Girl Scouts Organization Is Going 'Viral'

Girl Scouts

This year, the Girl Scouts are not only knocking on our doors to sell their cookies -- they're on YouTube. Or at least their national organization, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), is.

The video's purpose is not to "sell" cookies per se (nor are the famous treats sold through online channels, although the site helps people locate/connect with scouts in their area to buy cookies). Instead, it's to convey how the cookie proceeds are used to support worthy causes, and most important, how being a Girl Scout helps girls develop critical business and leadership skills.

Themed "What Can a Cookie Do?," the video starts by asking: "What is the largest business program -- led not by him, but by her -- that raises millions of dollars for communities and that produces more female business owners than most universities? Tip: It's not on Wall Street ... in fact, it's probably on your street."



The video explains that each cookie purchase can help a girl contribute to helping a wide variety of possible community or even international causes ... and that every cookie season helps another generation of girls learn skills critical to their future, including setting goals, making decisions, managing money, and developing people skills and business ethics.

The bottom-line message: "Every cookie has a mission: to help girls do great things."

The video, created for GSUSA by Andre Basso, has no voiceover. Instead, it delivers its stirring copy messages via creative use of type and simple graphic icons (not a single photo of a real Girl Scout).

This video effort is in some respects a precursor to an organizational rebranding campaign that will kick off this spring, reports GSUSA brand manager Ashlene Nand. Laurel Richie, who joined the organization as SVP/CMO in March 2008, is overseeing the rollout of the rebranding strategy, she explains.

"Girl Scouts of the USA is an iconic American brand with huge awareness, but we want to create greater understanding that being a Girl Scout isn't just about camping, or selling cookies -- it's about how opportunities like this build leadership in girls," says Nand. "Essentially, we're trying to brand 'leadership.'"

Indeed, in the case of the cookie program, Girl Scouts learn not only from selling the cookies face-to-face, but from participating in decisions about how proceeds are spent.

As a nonprofit, GSUSA traditionally has eschewed paid advertising in favor of partnering with corporations/media for ad funding and media exposure, Nand says. For instance, for cookie season, it produces print, radio and TV PSA creative that can be used by its local councils (councils make their own marketing plan decisions, however).

PSA's, public relations and partnerships with local councils are likewise likely to be key in the upcoming organizational rebranding, but GSUSA will also look to leverage digital channels and their grassroots, viral power in creative ways, says Nand.

The cookie video, which has generated nearly 12,000 views since its posting on Jan. 18, seems to be providing a head start.

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