Brand Purpose Without Branding Is Pointless

During its short-time on Wall Street, the Fearless Girl became an icon, taking on the might of the aggressive Charging Bull. The campaign gained plaudits over the world for its request for an index fund that comprises of gender-diverse companies with a relatively high percentage of women among their senior leadership.

At the 2017 Cannes Lions festival, Fearless Girl was awarded three Grand Prix on the first day of the event alone! Winning the Glass (which deals with marketing addressing gender inequality) and PR categories, and tying for first place in the Outdoor category.

The campaign was a masterstroke from the multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs, who commissioned designer, Kristen Visbal to create the bronze sculpture.

Only, it wasn’t Goldman Sachs… the piece was commissioned by investment firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA). If we’d told you that this was all the brainchild of the Goldman Sachs marketing department, would you have questioned it?

Would you know, from seeing the Fearless Girl, who had installed it? Who had commissioned it?

The plaque below the statue states: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference”, a clear, explicit declaration. But, in this case, a more appropriate message for SSGA would be to “Know the power of branding. IT makes a difference”.

After all, brand purpose without branding is an unrewarding exercise for any company. Whilst we’d like to think that companies conduct CSR to improve the lives of its employees and others, we know deep down that its only goal is to improve the bottom line of the brand.

Analysts from marketing firm Apex Marketing estimated that the statue resulted in $7.4 million in free publicity for SSGA, but, SSGA is no more of a household name now, than it was before the campaign.

To add insult to injury, the firm have not even practiced what they preached, with only six women taking up 31 of the current top leadership positions in the company. As a result, the campaign is not only devoid of branding, but also only portrays faux brand purpose, with McCann’s global creative chairman Rob Reilly, unveiling all at Spikes Asia 2018.

Interchangeable Ideas

“When Fearless Girl started, it wasn’t a girl,” Reilly says. “The original idea we presented to State Street was not a little girl but a female bull. We presented a female bull to our client and they said ‘we know you love this idea, but we’re just not that comfortable with it.’”

SSGA were not enamoured with the idea, allowing the creative agency to pitch the campaign to other companies. McCann pitched the same idea to Microsoft – proposing the idea as part of a campaign around women in technology. Not only was the campaign interchangeable, but the company and message.

We’ve written before about the importance and positive impacts of brand purpose. When done right it, can be a masterstroke in promoting your product and service – as well as creating meaningful social change – however,  SSGA has fallen short, in this case.

SSGA would likely argue that the campaign was successful – with 152 companies identified with an all-male board of directors adding a female – but is that enough? Does that impact the success of the campaign from a commercial sense? In SSGA’s Environmental Social Governance report, no mention is given to the profitability of the campaign, with the only marketing statistic given is the 10 billion social, print and digital media impressions recorded. But for an unbranded statue, is it 10 billion impressions for SSGA? Or the Fearless Girl herself?

Good CSR contributes to the sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders. Whilst SSGA identified a $28 trillion increase in global GDP from women participating in the workforce identically to men, without the financial figures to boost their campaign, the Fearless Girl is, sadly, a publicity stunt rather than a marketing campaign fuelled in brand purpose.

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