Tapping Into Our Collective Underdog
Oct 4, 2011
While listening to another great episode of Radiolab on the way into work, I heard an episode that was focused on games in general. They were speaking about the popularity of “cheering for the underdog,” and I perked up.
(It was 8 o’clock. No small feat.)
Something was clicking.
In it, they spoke about a study that showed 80-90 percent of people inherently choose the underdog. Also, they found that when they have no loyalties, people tend to root for the team that shouldn’t win. Now, this may be because “we all like to see a good game,” or it might just be that we all like to see the little guy win (when we’re not the big guy).
Whatever the case, as storytellers, there’s something powerful in this.
The fact that 80 to 90 percent of people respond to and actively root for this character in a story is big. This should be a really huge consideration when crafting our narratives, whether it’s a game, app, video, or face-to-face conversation we’re creating.
To know that this many people innately pull for this character should give us an advantage, right?
Knowing this also tells me we shouldn’t be afraid to reveal flaws, weaknesses or imperfections when we tell our stories. When the circumstances are more improbable in the beginning, our stories travel further, and the better our payoff becomes in the end.
All stories have players that don’t–just as we don’t–live in unconflicted harmony with no bigger goals to speak of.
I think it’s safe to assume that most of us root for this character because we all have been a position where we’re not supposed to win, can’t do this, or couldn’t do that.
Who doesn’t want to believe that we can make a small, calculated move and change all that? Who doesn’t want to hear a story where the guy who wasn’t supposed to win, won?
In the end, we need stories to inspire us, to frame things, and to give context and meaning to our personal and business lives. If we remember to leave our viewers with the idea that there’s always a chance to excel, overcome, and succeed, even if it doesn’t look possible, it’s got a great chance of doing just that.