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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Feb 06, 2023
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Jan 31, 2023
We’re proud to share several ways agencies across Stagwell have celebrated and used Black History Month this year as a platform to impact communities locally, nationally, and across the digital ecosystem.
Instrument – BankBlackUSA – Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
Instrument has invested $3 million in their Build|Grow|Serve program, created to support and empower Black and systemically excluded communities. As part of their 2021 Pro-Bono program, they partnered with BankBlackUSA – an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting financial advocacy in Black communities and closing the racial wealth gap – to redesign their website, elevate their brand, and create an extensible platform that supports the brand’s movement through impactful storytelling.
In emphasizing the need for banking Black, they felt it important to support Black designers and makers in the process. In doing so, they created infographics inspired by the work of W.E.B. DuBois—a famed sociologist who created groundbreaking data visualizations on institutionalized racism—purchased a typeface from designer Tré Seals, and supported Black-owned photography sites to bring the brand to life.
Allison+Partners – NYC Black History 50 Run – Illuminating Hidden Histories
Allison+Partners’ ultra-runner Todd Aydelotte collaborated with several community partners across New York to organize the NYC Black History 50 run, an interactive running experience across key moments and sights integral to understanding black history across New York City. The run bridged an exciting interactive experience and local history, linking the boroughs together, beginning in South Staten Island and ending at the Ralph Ellison Memorial in Harlem. All participants donated to a Go Fund Me to preserve the history of Sandy Ground, America’s oldest continuously inhabited free Black community.
In a blog, Aydelotte discusses what inspired this run: (The Stream)
72andSunny and Colle McVoy – Spotlighting Black Hair and Culture
In two separate activations, 72andSunny and Colle McVoy prepared creative content to celebrate Black hair and educate people on the rich styles, traditions, and historical significance of hairstyles in the Black community.
In an owned social series, Colle McVoy explored the history, significance, misconceptions, and beauty of hairstyles in the Black Community, covering cornrows, headwraps, and the afro. Colle McVoy’s Inclusion Council’s Black History Month planning team researched and developed the effort and shared it on social and with internal talent.
72andSunny launched “Rooted: A Journey of Roots and Resistance,” which packaged an expansive palette of digital assets, including a curated playlist, alphabet lookbook spotlighting hairstyles that have defined Black culture through history, a film showcasing stories of 72andSunny team members on hair journeys of self-discovery and acceptance, and a panel featuring some of the Black hair industry’s most exemplary people. Sequaña Williams-Hechavarria, equity, diversity, and inclusion program manager at the agency, spoke with The Drum about the work.
Code and Theory – Snapchat Creative Council “Hey, You Good?” – Driving Awareness on Black Mental Health
My-Linh Tran, Senior Inclusive Marketing Strategist at Code and Theory, was part of the team of creatives who developed the Snapchat Creative Council’s Black History Month campaign devised to educate Snapchatters through real conversations about the mental health issues impacting Black communities. The campaign features AR filters and lenses that users can leverage, a Discover Channel mini-series that encourages young people to check in on mental health, and an educative microsite. Snapchat’s Creative Council is a partnership with ADCOLOR which brings together leading creatives to build campaigns that tackle issues that disproportionately impact Black communities.
Learn more about the effort in Adweek.
Doner/ Doner Partners Network – Kaleidoscope – Vendor Diversity Fair
Doner hosted its inaugural virtual supplier/vendor diversity fair, Kaleidoscope, which convened over 150+ diverse suppliers and vendors to showcase offerings and share best practices around equitable sourcing. Agencies across the Stagwell network attended and contributed to the programming.
OTHER NOTABLE ACTIVATIONS
- Anomaly Toronto – Equal Advantage – Anomaly recently opened applications for the second year of Equal Advantage, an agency-wide initiative to support small businesses in BIPOC communities with great advertising. A pro-bono effort, Equal Advantage offers Anomaly’s world-class creativity, strategy, and marketing experts to small businesses free of charge. In the program’s first year, Anomaly partnered with ISARELLA KOBLA, a luxury made-to-order clothing and accessories brand, as its first client.
- KWT Global – Do the Work Microsite – KWT continued to add to its expansive microsite launched in 2020, which features original and curated content that elevates BIPOC Creators, stories, and experiences. This month, KWT curated three pieces of content: The Story of Black History Month; 21 Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime; and Black History Month Films to Watch.
- The Harris Poll partnered with Teva Pharmaceuticals and the Morehouse School of Medicine on a report on the State of Access to Healthcare in America. Among the insights, the team identified barriers top barriers to health access exacerbated by the pandemic and offered strategies for a #PathToEquity
- YML BLK – YML’s black employee resource group curated stories of black perseverance, black history, black futures, and black joy in a social series through the month. Additionally, the agency spotlighted individual members of the ERG.
- Multiview – Helping Associations that Serve BIPOC Professionals – Stagwell’s B2B digital media and marketing firm has several partnerships with associations that represent minority professionals in different industries. The firm’s sales services help those organizations fund some of their member programs. Additionally, Multiview publishes their newsletters and helps them monetize various media properties by connecting their industry sponsors and their members through advertising.
In the News, Thought Leadership
Feb 06, 2023
Data, Thought Leadership
Jan 31, 2023