Day 6·The New Sell

#BlackPantherChallenge creator reveals the strategy behind his viral campaign

Frederick Joseph, the marketing consultant behind #BlackPantherChallenge, raised nearly $1 million USD to send more than 75,000 kids to watch Black Panther. Forbes magazine calls him one of 30 under 30 who are changing the rules of marketing.

Frederick Joseph is raising money again to send girls to see Captain Marvel

In final installment of our series, The New Sell, we're looking at marketing for good. (Ben Shannon/CBC)
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Last year, months before the release of Black Panther, marketing consultant Frederick Joseph had an idea.

He knew the film would be a major milestone for representation in a Marvel Studios production, and he wanted to raise money to send as many kids as possible to theatres to see it.

His GoFundMe campaign went viral, and was endorsed by celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Ellen Degeneres. He ultimately raised nearly a million dollars — the largest entertainment-related GoFundMe campaign ever.

Joseph now has a similar campaign underway ahead of the release of Captain Marvel in March.  

At his non-profit creative agency, We Have Stories, Joseph uses digital campaign know-how to help people who have good ideas, but not the means to market them.

Frederick Joseph raised nearly $1 million to send kids to the movie theater and see Black Panther. (Submitted by Frederick Joseph)

Forbes magazine listed Joseph of 30 under 30 who are changing the rules of marketing.

For our final installment of the The New Sell, our series on the new rules marketing in a digital world, Frederick Joseph spoke to Day 6 host Brent Bambury about how those rules have changed for non-profit campaigns.

Your grandmother had a lot to do with why you wanted to use your marketing skills to help people amplify their ideas. What's the story of your grandmother?

My grandmother is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She passed away about 10 years ago, but while she was here, outside of being my grandmother, she was an author as well.

I would say during her time she wrote at least 10 different children's novels, and sadly, none of them were ever published. [That was] partially because of the fact that she was a woman, and more importantly, a black woman. There is a lack of resources and lack of access.

As I got older, I really wanted to make sure that part of my legacy lives on this earth is making sure that people who are like my grandmother and have talent but don't necessarily have resources and access, you know, I can potentially help with that.

Your grandmother sounds really special but there's a lot of people out there with good ideas like she had or lots of talent. How do you decide which ones you're going to get behind.

There's a ton of people with amazing ideas and talent. I don't know that I even realized how many people were in need of the help. We actually had our first online grantee application in the fall and we received over 400 applications in a matter of three weeks.

So, we had to drill down and what we did was we chose a few of the most amazing projects, but we're also trying to connect some of the people that we didn't choose who were doing great work with other potential resources and opportunities for access.

We also just donate to projects as well. So, if there's a project we felt we could you know kind of push a little forward with some finances we're doing that too.

It seems to me that what you are good at is finding people, connecting people, and making sure that the voices that are out there are being heard ... where did your understanding of that dynamic come from?

I like to think that myself and my team, we have a bit of a special sauce when it comes to seeing moments and leveraging them for impact. I think that they just really came from paying attention to people. So, when there's a major moment, it really is just a matter of leading people to water and they'll do the right thing.

You started the Black Panther challenge. It raised nearly a million dollars online. You said that it was no accident that this campaign went viral — that you stayed up many nights to work it, to make it happen. Tell us about that work. What did it include?

We had started planning the Black Panther campaign months before the film had ever released ... We were like, "OK let's jump on this and let's analyze how Marvel's marketing this and get the pinpoints on how we're going to market our campaign."

So, we built out a media strategy: who we're going to write op-eds for, where we're going to show up, [and] what influencers are going to be involved. There's a lot of influencers who people think that organically kind of shared the campaign, but we had already spoken to them months ahead of time.

Marvel Studios' first female-led movie, Captain Marvel, is out in March. (David Lopez/Marvel Entertainment)

We've done the same thing again with Captain Marvel now. I don't think that Marvel has necessarily marketed it in the ways in which I'm leveraging it to make money.

Marvel's marketing it as really cool movie [with a] woman superhero. But they're not playing on the fact that it comes out for International Women's Day during Women's History Month. I know that that's going to be a tipping point for women before they even start talking about it.

Non-profit marketing campaigns have been around for a long time, [like the] We Are The World the campaign in the 1980s — one of the most successful charity campaigns ever. What makes the work that you're doing different?

A lot of the work that I do is drill down to everyday experiences. It's saying that, yes, we need to support children who are hungry; yes, we need to get people who have cancer the help that they need, but it's also important that these people have experiences and a life worth living.

That's kind of the sweet spot that I come in ... where I'm like, I want you guys think more granular about a person's life and their existence while here and let's support that too.

You said Captain Marvel is being released on International Women's Day. What is your pitch for your Captain Marvel campaign?

It's Marvel Studios' first woman-lead film. It represents so much. The character herself is a fighter pilot. She's also going to be the strongest Avenger when she joins the team and she's just totally awesome.

Her best friend is a black woman who's also a fighter pilot. So there's so much positive representation for women.

I'm hoping that people around the world understand that it's important that girls see these types of women in these roles, where they're powerful, bold, smart and amazing.


To hear the full interview with Frederick Joseph, download our podcast or click 'Listen' at the top of this page.

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