Living up to the hype? Black Panther’s appeal to brands
With unanimously glowing reviews and a worldwide opening weekend gross of $361m, Black Panther has – much like 2017’s Wonder Woman – lifted hopes of a revival of the superhero genre, and even for cinema in general.
Yet despite being the most hotly anticipated Marvel release in recent memory, Black Panther’s consumer products presence has been nearly as anonymous as the secret African Kingdom of Wakanda it depicts.
To kick off week two of this month’s New York Fashion Week, ‘Welcome to Wakanda’ was a fashion extravaganza for the glitterati featuring runway interpretations of Black Panther from seven designers and labels – from Cushnie et Ochs to Hood by Air. But their creations were strictly one-offs to be auctioned for the benefit of Save the Children.
Press information around the event assured that larger retail collections would be available from Brother Vellies, Douriean and Josh Bennett – not exactly heavy-hitting names. While the afro-centric style of the first two are a point of intrigue, Josh Bennett’s involvement seems to be based on his prior success with Marvel’s Thor franchise – a natural fit for a maker of luxury Nordic knitwear.
Elsewhere, sneaker/concept store BAIT gave Black Panther a small boost with its own t-shirt prints accompanied by exclusive styles from Nixon, New Era and PUMA. Purchasers at BAIT were also rewarded with a complimentary first edition reprint comic. New Balance released two exclusive styles on sneaker platform, Jimmy Jazz and Clark’s Originals issued a 1,000 piece limited edition of its Trigenic Evo shoe – just in case two fashion-forward men’s shoe brands aren’t already enough.
Already in October, Lexus announced a limited edition LC 500 coupe – as featured in the movie. A related concept car was described by Lexus as “part Takumi craftsmanship, part Wakandan vibranium engineering and all badass.” Inexplicably, the partnership was also marked with a lame, custom-comic series featuring a car in practically every panel.
And that’s it.
I was expecting more. After all, how many times has Disney’s consumer products division wowed us in recent years with elaborate retail promotions, inspiring style guide management and eye-popping rosters of halo licensees?
Not this time. What happened? Did Disney not believe in the movie? Or did everyone turn them down? Or were they deterred by the knowledge that searching for “Black Panther capsule” leads to a male potency supplement?
Not only does Black Panther’s box-office triumph show it has all the right topline credentials, the incredible grassroots hype shows its unique power to engage with minorities and draw in new audiences. Add to the mix the fact that it is a practically unspoiled property…beautifully designed and full of the kind of branding goodness that sustains hundreds of fashion and lifestyle collaborations: urban cool, hip hop, African roots, technology – to name a few.
Frankly, a game-changing movie deserves a game-changing approach…much more than five shoes from three brands, a car and some chunky knitwear. Did Disney use a Captain America approach when a James Bond or even a Kanye West strategy might have worked better? Or is the best yet to come?
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