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Marvel’s “Black Panther” and Ethnic Consumer Behavior of Moviegoers


This review looks at the movie Black Panther, released in 2018 as a part of the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU). The film gathered significant attention and achieved box office success as well as some significant milestones in the film industry. Notably, it won three Oscars and became the second highest-grossing film in the MCU. The interest in this movie poses several questions about moviegoers’ decisions. The popularity of the film could be explained by the fact that it featured a cast of Black male and female actors of different ages and previous experience. It is known that whole communities created campaigns for young Black Americans to see Black Panther in theaters due to the film’s focus on Black characters and culture.

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The present research asks which ad variables can influence people to see a movie and how they impact ticket sales. The literature review demonstrates a lack of scholarly studies on the subject of ethnic movie marketing. However, it shows that ethnic marketing in retail and service industries is effective for customers who value the brand’s knowledgeability and representation as well as ingenuity. These findings suggest all parts of Black Panther’s advertising campaign, including social media, traditional marketing, personal offers, and movie reviews, informed ethnic consumer choices. The most prominent, however, was the word-of-mouth marketing initiated by the community’s interest in self-identification.


In the winter of 2018, the movie Black Panther was released in theaters. A part of one of the most popular comic-based movie franchises, the film featured a large cast of Black actors. This aspect of Black Panther became a feature of the movie – people went to the theaters to see Black people play major and second plan roles and encouraged others to do the same (Lang & Lopez, 2018). This phenomenon raises a number of questions that are important for understanding what makes targeted marketing successful. First of all, one may inquire what key ad variables impact people’s choice to see a particular movie. Second, it is possible to see how many of these aspects are influential. Finally, online and offline ticket sales can be reviewed to analyze the most notable ad factors. The literature on this subject considers various products, and a gap in studying films made for Black audiences is apparent.


The film Black Panther featured a mostly Black cast of both popular and new actors. Black people participated in other stages of the movie’s development. Currently, it is known that the movie reached a number of film industry milestones. For example, it is the second-largest grossing movie from the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU) after the first Avengers (Mendelson, 2018). In the world of comic-based movies, Black Panther quickly leveled with films that featured the most popular characters ever, Batman and Iron Man (Mendelson, 2018). While Batman and Iron Man have a large fanbase from comics and popular culture, characters from Black Panther did not have a similar level of social capital prior to the 2018 movie. Nonetheless, Black Panther became the most popular movie that centered on one superhero (non-sequel solo film). Apart from quickly raising domestic and international attendance numbers, the film was also nominated for multiple Oscars, winning three of them (IMDb, 2019). The number of records that the film set is interesting to review as it shows what moviegoers may be influenced by when choosing what film is worth watching.

Reviewing this data, one can see that Black Panther was a success from a filmmaking and marketing standpoint. It received high scores among the critics and the audiences and won prominent awards (IMDb, 2019). The numbers, however, do not reveal the amount of interest that the movie accumulated. In the United States, many people united their entire communities to watch the movie. Celebrities, prominent business people, and citizens initiated campaigns for children to attend the cinema (Lang & Lopez, 2018). The excitement about Black Panther shows how the advertising was able to tap into the ethnic consumer market.

Literature Review

The search for relevant scholarly studies on this subject has revealed a lack of research about ethnic consumers’ decisions in the industry of filmmaking. Nevertheless, ethnic marketing is not a new term in the field, and some information can be found when looking through the findings in other industries. For example, Xu, Shim, Lotz, and Almeida (2004) examined the cultural background of Asian-American youth in relation to their consumer choices. The authors concentrated on two industries, food, and entertainment, and considered the opinions of one’s family and friends. As a result of exploratory factor analysis, Xu et al. (2004) determined that young consumers are motivated significantly by both constant and situational influences. A sense of cultural identity is a factor that impacts people’s decisions to participate in culture-driven activities. Furthermore, friends and communities encourage people’s ethnic consumer choices and shape their consumption behavior regardless of their efforts – the mere presence of Asian Americans in groups with other Asian Americans is a factor that contributes to more ethnicity-specific activities (Xu et al., 2004). This data explains how social media marketing for Black Panther influenced the number of Black moviegoers.

Another view of ethnic minority marketing is presented in the study about the Latinos population in the US. Peñaloza (2018) uses historical records to see how ethnic marketing shapes and informs the decisions of consumers. The scholar notes that the audience, whether it watches a movie or an advertisement, is applying their personal knowledge and understanding of the current political events when thinking about the events depicted in the piece of media. Therefore, companies should be aware of the contemporary issues existing in the world when choosing an approach to showing their product. The case of Black Panther is relevant to this study because it was released at a time when the United States had increased tensions between ethnicities (Lang & Lopez, 2018). As Peñaloza (2018) highlights, the correct appeal to such issues can produce a positive response and increase the popularity of the media piece. Black Panther’s marketing showcased the cast of the movie, depicting both male and female characters in a positive light while also avoiding tense interracial conflicts.

