The Marketing of An Icon

David Redfern/Redferns/ GettyImages JB Lacroix/ WireImage
David Redfern/Redferns/ GettyImages JB Lacroix/ WireImage

When I was 13 years old, I experienced what many adolescents go through— I had very little self-esteem.  My lack of self-esteem stemmed from feeling like I didn’t fit in.  My reflection didn’t fit the standards of beauty that adorned the pages of the magazines I read. I thought I was fat and was often on a diet to try to lose 10 pounds. I thought my nose was too broad and my thighs were too large. I even dreamed about the day when I would be able to afford surgery to fix my imperfections.

Of course, none of those options was available to me.  But when I heard Nina Simone’s version of  To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,  I saw and heard a woman who looked like me and I began to find my inner and outer beauty.  When I heard this song, I felt so validated.  I began to look at and accept my African features in a whole new way. This was a magnificent turning point in my life.

For me, and I’m sure many other women, Nina Simone represented a liberation from desiring an unattainable beauty.  Her music, presence, and stand for her artistry had a tremendous influence on me and I was proud of what she represented culturally in the United States and in my corner of the world in the Caribbean.

As a huge Nina Simone fan, I was captivated by the Netflix-produced documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?  that debuted last summer. The film’s authentic look at Nina’s life and music is engaging. A few weeks later, I was delighted to learn that a theatrical release, Nina, was coming to the silver screen, and I was planning too see it for the entertainment value.  I heard Zoe Saldana was slated to play the leading role.  While I questioned the producers’ choice of Ms. Saldana to fill the enormous emotional and cultural shoes of the iconic Nina Simone, that did not deter my plans to support the film.

Then came the release of the trailer for Nina.  I was taken aback to see that the film’s producers had darkened Ms. Saldana’s skin and had applied a prosthetic device to broaden her nose to make her look more like Nina Simone. The decision to change Zoe Saldana’s look to better reflect Nina is a clear example of what happens when production decisions go wrong.

Knowing your brand is key when developing a production or marketing strategy.  Whether it’s designing a package, developing advertising, choosing promotional vehicles or any other marketing efforts, several factors must be taken in to consideration.  It’s important to understand the brand, feature its unique attributes, and understand what it means to the audience. From the signs of it, the branding of Ninaseems to have missed these key elements.

What to Watch For

I’m looking forward to seeing Miles Ahead this month with Don Cheadle starring as the legendary Miles Davis. While this film is not a true biopic, I am eager to see how Mr. Cheadle created a film from this later portion of Miles Davis’ career.

Questions to Consider

  1. Which companies do you consider to be standouts when it comes to getting it right with their branding efforts?
  2. What marketing decisions do you feel have missed the mark and what was the fall out that ensued?
  3. What businesses have successfully gotten ahead of negative social media reactions to their marketing decisions?

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