What Brands Can Learn from Black Panther
When I heard Black Panther was going to be a movie, I...was...stocked.
Far from being a comic book nerd (I’ve only seen Spider-Man and the first two Avengers), I was ready for February 2018.
Is it because Marvel makes super awesome movies and this was sure to be fire?
But most importantly, this was a movie developed by a Black American with a diverse cast of Black actors: Lupita was born in Mexico, Leticia Wright is Guyanese, and Daniel Kaluuya is from England.
And not only that, it didn’t have the entire cast struggling or dependent on a White lead to be the savior. In fact, the two White actors in the movie were at most supporting.
This is about true representation in cinema, something we’ve wanted for years.
Seeing Black women in charge of technology in a major film is huge, considering the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley (2.4% are African-Americans).
While the men are strong, women are not only strong but incredible leaders and fighters in their efforts to protecting Wakanda. While there’s a humanitarian side that leads and drives one of the characters, you also see the strength she posses protecting them.
Some mainstream directors (mainly White and male) will comment that adding someone non-White to the lead will make their movie suffer, which is why they’d rather have a White actor tanned or blackface.
This says two things:
One: make it known you’re not paying attention to your audience.
Two: give them a big slap in the face saying you don’t care.
Bonus, you’re also racist which is never a good look.
But when your audience is loud and persistent, someone is bound to listen.
Enter Ryan Coogler.
Writing the screenplay for an already popular comic isn't easy, but I can only bet how high the expectation is to cater to the right audience. My bet: Coogler, who also directed and wrote Fruitvale Station and Creed, used his talents to do what no one else wanted to do. The responsibility of casting and directing a movie that's filled with a lot of expectations can seem daunting, but I feel he knew it was needed. Everything down to the casting of the extras would make or break this movie.
But when you have the talent of Coogler, you don't worry about it, because you are confident enough in your craft to take this on.
And guess what?
The movie didn’t suffer. It’s gone on to break box office records with no signs of slowing down.
Marvel’s ability to take a chance, Coogler’s casting and brilliance in directing and most importantly, the grassroots campaign led by the audience themselves, Black Panther has grossed over $200 during its opening weekend, making it one of the highest openings, ever.
Can you imagine doing this? Being one of the most successful of your niche, breaking your own records? Well, you can.
But...I don't have a million dollars to back me. How can I do this?
Listen to your audience.
Time and time again the audience speaks but no one listens or gives an inch when they need to go the mile.
Take a look at the cosmetic industry. People have begged to have shades created for their really light or dark tones, but cosmetic companies have all but slapped a dark label on their darkest color and thought we’d be happy. It wasn’t until Fenty was released with reviews from beauty gurus that showed her line was all-inclusive.
That weekend, everyone wanted to do copycat campaigns to claim, “Me too!”
While Black Panther is led by Disney-owned Marvel, having the budget to push advertising during the super bowl and product placement from Lexus, the success heavily relies on the audience.
You may not have millions of dollars for advertising, but you have an audience. You have the ability to do research and ask how you can perform better.
What are the problems in your industry?
Is it lack of diversity? Lack of choices? The loss feeling of trust between industry and consumer?
Take a look at what people are saying and figure out a solution.
Study your audience. What solutions are they giving?
Your brand is to serve the audience, so if you see the problem, study what they suggest and figure out how to create solutions. Maybe it's writing characters that fill a void. Maybe it's taking a more authentic approach to connecting via social media instead of using standard posts.
You have the solution, now get them excited.
So you don't have the budget for a Super Bowl Ad, but you have social media at your fingertips. If your plan doesn't include content that connects you directly to your audience, you can give up any chance of success. With social media, especially video content, you need to be as accessible and relatable as possible.
Once they're excited, they'll do the marketing for you.
The best thing about brand loyalists? They're loyal to a 'T'. They will cosplay, hashtag, Instagram to support you because they believe in you. They believe in you because, by coming up with solutions to the problem, you proved to believe in them.