• Kara Maddox

How Black Panther Can Help Your Branding Strategy


If you feel trapped trying to figure out how data, content, search optimization and strategy all work together, you’re not alone, and the good news is Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther can help.

This box office hit reeling in over $1B worldwide takes audiences on a journey of self-realization, social responsibility and civic duty. There’s a reason this film has made 5 times as much money in the US as any other 2018 film, and the reason isn’t the fancy cat suit.

T’Challa, the rightful king of the secret African village of Wakanda, must rectify the wrongs of the past to build a successful future for his people – all with the help of his female – lead team of warriors. Even the logline sounds great. Thank you Marvel Comics for planting this seed.

The truth is, Black Panther has been so successfully optimized that audience members can’t help but learn something while being thoroughly entertained. Cutting edge technology created by a coveted element, vibranium, creates the perfect world for action-packed superhero stunts and top-secret missions – a typical Monday for your brand marketing team.

And to help your marketing folks, the first step in developing a top-notch strategy is identifying your mission, your brand values and your Wild Card – ie, what makes YOU unique?

For many, these ideas are up there, floating around in the heads of your employees, but they haven’t yet been verbalized, or better yet, written down. This is number one. You must identify why it is you do what you do, and if your answer is “well, to make money – duh,” think again – why do you need more money? You must go deeper.

CSR – corporate social responsibility – should be running somewhere in the background (or foreground) of your mission. To find out more about CSR, click here. The truth is, you need to understand why your business matters to others, and this reason must resonate with your target audience.

Back to Coogler’s Black Panther: the film crushed box office records why? Because the mission, the theme, the characters all resonate with the audience. And Coogler's mission wasn’t just to make money – it was to show the country, the world, that we are one people – that to be African is to be human.

Let’s take a closer look –

In an interview with Coogler, he puts it plainly. He says:

"I started off with this idea, with this question: what does it mean to be African? That was the question…and I think through the process of the film…what I found is to be African is to be human…to find all the universality through all the specifics. I think that anybody could see themselves no matter where they are in the world.”

This theme is the thread that keeps Black Panther together, just as your mission should frame all business dealings. Such framework will help your bottom line simply because your audience will see that you’re, well, human. The more human you appear to your customers, the better off you’ll be, and personifying those qualities in your digital space will help online users see the same.

Let’s build it back up -

A few weeks back, KJMdigital launched our Peace Sign Outline for brand marketers. Just as we have four basic needs: the need to live, the need for variety, the need for love, and the need to feel purpose, all brands need the same. To apply these concepts to all things marketing, this translates to the need for data, the need for content, the need for search optimization and the need for a plan with purpose. Check out this post for more.

We also know a great branding strategy is always ‘on the move’ as it continues to grow, and we know that the data you collect three months from now may change next year’s strategy. In fact, if your data isn’t guiding you, you need new data. Your strategy, your website, your brand in general is a living, growing organism. It’s not static; it continues to evolve, and your mission’s values help guide these processes.

The key is to have the components (data, content, search optimization and plan) all sync together to ensure your resources are sufficiently optimized. You could have an awesome idea for content (as many of us do), but it’s how this content fits into your plan (or how you may adjust your plan to squeeze in this content) that counts.

Not to be an idea killer, but if you don’t have a way to measure the effectiveness of your idea, then you’re heading into an unknown territory that could cost you. As a general rule, avoid this unknown territory when first starting out, and at the very least, acknowledge when you’ve decided to venture into The Great Unknown.

To be real, heading off into The Great Unknown is great once in a while – Google lets their employees do this during 20% time when they get to divvy up part of their work schedule to pursue personal projects.

And this idea was created by a company even smarter than Google (whaaat!?) It was started by Atlassian, an Australian-based software company founded in 2002. You may have never heard of Atlassian – I know I hadn’t, but you have heard of some of their clients: Google, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, Pixar, Adobe, Hulu, Nike, Cola-Cola – just to name a few.

These Atlassian FedEx Days give workers 24 hours to work on anything they want as long as they can pitch their new, innovative idea to the team the next day. This process usually starts at 2:00PM on Thursday, continues through the night (where pizza and beer are provided) and ends with a pitching sesh Friday afternoon.

So yes, once in awhile pop into your spaceship, forget about assessment and blast off, but let this be the exception and not the norm. The ‘norm’ should be to tie your tactics to your strategy objectives, and you’ll want to tie those objectives to your overall goals (and those goals support your die hard mission). Then, you’ll need a team to implement all this – you’ll need a P-Pod.

P-Pod, short of ‘Peace Pod,’ helps you apply the Peace Sign Outline to real life. So, in terms of Black Panther, you’ll need a person in charge of data, a person who believes “just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” You need a Shuri – the Black Panther’s techy sister. This is your data person, the person you can trust to keep you up-to-date and in front of key competitors. Shuri helps keep T’Challa alive. She upgrades his suit, gives him gadgets to achieve his mission, keeps the car in motion when he’s off fighting the bad guys.

Second, moving clockwise, you will also need a content guru, someone who keeps the audience glued to their seats with badass moves, an intriguing appearance and unwavering loyalty to your mission. Your audience wants contained variety (too much variety is overwhelming – check out this study on jam for the science behind that) – you need an Okoye, the greatest warrior in the land and her army of loyal soldiers on your side. You need a fighter, someone with discipline and expert skillsets, someone who won’t tell your company’s secrets to anyone else.

Third, you will need authentic, personal relationships, a person in charge of attracting your audience, someone with a good heart that understands the need for trust. You need a true leader who wants to forge meaningful connections both online and off while keeping the core of the mission in mind. You need the Black Panther himself.

A true romantic, the Black Panther is someone the audience is physically attracted to – a person who optimizes everything. T’Challa has all the bells and whistles at his disposal– razor sharp claws, the ability to fly (whaaaat!?) and the Wild Card suit that can absorb kinetic energy and re-direct it elsewhere. Successful search optimization must absorb the necessary analytics to re-direct and fire.

Finally, you need someone to ensure all things data, content and search optimization sync together. Each P-Pod must feed into the overall mission of your firm. You need somebody with an eye on the future, a strategyzer, someone who cares about the humanity of it all – you need a Nakia. Someone who understands other cultures, has “seen too many in need,” and wants to help. For examples of cross-cultural communication, check out this post here.

Nakia is selfless. She wants to help others with no strings attached. She has a life calling to serve, and this is the sort of person you want in the center of your Peace Pod. She keeps the wheel in motion. At KJMdigital, we are your strategyzers. We ensure your business not only achieves its goals, but that you continue on your path to success.

Not sure what your mission is? We suggest connecting it to something that digs deep and resonates with at least one of the four basic needs. This is where corporate social responsibility, knowledge of other cultures, and the understanding of universal truths helps build your brand.

Your brand must reflect quality values that ultimately help society simply because that’s the right thing to do – and that’s what Millennials want.

Need help reaching your audience? The KJMdigital mission is to help connect artists to businesses through our online landscape. And the KJM Team works because our mission and values align with what we value - radical transparency, autonomy and flexibility. At KJMdigital, we put people first because we know real relationships are what matter most.

Interested in learning more? Get our weekly post sent straight to your inbox by reaching out! We are always here to help!

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