The Fearless Girl Is Worth $7.4 Million in Free Publicity for State StreetBy
Statue commissioned to emphasize bank’s board diversity push
Marketing exposure equal to 28% of firm’s 2016 ad spending
In the 51 days since Fearless Girl took her defiant place in front of Wall Street’s charging bull, she’s never lacked for company.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and hundreds of visiting women and girls have tweeted selfies with artist Kristen Visbal’s bronze statue. Fearless Girl has been showered with flowers and adorned with feminist buttons, pink “pussyhats” and even a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” cap.
All that attention is worth real money. The marketing and media exposure for State Street Corp., the custody bank that installed the statue for International Women’s Day, is worth $7.4 million, said Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing, which measures the value of media placement and sponsorships. State Street spent just $26 million on advertising in all of 2016, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising spending.
The statue’s surprise debut on March 7 also earned Boston-based State Street almost 70 percent of financial services media the next day, overshadowing even Goldman Sachs Group Inc. “That’s a pretty huge marketing victory,” said Kara Burney, senior director of marketing at TrackMaven, which measures social-media mentions. She cited 500,000 shares on networks including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram -- not bad for a company with a usual social-media audience less than half that size.
State Street unveiled Fearless Girl in conjunction with a fresh call on 3,500 companies to add more women to their boards, particularly those with no female members. It also marked the one-year anniversary of the bank’s Gender Diversity Index ETF (ticker symbol: SHE), which allows investors to support female-friendly companies.
The bank overhauled its investment criteria to increase its focus on governance and diversity in 2013, but Fearless Girl really helped drive the message home, said Rakhi Kumar, who leads environmental, social and governance investment strategy at State Street.
“In at least two cases, companies proactively called us and said, ‘We don’t have a woman on our board, we read about your policy and we would like to explain our position and work with you to give us time,”’ Kumar said. This year the firm has said it will take voting action if its portfolio companies drag their feet on diversity measures.
More than 600 companies in the Russell 3000 Index have all-male boards, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, an imbalance that persists in spite of decades of research that finds gender diversity correlates with higher performance. State Street cites an MSCI study that showed companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without a critical mass of women at the top.
Meanwhile, Fearless Girl continues to cause commotion -- to State Street’s benefit. Unlike most public-relations stunts, this statue has charted in the media for nearly eight weeks, Smallwood said.
Social-media mentions also spiked in late March when New York City agreed to let the statue remain for a year and again midway through April when Arturo DiModica, the creator of Charging Bull, complained that the new entrant detracted from his work. Fearless Girl generated three separate days with social-media mentions spiking to more than 10,000 instances, said Erica Jenkins, chief product officer at Sysomos, which tracks social-media mentions.
“I didn’t care who was behind it, I thought it was an interesting metaphor for women taking on really big business,” said Jenkins, who recounts often being the only woman in a room in her own business life. “I think it was an ingenious marketing play.”
— With assistance by Sabrina Willmer