‘Black Panther’ & ‘Wonder Woman’: What makes them similar and how it impacts your business

Over the past year, die-hard fans have lost their minds in anticipation of the premiere of the movie Black Panther. There have been countless posts on social media, memes circulated around the web, and lots of gushing over the outfits the all-star cast wore to the premiere. And of course, there was lots of chatter from eager fans about what they would wear to see the movie.

But most people getting swept away by Black Panther fever weren’t hardcore fans of the comic series. The excitement overtook them for a more powerful reason: many African-Americans have never seen a superhero that looks like them on the big screen.

Women and girls around the world felt empowered last year after watching Wonder Woman take over the big screen. And that feeling was magnified among people of African descent after seeing the predominately black cast in Marvel’s portrayal of the Black Panther superhero and his entourage.

Black Panther has made more than $1.2 billion worldwide, and to date it is the 14th highest-grossing movie ever. Last year, worldwide sales of Wonder Woman topped $821 million, which at the time made it the highest-grossing superhero origin film.

Film industry expert Scott Mendelson likened the success of these two movies to “giving a starving demographic a prime filet.”

How businesses benefit from serving historically underrepresented communities

Representation matters, in particular to minority communities. And since the U.S. is on a trajectory to soon become a minority-majority nation, your customer base will only grow more diverse.

Even though it’s right to have diversity, to be inclusive, and to do a better job of highlighting positive images of traditionally underserved communities, it also makes sound business sense.

And the companies that decide to serve these often neglected customer groups have been receiving big paydays as a result.

Rihanna launched her Fenty Beauty cosmetics line last fall, with 40 shades of foundation to accommodate women of different complexions around the world. Its strategy of being inclusive of as many women as possible paid off, with the brand earning $72 million in its first month alone.

The days of growing by only marketing to the masses are numbered. If you want to stay relevant and reach hungry and increasingly powerful minority customer groups, the time to start serving them is now. Here are three ways to get started.

1. Build a culture committed to serving minorities beyond a superficial level

Serving groups of customers whose backgrounds are different from yours isn’t about swapping out photos or putting a few token people in key positions in your company.

It requires a deep commitment to learn about the unique and nuanced needs of each minority group. Without the willingness to do the work to understand how to effectively connect with these communities, you end up with missteps like H&M, Pepsi, and Dove had recently. No bueno.

Your organization must develop skills in being empathetic and culturally intelligent in order to deliver products and services that solve your customers’ problems like no one else.

2. Build a team that reflects the people you want to serve

They will help you significantly reduce the learning curve as you work to figure out how to connect with diverse audiences in an authentic way.

You could bring on new hires, engage consultants or hire agencies with experience serving your new customers.

Indeed, a high-performing team is a diverse team. When you assemble a group of people with different backgrounds, ideas and ways of viewing the world – and you tap into the strengths their diversity brings – you position yourself for higher-quality output.

3. Deliver products, services and experiences that solve an unmet need

Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Fenty Beauty didn’t earn the respect and loyalty of their customers just because they showed up. They are reaping the benefits of their target customers because they delivered products that demonstrated they understood their customers’ unique challenges.

Nubian Skin is a fashion company that specializes in providing nude lingerie to women of color. Founder Ade Hassan started the company after being frustrated that she couldn’t find nude hosiery that matched her skin tone. Since launching a few years ago, the brand’s products have been worn by Beyoncé and her dancers on tour, as well as by the cast of the blockbuster film Hidden Figures.

There may be times when the unmet need will become obvious as you start to learn more about your customers. Other times, you may have to dig deeper to uncover the insights. But the more you work to find ways to add value and serve these worthy customers, in time you will discover solutions that are a win for all.