By: Brandon Dixon, Director, Communications
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The success of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the end-of-2022 box office sparked a question at Stagwell: “When is Black Futures Month?” Brands flocked to the marketing table for the Black Panther sequel, and for good reason: in a 2020 study from National Research Group 52% of Black Americans selected the original film as the “best example of representation and inclusion” in American entertainment. But, marketers still rely too much on Black History Month as the main chance to elevate Black stories.
The success of “Wakanda Forever” shows we should focus on Black futures, not just history, in our marketing efforts. As brands and entertainment converge, how can we drive complex representation for Black consumers and tap into growth opportunities?
Despite an increase in Black characters and stories in mainstream media, authentic and complex representation is still lacking. 91% of Black Americans still see negative stereotypes as a top pain point. Brands can challenge these narratives through speculative storytelling and Afrofuturism, offering new contexts for Black characters.
Investing in sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero genres can be a potential goldmine for brands. The 2020 National Research Group study shows Black Americans praised “Black Panther” and “Black Lightning” as the best examples of authentic Black representation in American media. These two shows showcase the potential growth in futuristic, fantastical genres that bring Blackness to the masses. The study also found that 77% of American consumers and 85% of Black Americans find Black content in a futuristic setting appealing.
Brand creativity that only mines the past for visions of Blackness may dwell on traumatic storylines. Joy exists in the past, but clumsy brand storytelling often leads to the platforming of the same recurring stories about Black oppression. If brands can build Future narratives in concert with Black creatives and think expansively about the potential forms Blackness might take in the future, we’ll see more stories of Black joy and transcendence enter the mainstream.
Potential for Transformation
Ninety-one percent of consumers are confident in the ability of media to influence society, per the 2020 National Research Group study cited above. As brands blur the line between Hollywood and Madison Avenue with branded entertainment, future-leaning visions are the way forward to connect meaningfully with Black consumers.
Let’s use Black Futures Month to challenge our brands to think about what’s next.
What kind of Black Future can your brand imagine, and help create?
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