Girl Scout Cookies: A Marketing Love Story

Yesterday was National S’mores Day and lovers of the summer treat took to social media to pay homage to their favorite summer treat. But, social media users are not the only ones showing the s’more some love. The Girl Scouts of America have announced two brand new Girl Scout cookies that are s’more flavored. The first is a chocolate-coated cookie, made of a crispy graham cookie double dipped in a crème icing and a chocolatey coating. According to the Girl Scouts, it is vegan, free of artificial colors, preservatives, and partially hydrogenated oils. The second cookie is made of two crunchy graham cookies with a chocolate and marshmallow filling. It also contains no artificial flavors or colors, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These latest additions to the Girl Scout Cookie family will be for sale in early 2017.

Since the Girl Scouts of America have begun selling their famous cookies in 1917 people seem to not get enough of them. What exactly is the secret ingredient to the Girl Scout cookie success?

Every spring when the cookies officially go on sale, consumers buy approximately 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies within four months. That equals $767 million in overall sales of Girl Scout cookies. In 2012, NBC News broke down the overall Girl Scout cookie sales, determining which cookies are the most popular:

  1. Thin Mints — $175 million
  2. Samoas — $133 million
  3. Tagalongs — $91 million
  4. Do-si-dos/Savannahs — $71 million
  5. Trefoils — $63 million
  6. Other Varieties — $167 million

How can the Girl Scouts of America generate this much revenue in such a small window of time? And how has their marketing plan adapted over the last 100 years?

First and foremost the Girl Scouts of America set a goal for their three million members to achieve by selling a certain number of boxes. When a new season of cookie sales is about to begin, troops across the country set their own quotas and goals. For every quota they reach a prize is given to the troop, providing an incentive for troop members. Prizes can range from an invitation to a Girl Scout formal or a 10-day trip to Europe for the troop. With these types of incentives on the line, troop members tend to be more enthusiastic about selling cookies.

An essential marketing tactic the Girl Scouts are experts at is their understanding of their audience and where they can find them. That is why Girl Scouts are strategically placed outside of supermarkets and gas stations. When people enter a grocery store there is a good chance that they are hungry or are thinking about what they plan to cook for dinner that night. When they pass the strategically placed Girl Scout Cookie table in the front of the store they are reminded of their lingering hunger and about what they are going to buy for dessert.

 “The key to the Girl Scout cookie success is that it is the only girl led business that helps girls to develop five major and very important skills that they will use throughout their lives.  They are goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.” -Janet Zelenak, Director of Product Sales at The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore 

A key success to the cookie sales has to be the limited availability. Girl Scout cookies are only sold for a short period of time making them a special treat that you can only get for a limited time. If Girl Scout cookies were available all year round they would not be deemed special or unique to the Girl Scouts of the United States. When a product is only offered for a limited time it gives off the illusion that there is a scarce amount of cookies and consumers need to buy them as soon as possible. But, have no fear! There are plenty of cookies to go around and the Girl Scout Cookie demand will never crumble under pressure.

One thing that has certainly changed for cookie sales is the introduction of the Internet. The organization itself and its affiliated troops take to social media to announce updates and news regarding sale times and of course new cookie announcements. They even offer a feature offered on the official Girl Scouts website that helps customers find cookie booths in or near their zip code. If a local troop is not selling at the moment, customers can buy their Girl Scout Cookies online from their local troop on The Digital Cookie Platform.

Last but not least, there is that the nostalgia the Girl Scout Cookie gives off to people of all ages. For the last 100 years, The Girl Scouts of the United States have been serving nothing but smiles when selling cookies.

As the world and the people in it change, I believe that Girl Scouting has tried to change along with them. We are constantly working to progress and support girls. Girl Scouting has and always will help girls to grow to be confident and successful women.” –Janet Zelenak, Director of Product Sales at The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore

They have kept their tactics simple and they have been nothing but successful. With over three million current members of the organization, anybody has some type of connection to the Girl Scouts. Whether you are a fan of the Thin Mint or a die-hard Samoa lover there seems to be no end in sight for these classic American cookies.

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