Marketing Bootcamp

When You Make Your List of Savviest Marketers, Put the Girl Scouts at the Top

When You Make Your List of Savviest Marketers, Put the Girl Scouts at the Top
Image credit: Tom Simpson | Flickr

Who doesn't love Girl Scout Cookie season?

You know what I'm talking about, the annual six-to-eight week capitalistic ritual every February to April, where we select from 12 varieties of confectionery delights guaranteed to torpedo the staunchest New Year's weight loss resolution?

Even if you don't like the actual cookies themselves, it's tough not to love the five skills that this fundraising enterprise seeks to instill in young women, namely: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

While cookie sales are only a small part of the organization's remit, it's arguably the highest profile activity in which the Girl Scouts engage, and high profile is a critical part of marketing. 

In fact, many of the highest-profile women in this country are former Girl Scouts including: Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Taylor Swift, Katie Couric, Grace Kelly, Gloria Steinem and Venus Williams. Each of these powerful women is a massive personal brand in her own right.

It's safe to say the Girl Scouts know something about effective marketing. Here are four of the most notable aspects of their annual cookie-sale-apalooza.

1. Relational selling.

Many organizations view sales as a transactional activity, but not the Girl Scouts. They view it as primarily relational, with the vast majority of their sales occurring when the girls sell to their immediate and extended families, as well as close neighbors and friends.

The concept of relational selling is "baked" into their fundraising success.

Related: 8 Lessons This Record-Breaking Girl Scout Can Teach Entrepreneurs

2. Quality product.

There are only two bakeries in the country that have the licensing agreements authorizing them to produce official Girl Scout cookies. Such exclusive production arrangements ensure a consistent product that meets clearly established quality control standards.

3. Non-traditional sales channels.

Some girls go door-to-door, others stand outside the entrances of grocery stores or high-traffic retailers to try to entice you to buy a few boxes of Thin Mints.

Those are fine places to sell but the truly breakout sales occur via non-traditional channels, such as sending cookie boxes with parents to hungry, captive workers at the office.

Other successful venues include partnering with bowling alleys on team league nights, local movie theaters so filmgoers can munch Samoas during the screening or to Starbucks patrons who may fancy a Trefoil with a carmel machhiato latte.

Additionally, I was amazed to discover the Girl Scouts have a cookie finder mobile app to drive demand and engagement, a pretty ingenious solution for a non-traditional sales model.

If your organization doesn't have a mobile strategy, you might consider taking a page from the Girl Scout marketing handbook.

Related: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Are Now Clickable

4. A consistent brand.

While healthful eating is a hot trend right now, nobody would classify Girl Scout cookies as a health food. By its own admission, the cookies are marketed as a limited edition, short run treat.

As such, they clearly state on their web site that they can't make money selling their traditional cookies and more healthful line extensions that are organic or free from high fructose corn syrup, sugar-free, low-fat, high-fiber, nut-free...etc. 

The Girls Scouts know the sweet spot of their sales is that their consumers like sweets, so that's what they sell.

While these marketing insights might not be surprising, you might be surprised by their results. Cookie sales generate more than $655 million in annual revenue for local Girl Scout troops and councils. 

That's literally a pretty sweet success story.

Related: Talk About Ambition: One Girl Scout Sold 18,000 Boxes of Cookies