Friday, April 10, 2009

More than just cookies.

We all know and love the Girl Scouts of America for their cookies, and actually, the cookie season just ended for the year. Everyone has their favorite flavor. Personally, mine is the Samoa. I should know, because I sold them myself for many years growing up. I made it all the way from Brownies to Seniors and got my Gold Award (Eagle Scout equivalent). I want to make clear that while I had a good time with my friends who were a part of my troop, I was not excited to have to go to meetings and earn patches. My parents were the force behind me staying a member. I’d like to address the cookie sales arm of the organization at some point because they’re a great example of a non-profit fundraising, but I’ll save that for another post.

The subject here is brand image. I think it’s safe to say that as far as the Girl Scout Brand is concerned, most Americans identify “girl scouts” with selling delicious cookies and little girls knitting and sewing. While those pursuits are admirable (I enjoy needle craft and cookies myself), that’s not really what the organization has to offer to young women and adults. I know from experience that selling cookies and doing crafts are indeed a part of what it is to be a Girl Scout, but there’s so much more that can be gained. The organization has a rich history and has had an influence on the lives and self-esteem of young women for many decades, but they have to find their place in the crowded, busy, cluttered lives of 21st century girls.

It turns out that The Girl Scouts of America is trying to change their brand image. The have a plan at least with a whole new section of their website set up.

The FAQ on the Girl Scouts’ website lists the question “Why does Girl Scouts need a new image?”

This is the answer they supply: “Though the public’s perception of Girl Scouts is overwhelmingly positive, our image (often associated with cookies, camping and crafts) does not clearly reflect what Girl Scouting is really about—offering an array of enriching experiences to help girls develop leadership skills that will serve them immediately and all their lives.”

They have developed a new "Core Business Strategy" and even use that corporate, business school term to characterize it. I think it is going to take more than a spiffy new website to convince the local Girl Scout Councils and the American public as a whole that the organization is indeed more than just a cookie-selling machine. I hope the Girl Scouts succeed in their new mission to change the why their brand is viewed. However, it will take a lot of effort, clever marketing, and a fundamental change in the fabric of the organization, how members perceive and present themselves, in order to achieve the brand image they are seeking.

Want to get involved? Volunteer

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