My daughter and her Girl Scout buddy sit at the cookie “booth,” an ad hoc table display of Thin Mints, Samoas, Lemon Chalet Cremes, and Tagalongs. It’s a sunny Saturday in March and Trader Joe’s shoppers are out in droves.
Happy customers approach the girls. They wax nostalgic about the Girl Scouts, and then describe methods for enjoying Thin Mints, a Girl Scout classic: “I freeze mine.” “I eat them in one sitting.” “I hide mine from the rest of the family!” Other people slip a few bills into the donation can, explaining that while they don’t like sweets, they love the Girl Scouts.
A few people scurry past the display, avoiding eye contact with the girls, who call out “Have a Nice Day!” But most of the non-buyers toss out cheerful apologies: They just bought from the troop over at Safeway, they’re on a diet (pat-pat), their twin granddaughters already sold them a case.
I watch my daughter and her friend interact with customers, and realize that Girl Scout Cookies have the essential ingredients of an irresistible brand:
Emotional connection: Former Girl Scouts, parents and siblings of former Girl Scouts, neighbors with fond memories of buying cookies from former Girl Scouts–the brand appeals to our nostalgia, and possibly a desire to re-connect with childhood. The brands we connect with emotionally are the brands we buy, over and over.
Novelty factor: For an organization just shy of its 100th birthday, the brand is as novel as the day it was conceived. Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912; the idea to sell cookies as a fundraiser and the first recipe—for sugar cookies—were published in the The American Girl magazine in 1922. Some nine decades later, Little Brownie Bakers bakes and distributes Girl Scout Cookies. Available once a year in late winter/early spring, they’re a perennially novel product the public looks forward to year after year.
Traditional values: In everything they do—from troop meetings to community service activities–the Girl Scouts promote Courage, Confidence, and Character. The organization that now has an iPhone cookie sale locator app has not let the trappings of the Digital Age cloud traditional values. The slogan on the official Girl Scout Cookies website: “Every Cookie Has a Mission, to Help Girls Do Great Things.”
Kids as spokespeople: It’s a known fact that kids and critters open hearts and wallets—consider the cute factor in audience response to this year’s Super Bowl ads. Who can resist the Girl Scouts’ smiling, young faces and an earnest desire to do good things in the world? I’ll take three boxes, thank you.
Yum factor: We can’t ignore the obvious factor in the brand’s longstanding success: The cookies are yummy—okay, addictive. Personally, I favor the Samoas. (You try to say “no” to chocolate and coconut.) With cookie sales averaging 200 million boxes each year, it seems the Girl Scouts have the perfect recipe for a brand that will never go stale.