What Marketers Can Learn from Fearless Girl

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Today, Stephanie Paterik, Managing Editor at AdWeek, had the opportunity to discuss the message and idea behind the worldwide campaign Fearless Girl. All of the panelists at this session were involved in the creation of Fearless Girl and included Eric Silver, the North American Chief Creative Officer at McCann, Devika Bulchandani, the Managing Director of McCann and President of McCann XBC and Stephen Tisdalle, the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Managing Director at State Street Global Advisors (SSGA).

Long before the idea of Fearless Girl was ever created, SSGA began their commitment to equality and diversity. SSGA is ethical in their decisions of who to invest with, trying to advocate for greater diversity. SSGA also commits to investing in female leadership, not because of political reasons but for performance reasons. Companies with females in senior roles outperform companies that lack diversity, according to Tisdalle.

However, their belief system was relatively unknown to customers and that was SSGA’s main goal from this campaign: make their belief system known to their customers in order to stand out in the competitive industry of asset management. SSGA is not perfect, and never claimed to be the penultimate embodiment of gender equality or diversity in the workplace, according to Tisdalle. The company understands it has improvements to make under its own roof, but also wanted to express their commitment to making those changes.

“She is as much of an inspiration to our organization as she is to to the world,” said Tisdalle.

The creative team at McCann said the idea for “something that would stand down the charging bull” came first. What they struggled on, was what that something should be, according to Silver. The creative team eventually decided on the little girl as symbol of hope and optimism.

To display this correctly, the stance of the statue would be highly important. Everything about her body language was intentional, from the hands on the hips to the chin lifted to her body leaning ever so slightly in. Tisdalle pointed out that Fearless Girl isn’t raising her fist but she is ready to participate, and she’s confident about who she is.

“We went for something that had hope at its core as opposed to having fight at its core,” said Bulchandani.

The universality of Fearless Girl is part of what made people from all around the world find an emotional attachment to the statue. Fearless Girl represents no race or ethnicity and was created from a combination of different models.

When asked why McCann decided to create a statue for this campaign instead of utilizing the “shining new tools” many advertising agencies are pushing in their campaigns, Bulchandani replied that in good advertising, it’s not all about the channel you use to display the message; it’s about humans and about beliefs.

“If we think about humans and we think about big ideas, we will figure it out in a much more provocative, emotional, interesting way than starting with channels,” said Bulchandani.

Although the creative team admitted there was no way to prepare for the magnitude of worldwide attention Fearless Girl got, they did intend for her to be shared digitally. This physical advertisement became one of the biggest digital campaigns ever with over six billion impressions now, according to Tisdalle.

Fearless Girl was created to be instagrammable, explained Silver. Her pose is easy to imitate, the hashtag was created by McCann, and their plan was that Fearless Girl would become known by word-of-mouth over social media. If the statue hadn’t been absolutely perfect, it would’ve been a disaster, according to Tisdalle.

Something like this attracts good and bad attention and lots of risk is involved. Brands take a risk by entering conversations. SSGA and McCann started with a clear narrative for this, but when the media and social media users became involved in creating their own narrative, it got much bigger and harder to control than anyone expected. The smartest move on SSGA’s part was allowing the public discourse to chart its own path, according to Silver.

On making the statue permanent in New York City, Tisdalle responded that SSGA will “let the general public make that decision.” While SSGA does own the statue, they consider it owned by the world because of the values Fearless Girl represents, according to Tisdalle. But SSGA does plan to continue the Fearless Girl messaging as the values of diversity and equality have always been a clear proponent of SSGA’s business philosophy.

The biggest lessons for marketers from the Fearless Girl campaign is that advertising creativity can be used to make change and improve the world, according to Bulchandani. Tisdalle’s final advice to the marketing and advertising industry was to be brave. If you get canned, said Tisdalle, work for a place where you can be brave.

Fearless Girl stands for so much in today’s world. Aside from Fearless Girl’s core values of diversity and equality, this campaign teaches the advertising and creative industry so much about the importance of messages and beliefs no matter what channel they are being presented on. Fearless Girl is a story of how a relatively small investment company took a risk, joined a tough conversation, and produced campaign that induced discussion worldwide — and what’s more Fearless than that?

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