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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

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The Conversion Theory: The Misrepresented Minority

The dis­pro­por­tion­al power of minor­it­ies is known as the con­ver­sion the­ory. 1Conversion the­ory of minor­ity influ­ence. (2021, February 12). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​C​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​_​t​h​e​o​r​y​_​o​f​_​m​i​n​o​r​i​t​y​_​i​n​f​l​u​e​nce

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. 2Moscovici, 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. 3Chryssochoou, 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.”
Source: Changingminds​.org 4Conversion Theory. (2023). Changingminds​.org. https://​chan​ging​minds​.org/​e​x​p​l​a​n​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​t​h​e​o​r​i​e​s​/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​_​t​h​e​o​r​y​.​htm

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.

Learn more: Conversion Theory: The Disproportionate Influence of Minorities

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The Stupid Majority 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. 5Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/

But some minor­it­ies have an addi­tion­al advantage:

Smart Minority = a minor­ity of today that will grow into a new major­ity of tomorrow.

In con­trast, some major­it­ies have an addi­tion­al disadvantage:

Stupid Majority = a major­ity of today that will stead­ily decline into a minor­ity of tomorrow.

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

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Diffusion of Innovations

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Diffusion of innovations.
Diffusion of innovations.

Diffusion of Innovations

The Diffusion of Innovations the­ory, pro­posed by Everett Rogers in 1962, remains a frame­work for under­stand­ing how new ideas, tech­no­lo­gies, products, or prac­tices spread through soci­et­ies over time. 6Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). Free Press.

The the­ory out­lines the pro­cess by which innov­a­tions are adop­ted by indi­vidu­als and groups, emphas­ising the role of com­mu­nic­a­tion chan­nels, social net­works, and the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the innov­a­tion itself. 

  • Innovators (2,5%)
  • Early Adopters (13,5%)
  • Early Majority (34%)
  • Late Majority (34%)
  • Laggards (16%)

By examin­ing real-life examples, we can bet­ter com­pre­hend the prin­ciples of this the­ory and its applic­a­tions in vari­ous fields:

  • Smartphone adop­tion. The rap­id adop­tion of smart­phones provides a com­pel­ling example of the dif­fu­sion of innov­a­tions. Initially, smart­phones were adop­ted by tech enthu­si­asts and early adop­ters who val­ued their advanced fea­tures. Over time, as prices decreased and func­tion­al­ity improved, smart­phones became more access­ible to the gen­er­al pub­lic. Today, they are nearly ubi­quit­ous, illus­trat­ing the dif­fu­sion pro­cess from innov­at­ors to early adop­ters, early major­ity, late major­ity, and finally, laggards.
  • Social media adop­tion. The rise of social media plat­forms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram exem­pli­fies the dif­fu­sion of innov­a­tions in the digit­al realm. These plat­forms began with small user bases but quickly gained momentum as early adop­ters spread pos­it­ive exper­i­ences to their social net­works. As social media became ingrained in every­day life, more con­ser­vat­ive users gradu­ally embraced these plat­forms, lead­ing to wide­spread adop­tion across demographics.
  • Electric vehicle adop­tion. The adop­tion of elec­tric vehicles rep­res­ents a con­tem­por­ary example of the dif­fu­sion of innov­a­tions with­in the auto­mot­ive industry. Initially, EVs faced scep­ti­cism and lim­ited con­sumer interest due to con­cerns about range, char­ging infra­struc­ture, and price. However, as tech­no­logy advanced and envir­on­ment­al aware­ness grew, early adop­ters embraced EVs. Government incent­ives and improve­ments in bat­tery tech­no­logy fur­ther accel­er­ated adop­tion, lead­ing to broad­er accept­ance and main­stream adoption.
  • Streaming adop­tion. The shift from tra­di­tion­al tele­vi­sion to online stream­ing ser­vices illus­trates the dif­fu­sion of innov­a­tions in the enter­tain­ment sec­tor. Platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video ini­tially attrac­ted tech-savvy early adop­ters seek­ing altern­at­ives to tra­di­tion­al cable TV. As these ser­vices improved their con­tent lib­rar­ies and user inter­faces, they gained trac­tion among the early and late major­ity. Today, stream­ing has become the dom­in­ant con­tent con­sump­tion mode for mil­lions worldwide.
  • Telemedicine adop­tion. The adop­tion of telemedi­cine ser­vices provides a recent example of innov­a­tion dif­fu­sion in the health­care industry, par­tic­u­larly high­lighted dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Initially met with scep­ti­cism due to con­cerns about patient con­fid­en­ti­al­ity and the qual­ity of care, telemedi­cine gained accept­ance among early adop­ters seek­ing con­veni­ence and access­ib­il­ity. As reg­u­lat­ory bar­ri­ers were over­come and health­care pro­viders integ­rated tele­health into their prac­tices, broad­er adop­tion fol­lowed, with patients and pro­viders recog­nising its benefits.

The Diffusion of Innovations the­ory offers insights into how new ideas and tech­no­lo­gies influ­ence soci­et­ies. Understanding these dynam­ics can inform pub­lic rela­tions strategies across diverse contexts.

Diffusion research has helped under­stand new product adop­tion and dif­fu­sion, with net­work ana­lys­is and field exper­i­ments being prom­ising tools in under­stand­ing the con­sump­tion of new products.”
Source: Journal of Consumer Research 7Rogers, E. (1976). New Product Adoption and Diffusion. Journal of Consumer Research, 2, 290 – 301. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​8​6​/​2​0​8​642

Learn more: Diffusion of Innovations

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

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Conversion the­ory of minor­ity influ­ence. (2021, February 12). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​C​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​_​t​h​e​o​r​y​_​o​f​_​m​i​n​o​r​i​t​y​_​i​n​f​l​u​e​nce
2 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.
3 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.
4 Conversion Theory. (2023). Changingminds​.org. https://​chan​ging​minds​.org/​e​x​p​l​a​n​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​t​h​e​o​r​i​e​s​/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​_​t​h​e​o​r​y​.​htm
5 Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/
6 Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). Free Press.
7 Rogers, E. (1976). New Product Adoption and Diffusion. Journal of Consumer Research, 2, 290 – 301. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​8​6​/​2​0​8​642
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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