"Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference." The words emblazoned on the plaque beneath Kristen Visbal's Fearless Girl are steeped with power, timeliness, and first-rate branding. A year and a half after her unveiling, Fearless Girl's powerful symbolism is as strong as ever, but it's her clever brand of advertising that has become the awe and envy of marketing agencies around the world. Who would have imagined a bronze child would change the way we think about viral campaigns?
A Brief Look Back
When the four-foot statue was first unveiled — juxtaposed against the financial district's famous Charging Bull — in March of 2017, a legend was born. Across traditional media, social media, and in the streets of New York City, the public's reactions were palpable. From excitement, empowerment, and support to annoyance, distrust, and even anger, responses and emotions ran the gambit. Installed as equal parts statement and publicity, Fearless Girl was (and still is) impossible to ignore.
Amid the commotion and cameras, the world learned that the piece had been commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), an investment firm with the awareness and foresight to understand, embrace, and ride the power of gender-diverse companies. Installed on the eve of International Women's Day, Fearless Girl would quickly become a symbol of female determination and resiliency. She was roundly embraced for turning the national conversation toward the lack of gender diversity in boardrooms, politics, and other positions of leadership, and simultaneously promoted State Street's SHE fund — an index fund that specifically focuses on gender-diverse companies.
With a one-week permit from City Hall, Fearless Girl had a limited-time to grab the world's attention and make her message clear. However, SSGA would see its marketing investment pay off with several extensions and a public petition to make Fearless Girl a permanent display. In 2018, she still faces down the Charging Bull, and though she is scheduled to move, she'll remain a permanent feature in New York City.
What's in a Statement?
Ah, the power of strong messaging. Nothing catches an audience more quickly than a spirited position on a topical subject. Fearless Girl was a brilliant example of marketing at it's best because it was so relevant and timely. There's no question it was advertising, but it also made a humanizing statement on behalf of a large, faceless investment firm. The statement was simple: girls (and women) are fearless. And, it's no accident that the statue was dropped into place just ahead of International Women's Day during a time rife with gender inequality debates.
The "fight like a girl," campaign quickly followed, capitalizing on the conversation that Fearless Girl began. Though SSGA intended to open a dialogue about gender-diversity in business, their statement was simple enough that it sparked a broader conversation.
Art or Advertising? Why Not Both?
Some controversies that surrounded Fearless Girl came back to that age-old question: "but is it art?" Advertising has often been looked down upon and viewed by some as cheap tricks and gimmicks, but some of the most iconic advertising campaigns of all time end up on walls, t-shirts, posters, and in museums. Art is the perfect outlet for advertising because it speaks to people. It allows people to examine the message you've delivered and draw their own conclusions.
Arturo Di Modica, the artist behind Charging Bull, was one of the loudest voices in opposition to Fearless Girl. He told the New York Post: "That is not a symbol! It's an advertising trick."
But, with the brilliant work of a commissioned artist and a story that extends beyond SSGA's SHE fund, it's easy to argue that Fearless Girl is the perfect marriage of both art and advertising.
A Closer Look at the Campaign
She appeared overnight, but Fearless Girl and her accompanying campaign took months of dedication and planning. Along with the physical labor put in by the artist, the campaign required the time and effort of an entire team who quietly prepared an integrated marketing campaign that consisted of four different media types.
With the help of paid, earned, shared, and owned media, Fearless Girl was introduced to the unsuspecting world along with a mission to shed light on the lack of gender diversity in Wall Street boardrooms and beyond. The campaign used very little paid advertising and instead focused on a client email campaign, social video, a blog post, and leveraging LinkedIn and Twitter.
SSGA spent approximately $250,000 on a marketing effort that would generate between $27 million and $38 million in publicity. Within 12 hours of launch, the Fearless Girl campaign had created over 1 billion impressions on Twitter. After 12 weeks, SSGA had 4.6 billion Twitter impressions, 745 million impressions on Instagram, and saw a daily trading increase of almost 170% in their Gender Diversity Index ETF. Most important of all? Fearless Girl helped set State Street apart as a socially conscious investment firm.
What the Marketing World Has Learned
Advertising is moving away from catchy jingles and gimmicks. Fearless Girl set the stage for advertising that seeks cultural relevance — campaigns that align themselves with topical discussions, social issues, and even political ideals.
Today's consumer is looking to align their spending habits with their beliefs. People want to know who they're buying from and where that company stands on social issues. 57% of consumers are buying or boycotting brands based on the company's social stances and political alignments. So the market is eager for timely, thoughtful campaigns that give companies (as well as consumers) something to stand for. Together.
Image courtesy of Anthony Quintano via flickr