pid, incom­pet­ent, dead wrong — and more power­ful than you. 

The more sig­ni­fic­ant and dom­in­ant the major­ity, the more likely it is to con­sist of a sub­stan­tial silent major­ity who are just along for the ride, mainly because every­one else seems to be. 

Now, ima­gine this major­ity being just plain wrong.

If you can spot­light the major­ity’s stu­pid­ity, some cas­u­al sup­port­ers might feel betrayed by their major­ity lead­ers, caus­ing many such cas­u­al sup­port­ers to switch sides even faster.

Some major­it­ies of today are destined to be gone tomorrow.

Seeing a minor­ity defeat­ing a major­ity makes for good enter­tain­ment — when the major­ity is also stu­pid. And from a PR per­spect­ive? The big bad is about to beat the under­dog against all the odds. That’s a great story, just beg­ging to be told! 

What remains for us is to ask; are there any stu­pid major­it­ies out there for us to take on?

Challenge a Stupid Majority

Stupid major­it­ies exist in your industry, too. And now that you know what to look for, you’ll soon start find­ing them everywhere. 

The stu­pid major­ity approach could res­ult in the most pro­found PR res­ults of your career:

  • Identify a stu­pid major­ity in your industry.
  • Become a cham­pi­on for the smart minority.
  • Together, bring that giant down to a mighty fall.

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: How To Identify a Good PR Strategy

How To Create a PR Strategy - Spinning Top - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Spin for the win.

How To Identify a Good PR Strategy

Your PR strategy should answer one simple question:

  • Does this strategy provide a guid­ing prin­ciple for how our organ­isa­tion should win the war for atten­tion, trust, and sup­port in our com­pet­it­ive landscape?

If your PR strategy fails to answer this ques­tion, it’s just orna­ment­a­tion (i.e. cor­por­ate cringe).

Learn more: Your Bullshit PR Strategy is Cringe, Sorry

PR Resource: The 1‑Page Strategy

1-Page Strategy - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Keep it clean. (Photo: @jerrysilfwer)

How to Write a 1‑Page Strategy

My inspir­a­tion for writ­ing “no-bull­shit” strategies comes from the clas­sic Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. The 1‑page strategy focuses on how to win.

Here’s how you can write a 1‑page strategy that fits one page — using the myth­ic­al battle between David and Goliath as an analogy:

1. Analysis

  • David can­’t beat Goliath using his size or raw strength, but he has an advant­age in speed and accur­acy from a distance.

2. Guiding Principle

  • David should­n’t engage in close com­bat but rather use tools that will allow him to strike from a distance.

3. Coherent Actions

  • David should­n’t use any heavy armour because that would slow him down.
  • David should use a sling­shot, a weapon he is famil­i­ar with and can strike from a distance.
  • David should lever­age the sur­prise ele­ment and not advert­ise his advant­age beforehand.

If you write 1 – 2 clear sen­tences per bul­let, your strategy should fit nicely on one page.

Read also: The Easy Street PR Strategy: Keep It Simple To Win

PR Resource: More PR Strategies

1 Moscovici, S. (1980). Toward a the­ory of con­ver­sion beha­viour. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 209 – 239. New York: Academic Press.
2 Chryssochoou, X. and Volpato, C. (2004). Social Influence and the Power of Minorities: An Analysis of the Communist Manifesto, Social Justice Research, 17, 4, 357 – 388.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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