Underdog Branding: How Financial Services Marketing Inspires Courage

Everyone loves an underdog. That’s why so many marketers build their brand upon the powerful emotions of courage and redemption. In this three-minute emotional marketing lesson video, emotional marketing expert Graeme Newell explains best practices for giving your marketing message a strong feeling of hope.  See how credit card marketing experts and hospital marketing pros make us believe that better days are just around the corner.

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Transcription text of the 3-Minute Emotional Marketing Lesson Video “Underdog Branding: How Financial Services Marketing Inspires Courage” by Graeme Newell, emotional marketing researcher, emotional marketing speaker and customer loyalty researcher, and consultant at 602 Communications.


“It’s sad to see a fighter that was once the caliber of James Braddock reduced to this”

They are the underdogs we cheer for…

“Listen to me, your legs are getting heavy, you’re too slow. It’s over. Just give me another fight Joe. What’s done is done. Not always. I’m sorry Jimmy.”

This timeless story of the underdog is also a powerful way to make a brand connection with your customers.

Hi I’m Graeme Newell.  Here’s how the underdog marketing formula works.

It starts with a sober acknowledgement of the customer’s struggle…but then, shows there’s just a spark of hope. Watch how American Express does it.

“During times like these, it seems like the world will never be the same. But there is a light that’s beginning to shine again”

The key to underdog marketing is that, just like this, it starts small, but then it should crescendo to an transcendent moment of glory.

Watch how Bank of America nails the formula, building a tremendous feeling of uplift.

“This is America. And no matter how, no matter where, no matter what. We keep moving forward”

The music swells, hallelujah, I’m coming home! (yelling)

The brand message is attached to that incredible feeling of deliverance.  Watch how New York Presbyterian simply and powerfully follows the underdog marketing formula.

“Shortly after the surgery I was able to walk on crutches, and uh, the beginning of Labor Day weekend we had headed up state, and we had stopped to get ice cream. My father got out and stood in line, and I got out of the truck and I normally would walk around to the side of the pickup to get my crutches, you know holding on to the side of the truck, and I realized I had taken some steps. And I was like, what’s going on here, and I tried it again, and I had taken some more steps and so I went and I walked up to my father and I said dad look, and he said what kind of ice cream do you want and I said no, dad look, and he’s like no what kind of ice cream I said, no, dad I’m walking look. And he just looked at me and his eyes welled up with tears and my eyes welled up, and it was just so cool. And it was absolutely amazing, and I knew that that was just the start of everything, and that we were actually going to have a normal life.”

(Slowly and quietly) The power of underdog marketing is this deeply human feeling of deliverance from suffering.

Remember, it’s not about your product.  It’s about showing the customer that you’re their cheerleader, and a friend through hard times.  I’m Graeme Newell and that’s emotional marketing.


The underdog – it’s the story of someone who gets knocked down and out, but rises up to overcome. This story works in credit card marketing, financial services marketing, hospital marketing, and medical marketing alike – and more.

Credit Card Marketing and Financial Services Marketing

Despite all of the bad press they have gotten since their role in the massive global recession, bank brands have been using the underdog emotion to great effect recently. This makes sense for credit card marketing and financial services marketing, because their customers – the American people – are pretty down and out at this point. These commercials portray the American people as having taken a hard hit, but not down and out yet. So it starts with acknowledging that their customers have been knocked down. But then the credit card marketing and financial services marketing plan shows just a tiny little spark of hope. The bank brands then take this tiny little spark of hope, and little by little, they expand the feeling until it is a massive crescendo of power and excitement. By taking the feeling of hope and uplift bank brands can make credit card marketing and financial services marketing into incredibly powerful brand messages.

Hospital Marketing and Medical Marketing

Underdog marketing is powerful because it speaks to a part of us that wants our fellow human beings to come out of a dark place and overcome their challenges and failures. Hospital marketing and medical marketing are great for this because disease is something that affects all of us, and we all want to see others conquer disease. Unlike with credit card marketing and financial services marketing, doing the underdog emotion for hospital marketing and medical marketing focuses more on how the focus of the commercial is delivered from suffering. When someone is suffering from an ailment, it is the job of hospitals and medical services to alleviate that suffering, and so the medium of underdog marketing works so well for hospital marketing and medical marketing. Many times, hospital marketing and medical marketing teams will take a story of a patient that had a very serious condition and was able to overcome with the help of doctors and nurses at the hospital. This sort of a story is great for hospital marketing and medical marketing because it shows off some of the strongest suits that these two mediums have to offer.


So to recap:

  • Underdog marketing is effective in a variety of situations. Notably, we cover four big ones: credit card marketing, financial services marketing, hospital marketing, and medical marketing.
  • When bank brands want to connect in a profound manner with their customers, underdog branding is a good choice. Financial services marketing and credit card marketing can be made much more effective by acknowledging their customers as having taken a big hit, but identifying a glimmer of hope. That glimmer of hope grows throughout the course of the ad, finally culminating in a glorious, triumphant finish.
  • Hospital marketing and medical marketing can use the underdog emotion very well because everyone is united against disease and suffering. The underdog emotion taps into the desire to see others liberated from suffering, and that’s exactly what hospital marketing and medical marketing is going for.

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