What Black Panther teaches us about building emotional connections with the African Consumer

Happy Africa Day! To recognise the day, we’ve put together a couple of insights about building an emotional connection with the African consumer, gleaned from a few different research projects and our experience of the region.

Black Panther has had a roaring success at the box office and notably, amongst African viewers of the new Marvel movie. At a recent Ipsos event “Africa: Shot in the Dark or Sure Bet?” Ipsos Directors outlined some of the major insights that we as researchers can learn about how to connect to the African Consumer with some of the factors that have contributed to the great success of the film.


 Modernise, don’t Westernise


The landscape, the weapons, the dress are all very modern but also distinctly African. By using these African elements, it brings out the inner sense of identity with African audiences and builds an emotional connection with them. Brands can do this by not relying on the western standard of looks, dress and other fashions and trends when it comes to reaching African audiences. Instead of using heavy duty guns in Wakanda, the warriors are equipped with traditional spears, albeit futuristic looking spears. The clothes too are like nothing that exist in western culture.  Brands, while they may strive to be modern and aspirational, do need to understand and respect the local culture, traditions and religion of their consumers in their communications and product/service offerings. Acknowledging and celebrating the traditions in a modern way recognising that these have evolved in a unique way and not along the same lines as western trends (nor have western trends simply been adopted by African consumers) goes a long way in garnering some respect for your brand and building an emotional connection with these consumers.


Speak my language


Building emotional connection is all about communication and what better way to communicate with someone than to speak in their language. The use of Xhosa in Black Panther (even if it wasn’t perfectly pronounced or used  exactly as it is colloquially), really did Marvel a huge favour by creating something that audiences felt was made just for them which is a very powerful emotion to create. Brands who use local language have a much higher chance of creating accessibility.  Even using English in a context that they are used to can go a long way in building that connection with a brand rather than taking standard westernised concepts or contexts with which they are not familiar and using them in advertising for the African market. Watch this hilarious Trevor Noah clip to understand what we mean.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_xraXv-r6k 

The multiple languages of Africa bring complexity to the marketing of products and services; but getting it right is absolutely crucial to brand acceptance and communication.


The reality of the hustle


Growing population and underemployment has led to a lifestyle of resilience and the hustling spirit is a key motivating force for this group and needs to be acknowledged by marketers.  Black Panther brings this feeling to life by positioning the people of Wakanda as in charge of their own destiny, that by working hard, they are able to control what happens to them, which is a very strong motivator for many African consumers. To support this lifestyle of hard work, brands can help in two ways. Firstly, by innovating products and services that directly meet the needs of small scale entrepreneurs. These might include: cell-phone hardware and airtime, business education short courses, transport, cashless payment options and other industry specific offerings. Personal image is also crucial for success, so personal care products, clothing, accessories and grooming services such as hair and nail boutiques can all tap into this need. Secondly, communication and activations that offer highly sought after benefits for micro businesses can add value to consumers’ lives and build brand loyalty. Brand activations and competitions could include start up capital, business tools such as smartphones or tablets, adult education, professional branding or accounting software.

African consumers are hustlers at heart, and brands need to hustle alongside them.




Lastly the power of optimism is a theme that resonates immensely with the African consumer.  African consumers  are almost universally convinced that their circumstances will improve in the future.  At the more modest end of the scale, consumers aspire to afford a home, a decent education for their children and a financial cushion for unexpected expenses while for others, a desire for global travel, luxury brands and expensive cars is expressed.  Black Panther excellently taps into this sense of a brighter tomorrow by portraying the people of Wakanda as solving their own problems and saving the day. This fits into a broader ambition of pride and reinvention, powerful emotions to evoke, creating a connection between the audience and the movie. For brands, propositions can range from aspirational but affordable mass market products to premium and highly sought after luxury goods. The financial constraints of these consumers are real but the optimism that is inherent to most middle class consumers can infuse advertising campaigns with an authentic African spirit.


For more info, please contact Nanzala.Mwaura@ipsos.com




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