Why Fearless Girl’s branding ‘had to be perfect’

Fearless Girl by McCann New York

She was the darling of Cannes 2017, taking home four Grand Prix, and the creative duo behind New York City's ‘Fearless Girl' statue were not unaware of the power their project could have from the offset.

Created for financial firm State Street Global Advisors to encourage companies to promote female leadership, the statue, which stares down Wall Street's 'Charging Bull', has garnered a huge amount of media attention.

Tali Gumbiner and Lizzie Wilson, the McCann creative team behind the project, were conscious of the risks they were taking in emblematically vandalising a New York landmark. For Gumbiner, “it had to be perfect” or else Fearless Girl would fall flat on her bronze, audacious face.

Speaking to The Drum's Katie Deighton in the August issue, she added: “There wasn’t an A and a B+, there was an A and a massive F."

After the sculpture had been finalised and created by female artists, Gumbiner – the copywriter of the pair – had the unenviable task of writing the plaque positioned at Fearless Girl’s feet. The copy was arguably just as important as the design itself: it would be what would turn the girl from a piece of public art into a brand campaign, albeit a subtle one.

“I have never spent more time writing anything in my life,” said Gumbiner. “You can’t brand these projects too heavily. I can’t stress that enough – if she was heavily branded it would have killed her. People would be like ‘I don’t want to pose with something that is so clearly an ad’.

“So we had to figure out a light touch for her that will tie her to State Street, without overwhelming passers by with the commercial nature of this statue.”

The final words read: ‘Know the power of women in leadership/SHE makes a difference’, followed by the State Street logo. “It gave people something to Google basically,” said Gumbiner.

Although the plaque stayed in place for the first month, Fearless Girl remained in place as part of the city’s art programme. Outside of the industry bubble she continues to be photographed like she’s any other New York landmark. McCann devised this project cognizant of how it could be shared socially.

“I think in making something tangible, we were able to make a symbol and that symbolism is ubiquitous and can be translated – it can go viral without a huge digital activation,” added Gumbiner. “We started with something tactile that was drenched in meaning and then allowed the fruits of social media to carry it in a way that a digital campaign would.”

Read the full story by Katie Deighton in The Drum magazine's latest issue.

Staff Writer

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