The Underdogs: five lessons from brands doing things differently 

Discover mindset hacks from the brands who dare to be different.

DASH water collection of carbonated, fruity drinks

Underdog brands encounter obstacles and work out how to overcome them. They might not have the budget as market leaders, but their mindset, bold ambition and desire to create change means they’re unstoppable. The underdogs are masters of applying creativity and innovation to transcend limits. 

What’s more, they know how to use their size to their advantage. With 76% of consumers trusting small companies over the big-boy brands, the best underdogs treat their smallness as an asset. They’re the brands that care and who will go the extra mile for their customers. 

Here are five lessons we can learn from visionary underdog brands. 

1. Embrace wonky – DASH Water

DASH water, an underdog brand producing fruity, carbonated drinks.

Image credit: DASH Water / Seismic

‘We’ve seen first-hand that ⅓ of fruit and veg is going to waste – which is not just a UK phenomenon but unfortunately consistent across the Western world – we wanted to use fruit which is rejected by the supermarkets.’

Alex Wright, Founder and CEO of DASH Water. 

DASH Water turns wonky fruit into a tasty, bubbly beverage. Their secret ingredient? Sustainability. They’re fighting food waste by using the knobbly, bent, misshapen fruit that supermarkets have rejected. DASH Water are passionate about finding magnificence in the mundane – it’s what they call their ‘wonky worldview.’ Within three years of its conception, DASH Water became a certified B-Corp and became carbon neutral in 2022. 

There’s a lot to be said for embracing wonky and seeing opportunities where others can’t. 

2. Build a community that shares your vision – WWOOF

Unique vacations available with WWOOF

Image credit: WWOOF

“WWOOF has a win-win dual function: nourishing ourselves and helping the planet.”

Sue Coppard, Founder of WWOOF.

Ever considered spending your vacation WWOOF-ing? WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is the permaculture alternative to Vrbo, where you trade your beach towel for a garden trowel. 

From a rural farmstead in Oregon to a vineyard in the Tuscan hills, you spend your holiday learning ecological skills and sustainability practices on organic farms all over the world. Bed and board are included in return for several hours of unpaid work per day. And what it lacks in luxury, it certainly makes up for in cultural experience. WWOOF aims to create a worldwide ecological network of people who want to live in harmony with nature. 

Like WWOOF, you need to find the partners, team, and community that share your brand vision so you can create real, meaningful change in your industry.

3. Anything is possible – RTFKT

Metaverse sneaker design, with underdog brand RTFKT

Image credit: RTFKT

“There are some iconic shoe silhouettes that repeatedly receive new colourways… we can see the boredom in the market. And that’s our niche. We create new, unique experiences for the sneaker audience that tugs at their imaginations, giving them new ways to express their passion and style.”

Benoit Pagotto, Founder of RTFKT.

Pronounced ‘Artifact,’ this brand is taking sneakers to another dimension (literally) – the metaverse. RTFKT is pushing the boundaries of what we once thought impossible, mixing physical and digital elements. Combining pop culture and gaming with quality craftsmanship, RTFKT conceptualise and create virtual and physical collectible sneakers. Physical products come with a code so that you can try on the digital version, too. Augmented reality is also incorporated into the box as an image tracker, so wearers can create cool content. Bold, boundless and brilliant. 

RTFKT is proof that no idea’s too big or too out there – all you need is the right mindset, tools, creativity and people. 

4. Own your point of difference – - an alternative to Amazon shopping that supports local bookshops

Image credit:

“We’re a small team, we’re all working from home, and we’re doing the best we can with our resources to push for a sea-change in consumer behaviour that protects independent bookstores.”

Andy Hunter, CEO of Bookshop.

Since 2012, there’s been a 44% drop in bookstores across the USA. Many bibliophiles are turning to Amazon to keep their shelves stocked. Enter, the guardians of independent bookshops everywhere. You can order titles directly from your local bookstore, or you can choose to pool your funds, and the profits will be evenly distributed to bookstores nationwide. 

Of course, can’t compete with Amazon on speed or price. So, they don’t. Instead, they’re bringing something new to the e-commerce market – a socially conscious service that offers all the convenience of online shopping and supports local bookstores. 

It goes to show that you don’t need to compete with the big players; do your thing your way. 

5. Make good stuff even better – Ecosia

Ecosia, a sustainable search engine alternative to Google.

Image credit: Ecosia

My goal for Ecosia has always been to make the world a greener, better place – not to get rich. I also wanted to prove that there is a more ethical way of doing business.”

Christian Knoll, Founder of Ecosia.

Question: How do you plant a tree without leaving your desk?
Answer: Use Ecosia – the green search engine.

Ecosia is a not-for-profit search engine that plants trees in the places that need it most. And while it doesn’t have the same number of search results as the likes of Google or Yahoo, it uses its advertising revenue to reforest the planet. So far, Ecosia has planted over 155 million trees. Its servers run on 200% renewable energy, meaning that every search request removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. The company is completely transparent about its financial records, doesn’t use any third-party trackers and promises never to sell user data. 

You don’t always need a unique or innovative idea to be a successful brand. Take a leaf from Ecosia’s book and make existing stuff better for people and planet.

Ready to rise?

MOO has always been on the side of underdog brands. We love that they have vision beyond their size, do things differently and redefine their industries. 

We give your brands the tools you need to do your thing, from our Eco paper for social-conscious brands, Flyers that get your message out there, to a Notebook for all your big ideas. Browse the full range here, or get in touch with our team below.

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