Girl Scouts: Cookie Queens, Marketing Mavens

In the wake of National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend, many of us are shamefully looking at the empty Thin Mint boxes sitting on our counter. Some may already be returning to our original cookie source, asking (for a friend) if they still have cookies available. But we’re not just hooked on the cookies: we’re hooked on the brand the Girl Scouts have built over nearly 100 years of cookie sales.

The Girl Scouts have crafted more than a marketing campaign — they’ve created an entire cookie culture that’s gaining momentum year after year. Sales in 2012 were enough to establish the Girl Scouts as the number 3 cookie company in the country, but that’s not what the organization is about. The Girl Scouts are a non-profit organization and are not shy about promoting their core values along with their cookies.

The scarcity principle

What reminds us, year after year, that the Girl Scouts do not solely exist to sell us cookies is the small windo w of time they’re available. This short season keeps the focus less on the treats and more on the sweet girls (and parents) who are dedicating their time to sell them to us.

This also creates hype about the “elusive” cookies and the demand skyrockets as soon as word gets out that they’re available for order.

Tech-savvy treats

Another defining characteristic of Girl Scout cookies is the culture that has developed around them — and the technology that has helped them do so. In 2011, they rolled out their cookie-finder app for consumers who wanted to be first to know when and where to get their cookies.

This year, the scouts took to Twitter, hosting Twitter parties (#cookieboss and #gno) that not only discussed the organization’s mission and connected Girl Scouts and troops throughout the country, but also gave away a year’s worth of cookies to a participant.

Great cookies, strong mission

Ultimately, it’s the product and the people behind it that bring this craze back every spring. Who can resist a good cookie that helps promote strong female leaders? The Girl Scout mission is clearly marked on each box of cookies you buy, and they’re not shy about sharing it on their website and social platforms.

What can brands learn from the Girl Scouts?

There are takeaways here for brands of all kinds and sizes.

  • Find what sets you apart. For the Girl Scout cookies, it’s the strong mission and the short cookie-selling season that really differentiate the product.
  • Don’t hesitate to try new technology. Even if you don’t need to use the cookie-finder app, or don’t choose to participate in the Twitter parties, there’s something inherently exciting about the Girl Scout’s adopting this technology. Forward-thinking companies that try to solve their consumer’s problems in a user-friendly way win. Those that don’t, lose.
  • Make your mission a priority. What are your core values? What do you have to offer more than just a basic product or service? What sets your team apart? Identify your mission and don’t hesitate to let community, prospects and customers know (make sure it’s a good mission).

In the end, it’s not just the organization that has created a culture for its customers, it’s the girls who challenge themselves each year to sell us these cookies. These young entrepreneurs are coming up with new ways to reach us every year, so keep a close eye on the Girl Scouts: you might just learn something with your next box of Thin Mints.

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