The Rise of the Underdog

By  Amy Showalters, Special for USDR

The rich and the powerful aren’t the only ones who can affect change in business, government and public policy.

“People with a mission and the ability to work with others shows that underdogs can be top dogs,” said Amy Showalter, author of “The Underdog Edge” which shows how ordinary people change the minds of the powerful.

Here are the top Underdog Edge Persuaders of 2014 and their inspiring stories.

1. Red Thumb Reminder campaign to stop texting and driving. Effective underdogs use vivid information to persuade. In this case,Steve Babcock urged people to paint their thumb with red nail polish or tie a red ribbon around their thumb. While many people won’t do this, in their minds, they can easily see the image and remember that no tweet is worth a life. Taking a page from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Red Thumb campaign shines a big spotlight on this problem. They gained national attention by appearing on the Today show and on NFL programs as well attracting sponsorships from Nissan and The Voice.

2. The North Dakota Oil Boom. Who would have thought that the U.S. would ever be energy independent? The North Dakota oil industry single handedly changed the face of geo-politics by producing enough gas to bring pump prices to their lowest level in years.  Underdogs aren’t afraid to buck conventional wisdom.

3. Senator Elizabeth Warren changed the face of the Democratic party with one speech. Her rags to riches story and her focus on consumerism proves a key tenant of the Underdog Edge: people love to root for the little guy because it makes us feel good. While she probably isn’t a threat to Hillary Clinton in 2016, she gave voice to the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

4. Pope Francis worked behind the scenes to end the Cuba-US Cold War. While a world leader might not be considered a true “underdog” underdog positioning is always contextual. In this situation, the Pope did not hold the cards. Powerful people typically make grand public declarations. He used different tactics, engaging behind the scenes wisely to overcome uphill battles and to cool tensions that have been simmering for 50 years.

5. David Bratt beat Eric Cantor in the Virginia House race primary.  No one gave Bratt a chance of unseating one of the most powerful men in the country. But a strong base and consistent effort showed what an underdog can do when an opponent rests on its laurels. Underdogs realize that power is earned – and can be lost in a heartbeat.

“Understanding what makes underdogs persuasive is a useful exercise, because they simply have to try harder than everyone else to get what they want. They can be more persuasive than the powerful,” said Showalter.

About Amy Showalter

Amy is a grassroots and PAC influence expert who founded The Showalter Group to help associations and corporations increase their grassroots and PAC effectiveness. In fact, over 85% of her long-term consulting clients have experienced an increase in budget, staff, and senior management recognition after collaborating with Amy.

She blogs for, and has been a columnist for Forbes. Over 500 media outlets have featured her insights, including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Times, Politico, CNN,,, and Roll Call.

About TSG The Showalter Group

Founded in 1999, TSG clients include major corporations such as International Paper, Monsanto, Southwest Airlines, and national trade associations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Federation of Independent Business. Major non-profits that they have collaborated with include the American Heart Association’s Office of Public Advocacy, the United States Green Building Council, and the Girl Scouts of the USA. State trade associations that have hired The Showalter Group for consulting projects include the California Healthcare Association, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, and numerous state REALTOR® associations.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.