What we can learn from Blackbeard

Kevin Canty
4 min readMay 29, 2022

Have you ever heard about the story of Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard? He was the dreadnought of Caribbean piracy who ruled over West Indian waters for years with his wits and fearlessness. He became a pirate after finding himself unemployed worlds away from home. The infamous pirate was killed in battle off the coast of North Carolina. While his actual treasure has never been found, Blackbeard’s infamy has lived on for centuries. Blackbeard was a wicked man; he came to the new world and set the Atlantic coast on fire. So what can we learn from this notorious figure? Well, we can learn about the power of branding.

It’s in the name

His tactics were both devious and intimidating. This man sure knew how to make an impression. It’s possible that he got his famous nickname because of his reputation alone. The more people are afraid, or at least think they should be for their safety (the less likely someone will fight back), then there is no need to lose any crew members- everyone gives up without even trying. The name “Blackbeard” does sound barbaric, but if he didn’t exist and we heard this name, would it have the same connotation?

Let’s break that down. The beard has always been seen as a sign of wisdom and gentility, but there are those in our history who have worn beards to hurt humanity. Men like Ivan the Terrible, Rasputin, Osama Bin Laden and Genghis Khan. Also, the last 125 years show that Americans are not fond of beards. Black is the color of death, decay and gloom. It’s also perceived as luxurious and professional or powerful depending on how it’s used in the design. For example, an authoritative business suit will have black shades to show its sharp features. So in many Western cultures, the color black and beard can be seen as negative.

The pirate from hell

Whether it’s in business or pleasure, appearances matter. Blackbeard was a master of creating the right image to get what he wanted. His number one objective was to force his targets to surrender to him without fighting. He did this to intimidate people, and it often worked. Blackbeard was a devil with his black clothing and a long beard. He carried many pistols on him but, even more importantly, had fire-spitting ropes attached to the hat that made up most of his look — making for an incredibly intimidating pirate captain. This idea is also reflected in his jolly roger. His flag is quite mysterious and dark, but there are some hints of the man. For example, in his flag, you will see some devil with a spear stabbing at a heart with a glass of wine in the other hand. It’s a warning to surrender or be killed.

A vessel for a vision

Queen Anne’s Revenge was Blackbeard’s flagship, and it’s a perfect example of how a clever name can capture the imagination. The name conjures up visions of a mighty vessel driven by a crew with a score to settle. There are many reasons people turn to piracy, but one primary reason is a lack of opportunity in the new world. It’s the perfect name for a pirate ship, and it’s easy to see why Blackbeard chose it for his own. A well-chosen name can be the key to success in today’s business world. So whether you’re designing a new product or rebranding an existing one, take some time to find the perfect name. It might just make all the difference.

Edward Teach can teach

Blackbeard was a wicked man, but even the most heinous criminals can teach us something about business. When dollars aren’t making sense, take a look at your branding. We’ve seen that branding is key to success and that good branding can make up for other deficiencies. At kewlmethod.com, we help businesses create smashing brands that stand out in a crowded marketplace. Contact us today if you need help creating or improving your brand strategy. We would be happy to assist you in putting your best foot forward and achieving lasting success.

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Kevin Canty

Founder, Brand Strategist & Design Lead at kewlmethod.com, where ideas meet strategy.