It's More Than OK That the Fearless Girl Statue Is a Marketing Stunt
On the morning of International Women's Day, morning commuters on Wall Street were met with a new and awesome presence: a bronze statue of a defiant little girl, fists on her hips and with a determined expression, facing down the district's famous Charging Bull statue. The Fearless Girl quickly drew crowds and has been the hottest selfie spot in New York City this week. Meanwhile, on the internet, the 50-inch, 250-pound statue, ponytail and all, has been a regular sight on every social media scroll.
Surprisingly, the story behind the overnight feminist sensation is two behemoth corporations: State Street Global Advisors, a trillion-dollar financial firm, and McCann New York, one of the leading creative agencies in the world, which works for SSGA. Unlike Charging Bull, which was installed illegally by artist Arturo Di Modica in 1989, Fearless Girl was a well-executed "brand experience" masterminded by some of the best advertising minds around — and they got a permit to install the statue.
Does that make the statement less meaningful? Some people thought so, including Huffington Post writer Emily Peck, who declared the stunt "kinda bull" and pointed out that SSGA is still a Wall Street giant that doesn't have a great hiring history with women. The Twitter response was also mixed, with some finding offense at the marketing angle and others not loving that the statue is of a little girl, not a woman.
While Peck makes more than a few valid points, I think that Fearless Girl is all of the best parts of a marketing stunt and that other businesses should follow SSGA's example.
First and foremost, the statue is more than an empty gesture. The stunt is the launch of a new campaign by SSGA that actively encourages the 3,500 companies that it invests in to increase the number of women on their corporate boards — and it does so by pointing out that companies with female leadership are more financially successful.
Secondly, the piece was created by a woman, sculptor Kristen Visbal, and the campaign was brought to life by a creative team that included women at every level. It's not as if SSGA isn't taking its own advice when it comes to the employment of women, even if there is much more work to do.
Finally, even though the statue does have something to do with marketing and branding, that shouldn't negate the impact of the piece on others. The art is real art by a real artist, and even if it didn't make you feel something personally, there is no doubt that it has inspired and provoked millions of people across the world in just a few days. No matter its origin, it has an effect — and that effect is overwhelmingly positive and, if Fearless Girl is allowed to stay, long-lasting.
Marketing is usually a solely for-profit act. Why should we be upset if companies are beginning to put more thought and and more activism into what has historically just been selfish, by-the-book advertising? The end result helps everyone. The fact that The Fearless Girl is a PR stunt should add to our praise of it, not take away from it.
After the presidential election, many individuals on both sides of the aisle have decided to stop being silent and to take open political action. What is more surprising, though, is that corporations have also started speaking out politically. Budweiser, Audi and Coca-Cola all premiered political ads during the Super Bowl this year, and other companies, like Airbnb and Penzeys Spices, have taken vocal stances against new policies like the Muslim travel ban. If, as the Supreme Court decided, corporations are people, these corporations have a responsibility to forward good causes and stand up for what's right, just like anyone else. If they do so while also trying to build their reputation and improve their PR, that also only sounds human.
Do you think that businesses should be getting political? Sound off in the comments.
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