Beyond Cookies: Rebranding Tips for the Girl Scouts

We’ve all seen them sitting outside the local supermarket or hardware store in their adorable uniforms. Nearby is a table piled high with brightly-colored boxes and a homemade sign taped in front. Maybe you’ve encountered them through a coworker making annual rounds through the office, asking, “How many boxes do you want this year?”

They’re Girl Scouts. We know the cookies: Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and other delicious or not-so-delicious (yes, we’re looking at you, Trefoils). These cookies inspire serious devotion and, probably, unhealthy hoarding.

But how many of us, even former Girl Scouts, know that the Girl Scouts of the USA is far more than just an adorable way to distribute cookies?

The fact is that the organization has a rich history of empowering women and making America a better place.


For example, did you know that Girl Scouts were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement? Or that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Girl Scouts “a force for desegregation”? Did you know that Girl Scouts helped train female pilots during World War II? That Girl Scouts has  encouraged young women to get started in STEM since 1913?

That’s the problem. We know the Girl Scouts for cookies, but little else.

As the Boy Scouts (BSA) makes a well-publicized play to recruit girls and changes its name to Scouts BSA, the Girl Scouts faces competition it hasn’t seen since its founding 100+ years ago.  America’s premier brand for young women is under threat from BSA and its splashy attempt at inclusion.

Rebrand. Now.

While the Girl Scouts have taken BSA to court, there is another way it can recapture the high ground and take back its narrative: rebranding.

An organization’s brand is the story of who it is and what it stands for; and it’s the brand that people recognize and remember whenever they encounter an organization’s name or members.

The Girl Scouts have an amazing story to tell. If the Girl Scouts is going to thrive for the next 100 years, it needs to rebrand. Now.

What would that new image look like? It would start with highlighting positive history. People and especially families trust brands with a long history and positive reputation. Parents want to know that their daughters are going to be educated and empowered. A rebranded Girl Scouts is the only organization with the historical pedigree to do that.

Forward and Backward

Highlighting history does not mean that a rebranded Girls Scouts would be backward-looking. Instead, it should focus on what the organization is doing for tomorrow’s women.

Do you want your daughter to get exposure to NASA or organizations like Lockheed Martin? Join the Girl Scouts. Do you want your daughter to realize she can be a pioneer in fields like robotics or cyber security? Entrepreneurship? Finance? Politics? Engineering? Web design? There’s a badge for each of them.

If the Girl Scouts want to compete with BSA, it must tell America what it stands for: girls. The Girl Scouts are for education and empowerment. In addition, Girl Scouts provide America’s young women with the safe, encouraging, and nurturing environment they need to discover who they are and who they want to be.

Press Releases Alone Won't Do

This is going to require outreach. No rebranding can succeed unless an organization makes a concerted effort to engage the public and the media – press releases won’t do it. America’s girls and their parents deserve to know the Girl Scouts and what young girls will gain by joining.

To be successful, Girl Scouts must deliver its message where people are: online and on social media. This is a difficult environment to navigate for any organization. Yet tomorrow’s women are digital natives. Today’s parents are online almost as much as their kids. This is where the debates about women’s issues happen. Girl Scouts needs to participate in these discussions when and, yes, where they happen.

The Girl Scouts will need some buzz, too. Scouts BSA made a big splash with its announcement about accepting girls. Girl Scouts needs to fight back with the truth that it is the sole organization keying on girls’ personal and professional development.

Rebranding will help the Girl Scouts win against new competition from BSA. In addition it will help the organization thrive in its second century. The key is to focus on what the Girl Scouts always has done best: empower young women to become everything they can and want to be.

Brittany Cover is communications director with Mair Strategies LLC