In Our Opinion

Marketing lessons and Girl Scout cookies

By December 1, 2015 January 21st, 2019 No Comments

As the annual cookie pushing, I mean selling, approaches my 5th grade Girl Scout troop prepared for the sales season by working on their Customer Insight patch.

To say this patch was in my wheelhouse may be an understatement.

We started the meeting by discussing the goals of gaining customer insight – gain a greater understanding of our potential customer and market; identify challenges and opportunities, and ultimately sell more cookies.

Reviewing their sales history over the past three years, as well as that of the other troops in town, we reflected on what may have contributed to the year-over-year growth (it was determined that their age, their growing understanding of the benefits/earnings to our troop, older troops aging out of selling, and their booth sale at the grocery store were all contributing factors). Using this data we considered goals for the coming season, taking into account the addition of three new scouts to our troop (more girls = more boxes sold), but also the potential impact of a $1 per box price increase (more money/box = less boxes sold).

We covered the benefits of market research, conducting a survey of those present as to what was their favorite cookies and comparing it to 2011 sales data as well as a customer survey from 2014. Using this data, we discussed the benefits of knowing what were the best sellers, even when they didn’t match our favorites. (Thin Mints were the big winner across the board).


Photo credit: Wired

Then, we talked about barriers to purchase, such as diet, nutrition/allergies, increased price per box, and competition. With each we brainstormed ideas for breaking down the barrier – Gluten allergy? Try the Toffee Tastic. Already bought cookies? They make great gifts or freeze for later. Don’t like cookies? Donate to cookies for a cause.

Barriers to purchase

Illustrating the barrier between our customer and the cookie

One barrier the girls faced during their booth sale at the local grocery store were people who said they didn’t have any money on them. In addition to inviting the customer to come back to the booth at the end of the day, a strategy the girls agreed rarely worked, we discussed creating business cards with a troop email address to which people could send their cookie inquiries. While most of the girls liked the idea, one asked the question that sends a chill into a marketer’s heart – what if the cards don’t work?

Her rationale was clear and on point – most people passing the booth were probably using this excuse to be nice, and had no interest or intention of buying. She even asked me if I keep all the business cards I receive (I told her only the ones I was interested in connecting with later). Assuming that was the case, wouldn’t the cards be a waste of money?

In the words of marketing pioneer and merchant John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

My answer to her? There is a very good chance that the cards won’t work, but we won’t know if we don’t try.

As I tell clients, the failure is not to implement a strategy and have it miss the mark. The failure is not taking the time to evaluate the results – not only how we did on our actual sales, but also which strategies succeeded, and which missed the mark.

And even worse, by not doing this analysis, repeating our mistakes next year.

After the girls left, I considered the scribbles on the wall – sales goals, survey results, barriers to sales – and realized. . . there’s an awful lot you can learn from a cookie.