New Girl Scout Brand Undermined By Health Hazard Cookies

New Girl Scout Brand Undermined By Health Hazard CookiesI love the Girl Scouts and actually was one for a couple of years long ago. Still have a great orange layer cake recipe captured in my quest for the cooking merit badge. And now our daughter Charlotte is a Daisy (pre-Brownies).

So I was dismayed to learn that the Girl Scouts are stumbling with the introduction of their new brand. The brand (read on for details) is inconsistent with the Girl Scouts most public action — the cookie program. As a result, instead of helping the org to move forward, it introduces doubts about the organization’s credibility, values and leadership.

According to a recent  Washington Post article, the Girl Scouts are moving fast on a brand makeover that de-emphasizes traditional pursuits such as earning merit badges. Instead, the new brand — spearheaded by former Oglivy & Mather partner Laurel Richie — is focused on 21st century pursuits including blogging and environmental projects.

The 97-year-old organization, which has suffered an 8 percent membership decline in the last decade, is focused hard on its online activities and last year hired Richie to shape and launch a brand around this re-direction. Richie saw the group’s image as stuck in an earlier era, and identified that as a significant barrier to recruiting urban and minority girls.

“The biggest change is last year’s debut of Journeys, a pilot curriculum that will mostly replace the system of earning badges on specific topics. Girls still will be able to earn badges if they want, but Journeys rarely mentions them, focusing instead on broader themes, including teamwork and healthy living. Rather than scouts earning a badge for cooking a single nutritious meal, for example, the books emphasize fruits and vegetables whenever food is mentioned,” reports the Washington Post.

Ok, I’m all for re-invigorating the Girl Scout program and the brand. Even when I was a Girl Scout, some of the merit badges were clearly conceived in the distant past.

But here’s the disconnect: Healthy living is a mismatch with cookies with the trans fats in several cookie varieties (even only if in small amounts, as claim the Girl Scouts here).

Trans fats (which lower healthy levels of HDL cholesterol) and the heart-unhealthy saturated fats (palm oil) used in eight cookie varieties, and healthy living are antithetical. As a matter of fact, cookies don’t mesh so well with healthy eating. In fact, the Girl Scouts they seem to be doing everything they can to alienate the very communities (urban and minority girls) that they’re trying to attract, as it’s these communities who are particularly at risk for childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

So I suggest that either the Girl Scouts walk the talk – and develop another revenue generator that fits its new brand – or cut healthy eating out of its talk. Or, as one commenter below suggests, recommend eating these and other cookies in moderation (there’s a merit badge for you).

Otherwise, the Girl Scouts’ credibility will remain seriously diminished.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Click comments below.

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications | 15 comments
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