There is a perfect little turquoise, green and purple rainbow sneering at me from my kitchen counter — two boxes of Trefoils, three boxes of Thin Mints and one box of Samoas. For those of us non-Asians, that’s 2 + 3 + 1 = seven boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, minus the one box of Samoas that is sitting three-quarters empty in the passenger seat of my car. Seven! I bought seven boxes of Girl Scout Cookies this year.
Every March, no matter how full my cookie jar already is, what “nutrition plan” (we don’t use the “D” word around here anymore) I am on, or how much I am saving up for my next vacation, I seem to find myself with at least one box each of Samoas, Thin Mints, and Trefoils, but this year, I have seven boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.
I don’t know how this happened because diet and budget aside, I don’t even like Girl Scout Cookies.
Let’s be honest with one another. Girl Scout Cookies taste about as good as the sloppy seconds from the Keebler elves, which makes the inflated $4/box price tag even more ridiculous. And yet, when the cookies hit the market, the entire world goes nuts. Perhaps that’s why I allow myself to willingly participate — the Girl Scout Cookie thing is an example of phenomenal sales and marketing.
Selling cookies most certainly has changed since the days that I donned my kelly-green sash, plastered with merit-badges. That was long before Chalet Cremes were retired, back when peanut butter sandwich cookies were still called Do-Si-Dos, and Caramel De-Lites hadn’t even been born as Samoas. I woke up early every morning for two weeks. I pounded the pavement in my neighborhood. I went door to door before and after school. I had an ambitious quota of 50 boxes, and I met it. No, I exceeded it, because that’s the kind of overachieving little businessgirl I was. I’m surprised I didn’t hike up the retail price by 25% and offer a “discount.” Maybe I did, but that’s illegal, so maybe I didn’t.
I never relied on my parents as my personal field sales force in their offices, but these days, it’s perfectly acceptable to use Mom or Dad as a cookie distributor, guilting their co-workers into bulk purchases. I’ve gotten those emails sent to everyone, not politely bcc’d, but strategically cc’d so that if you don’t have a rainbow stack of boxes on your desk come March, you’re the office a$hole who didn’t support the CEO’s daughter’s troop.
Today, I’d be surprised if 50 boxes was even a modest goal. It’s almost like it would be an embarrassment to the troop if they didn’t sell 50 boxes a day. It’s made for some very enterprising young ladies, using every sly sales approach, every guerilla marketing tactic, filling up every sales channel. Innocent people, stopping at the market only to pick up a head of lettuce and a pack of gum, find themselves walking back to their cars, arms laden with boxes of cookies, stunned at what just hit them.
It’s a love-hate thing for the customer, really. People put their heads down and look the other way when they see that card table in front of the market with neat little stacks of cookie boxes. They roll their eyes and sink down behind their 22″ flat-screen monitors when Bob-from-Accounting (but not Bob-from-IT; he’s not married) saunters over to their cubicles with an order sheet and that expectant look in his eye. They don’t want to buy. Remember? Girl Scout Cookies don’t taste good. Girl Scout Cookies are over-priced.
But why does it somehow turn into a buying frenzy? Like Turbo Tickle Me Elmo at Christmas time? Why? Why will there be two boxes of thin mints and a box of Trefoils in my freezer by the end of the week? Why will I secretly feel relieved that I have a stockpile of Samoas for…July?!?!
Proctor & Gamble could learn a lesson or two about branding, sales, and marketing from a gaggle of squealing little girls in green berets.