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The research about the ethical attributes of businesses and their appeal to ethnic consumers shows the importance of customer service and personalized marketing. Huang, Oppewal, & Mavondo (2013), while examining a different minority group (Chinese Australians), come to conclusions that are similar to previous studies. The authors’ correlation calculations demonstrate that customer service and the knowledgeability of people who provide the service are vital to consumers’ positive decisions (Huang et al., 2013). Thus, people’s ethnic consumer decisions may depend on the feelings that product marketing invokes. The study finds that the ethnicity of service providers and their knowledge of culture play an essential role in the client’s perception of the business’ legitimacy. Applying these factors to the advertising activities of Black Panther, it is clear that the movie’s marketing addressed these concerns. The mostly Black cast of the film, as well as its commitment to employing Black people, resemble the points of Huang et al. (2013) about hiring teams of appropriate ethnicity.

A study of young Black consumers’ decisions living in the UK investigates the significance of brand personification. Gbadamosi (2015) gathers data from Black teenagers in relation to their consumer choices and ethnic identity. The researcher finds that customers with a need for social acceptance based on their identity make specific ethnicity-driven choices (Gbadamosi, 2015). Such symbolic consumption is explained by people’s desire for self-construction since young people strive to create a balance between their ethnic and national identity as well as positive personal characteristics and culture-based narratives. Therefore, the use of marketing by Black Panther that focused on displaying influential Black actors in roles of power developed a story that was appealing to young minority populations. As Gbadamosi (2015) argues, celebrity endorsements and marketing communications, and social needs are among the factors that formulate the relevance of certain brands and events. Thus, the recognition of Black Panther as a major event in the history of comic-based and action films could further contribute to moviegoers’ decisions.

Another type of marketing, consumer reviews, is done by people who have watched the movie. Here, the relevance of ethnicity to consumers’ choices needs examination as well. Lin and Xu (2017) investigate the power that word-of-mouth and its specific aspects can have on people’s purchasing outcomes. The authors demonstrate that reviewers’ ethnicity is one of the major factors that contribute to people’s final decisions in engaging with services or products. Applying this finding to present research questions, one may argue that community work done by both marketers and activists was an essential contributor to the final decisions of moviegoers. The use of reviews as an advertising tactic is especially relevant to movies that display some new ideas or raise concerns from some groups. Black Panther introduced many Black characters to the MCU, and its release happened during political tensions in the US (Lang & Lopez, 2018). Thus, the value of reviews was significant in discussing the quality of the picture and making future viewers commit to seeing the film.

People’s motivations for attending a movie theater may differ from one person to another. However, some similarities in moviegoers’ decisions can be researched in more detail. Flynn (2018) argues that a film’s novelty, connections to a larger franchise, and a sense of community have an impact on people’s choices. Black Panther, in particular, is a movie that contains elements of all mentioned aspects. It introduces something new in the form of a new major character. It is a part of the MCU, and the franchise’s fans are influenced to attend due to their interest in the overarching narrative. Social media and community interest are also important – people’s discussion of the film increases the interest and creates a sense of participation in an event (Flynn, 2018). Black Panther was among the films that gathered attention both from comic fans and casual moviegoers (Lang & Lopez, 2018). As a result, the combination of these factors supported by ethnic marketing led to the movie’s box office success.


Flynn, E. (2018). Discovering audience motivations behind movie theater attendance. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 9(2), 94-103.

Gbadamosi, A. (2015). Brand personification and symbolic consumption among ethnic minority teenage consumers: An empirical study. Journal of Brand Management, 22(9), 737-754.

Huang, Y., Oppewal, H., & Mavondo, F. (2013). The influence of ethnic attributes on ethnic consumer choice of service outlet. European Journal of Marketing, 47(5/6), 877-898.

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IMDb. (2019). Black Panther. Web.

Lang, B., & Lopez, R. (2018). ‘Black Panther’s’ grassroots marketing movement is unlike any other Marvel movie. Variety. Web.

Lin, C. A., & Xu, X. (2017). Effectiveness of online consumer reviews: The influence of valence, reviewer ethnicity, social distance and source trustworthiness. Internet Research, 27(2), 362-380.

Mendelson, S. (2018). ‘Black Panther’ box office: More records and milestones as it nears $900m worldwide. Forbes. Web.

Peñaloza, L. (2018). Ethnic marketing practice and research at the intersection of market and social development: A macro study of the past and present, with a look to the future. Journal of Business Research, 82, 273-280.

Xu, J., Shim, S., Lotz, S., & Almeida, D. (2004). Ethnic identity, socialization factors, and culture‐specific consumption behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 21(2), 93-112.

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