Don't be fooled by that cute kid bearing a box of cookies and a big smile: the rebranded Girl Scouts are social marketing ninjas.
Consider that there is a standalone website, YouTube channel, a Flickr group, and Facebook page for Girl Scout Cookies. No wonder today’s digitally savvy 9 year-old Girl Scout can sell 400 boxes of Thin Mints in an hour.
Using Facebook, an iPhone and e-payment service Square, Facebook global policy manager Jud Hoffman’s daughter Greta and a few friends did just that.
"It was fantastic and ridiculously easy. It turned out to be an attraction for people to use their credit card just to see how cool this thing was," said Hoffman to Ad Age.
It certainly helped that Facebook exec Randi Zuckerberg tweeted about the cookies: "Some very smart, enterprising Girl Scouts are at Facebook HQ w/boxes of cookies & @square devices. Making SERIOUS bank."
On Chicago’s South Side, the West Chesterfield Girl Scout troop is using the “Cookie Locator” GPS-based mobile app to alert potential customers where they can buy cookies.
Girl Scouts nationally set up cookie-sales booths in drugstores, supermarkets and discount stores — but this is the first year a social media sales app is included.
While Girl Scout councils can't sell cookies online, partly to maintain freshness, a Cookie Club password-protected website lets girls send e-cards asking for pledges to buy cookies, followed by a link to an order form filled out online. Scouts track sales goals, their troop's goals and their progress. Delivery and payment in the Chicago-area is still done old-school, face-to-face.
"The Cookie Club teaches the girls how to get organized online and how to set up a business online," said Maria Wynne, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, the world's largest Girl Scout Council comprised of 86,000 Girl Scouts and 22,000 volunteers in 245 communities.
"They begin to get a sense of operating a business, and that is the entrepreneurship aspect of the cookie sales that we encourage. We've allowed the girls to think about their goals in a bigger way because the web allows them a larger reach."
Yesterday, Intuit announced that the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio are now offering mobile payments using Intuit's GoPayment system for smartphones.
They may be younger, and their product may be sweeter, but Girl Scouts Cookie sales may prove this generation's version of an MBA.