Are you afraid of the Fearless Girl?

With all that’s transpired in the past few weeks and months—from Harvey Weinstein, to Kevin Spacey, to Matt Lauer and beyond, it’s pretty incredible that the best thing to happen in our industry this year was a 50-inch tall girl staring down the ultimate symbol of machismo, of power.

fearless girl

It’s even more incredible that Fearless Girl was nine months out in front, making the work even better than we thought. She was ahead of the headlines.

And whether you’re client or agency-side, this could make you even more afraid. With good reason.

Because the moment she arrived on Wall Street, every one of us knew what was coming: our bosses peppering us with the inevitable “what’s going to be our Fearless Girl?”

And that’s a great question. It was great work. A brilliant idea, beautifully executed—and, as we now know even better, perfectly timed.

It’s not controversial to say that it’s going to win a gajillion awards. It will probably—and rightfully—land McCann atop the A-List and get the SSGA clients promoted. The crazy thing? It wasn’t an “ad” in the traditional sense. At all. And it wasn’t actually selling anything.

What it was, though, was disruptive. Unexpected. Memorable. And most importantly, purposeful.

Yes, it was an experience. An installation. An on-the-street activation. But that…is not what we should all be chasing.

We shouldn’t be trying to figure out what statue to make, but which stand to take.

Getting to the next Fearless Girl starts with zeroing in on WHY your organization exists in the first place, and building out from there to get to the WHAT you should be doing to gain your consumers’ trust and loyalty.

Because Fearless Girl was proof that we all want to believe, the question becomes: what do you have that’s worth believing in?

Look at REI’s #OptOutside, another celebrated piece of work, which again was not an “ad”. It too, was powerful. Because it, too, was unexpected. And importantly, it was true to who they are. “We’re about getting you outside. You have the day off. Don’t spend it shopping.” So simple, really. A brand act that delivers on why REI exists in the first place.

REI we're not here

It’s why CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes was so profound. It was clear, really. But I’m not sure many of us realized, until they decided to stop, the irony in a pharmacy selling deadly tobacco products. CVS decided that they were about one thing: Health. They decided that this was the way to prove it. And we’re all jealous—and should be. They gave up billions in tobacco sales, spent relatively little in measured media to tell the story and, in the process, increased their revenue.

CVS quits for good

So the next time you feel your heart racing with anxiety as you struggle to figure out how to reach the bar set by the now famous bronze girl, remember this recipe for success:

• Start with your brand’s DNA. Why do you exist in the first place? Then build out to the single best brand act that will bring that to life.
• We’re in the business of creating true believers. What does your brand have that’s truly worth believing in.
• It’s about the Proof, not the Promise. A great anthem spot, no matter how good the music or how famous the celebrity VO, will not truly work—if you don’t back it up with the proof that this is authentically who your brand is.
• Start with tension. Do what no one would expect from your brand, but what everyone will then agree was perfect for your brand.

And remember that if you don’t start with purpose…there is no purpose.

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