lo-res_1742r-2084-sIn an effort to combat declining membership levels, the Girl Scouts of America is making bold changes to its image and emphasizing that its purpose is about more than just cookies. In a new marketing campaign, the focus is on highlighting the organization’s GIRL (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk Takers, and Leaders) initiative, which itself is focused on leadership and entrepreneurship skills that participants learn from their scouting organization.

The campaign centers around a contemporary anthem. The Scouts also are partnering with community-based organizations to help bolster membership among tween and teen girls, with special focus on increasing the number of girls of color involved in scouting. With a public service announcement, airing nationwide, the organization also is emphasizing the notion that Girl Scouts can claim “I’m Prepared . . . to Lead Like a Girl Scout.” In the spot, older girls engage in fun activities, such as playing the guitar and skateboarding. Notable by their absence are the lack of any evidence of the conventional badges, sashes, uniforms, or tables set up to sell cookies that traditionally have been central to the image of Girl Scouts.

Yet some concerns have been raised, noting that these recent changes could dilute the brand and make scouting less appealing to many parents who recall their experiences with scouting and know and love the existing organization. Still, the Girl Scouts must take steps to reverse membership trends, including losses of more than 300,000 participants from their membership rolls in the past three years.

Furthermore, Girl Scouts encourage girls to enroll from kindergarten through high school, but many girls leave scouting as they age, especially as their academic, social, and other precollege commitments increase. In seeking to establish a new image of leadership and fun, the organization hopes to convince older girls that the Girl Scouts still has something to offer. In particular, the life and professional skills taught by scouting can help differentiate members during the competitive college application process.

The annual cookie sale will not be going away any time soon (it brings in more than $800 million in sales annually). But girls nationwide are being exposed to the message that there is more to the Girl Scouts then just Thin Mints and Samoas.

Discussion Question:

  1. Is this new campaign likely to draw new Girl Scouts to the organization? Why or why not?

Source: Elizabeth Olson, “More Than Cookie Sellers: The Girl Scouts Buff Their Image,” The New York Times, December 11, 2016