Girl Scouts Get a New Look
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
So, Ali, you were a Girl Scout, right?
ALISON STEWART, host:
For one week.
MARTIN: One week?
STEWART: Yes, I was a Brownie. I was a devoted Brownie.
MARTIN: That's for the little ones.
STEWART: Yeah, which is fun because you make sit-upons, and you eat snacks, and take naps, but when I got to Girl Scouts, they wanted me to do things.
MARTIN: And you were like, I'm out of here.
STEWART: I just - I was like, what?
MARTIN: Did you ever sell Girl Scout cookies?
STEWART: Where's the singing? Where's the - uh, no, I did not ever sell Girl Scout cookies.
STEWART: But I've bought some. I support girls who decide...
STEWART: To dive into this.
MARTIN: I mean, I did this for many years, and every year around cookie season, I would get this pit in my stomach.
MARTIN: I like Girl Scouts, but the selling?
STEWART: Well, I also wasn't a joiner. I've never been a big joiner.
MARTIN: Well, we like you, anyway.
MARTIN: But this whole - the cookie thing, every year, I would get nervous because it makes - you know, it's kind of scary. You have to go up, and my mom would make me go talk to strangers, and really, the final straw for me was when she forced me to go to the bowling alley in Idaho Falls and sell them to guy who owned the bowling alley, and he just - his name was Chick, and he smelled like cigarettes, and he kissed me on the cheek when I sold him Thin Mints, and after that I just said, Mom, I'm out of here.
STEWART: That sounds like it should be reported, perhaps.
MARTIN: Yeah, that's a longer in-depth series. For generations, though, cookie selling - when people say Girl Scouts, they think Thin Mints, Tagalongs, you know, these are the - the cookies have been inextricably linked to scouting, but the Girl Scouts do a whole lot of other things, and the gist of the whole organization really is to help girls build confidence and character. Now, about one in ten American girls are involved in scouting, and that's a number that really hasn't changed that much in decades.
Girl Scout officers, people involved in the organization want it to change. They want more members in their organization. They are making some major changes to try to shake up the group's image, and win over that 90 percent of young girls who just aren't interested, many of whom, who like Alison, aren't really joiners of any groups, let alone the Scouts. Now, enter Laurel Richie. She's a PR executive from Ogilvy, who this week took the reigns as the Girl Scouts' first chief marketing officer. Hi, Laurel.
Ms. LAUREL RICHIE (Chief Marketing Officer, Girl Scouts): Good morning.
MARTIN: Thanks for being with us here this morning.
Ms. RICHIE: My pleasure.
MARTIN: Laurel, were you a Girl Scout?
Ms. RICHIE: Absolutely. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, as were both of my sisters, and my mother was actually cookie chairwoman for our troop.
MARTIN: So, how in the world did you get from being an executive, very high up in the world of marketing at Ogilvy, to now taking the reigns as the chief marketing exec for the Girl Scouts? Why was this attractive to you?
Ms. RICHIE: Oh, absolutely it was the mission of the Girl Scouts, which I think you mentioned earlier - this notion of an organization committed to raising girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make a difference in the world. I just think that's - not only is it noble, I think it's really important in this day and age, and I also believe that this is an organization, you know, committed to raising the next generation of female leaders.
MARTIN: Now, why now - why did the Scouts decide that we need some marketing? What was the tipping point? Why did they all of a sudden turn around and say, hey, we're not getting the numbers that we want, we need to shake things up?
Ms. RICHIE: It's part of an overall sort of revitalization of the Girl Scouts that has many, many facets, but as you, you know, as I was listening to you talking earlier, and referencing the notion of how inextricably linked Girl Scouts are to cookies, I think we realize that if we needed to grow, while cookies are a very important part of what we do, because that's where girls learn financial literacy.
You know, they learn how to put a plan together. They learn how to make a sale. There's a mathematical component of it, but what we really want to do is make sure that people know about all the other wonderful things that Girl Scouts do, both in terms of the organization, and in terms of the girls themselves. You know, I was reading something as I was getting up to speed last night about a young girl who has developed a series of self-defense classes for victims of physical abuse who live in homeless shelters.
So she designed - conceived of the program. She designed it. She worked with the shelter to execute it, and I just think that people need to know that girls who were members of Girl Scouts are doing - yes, they're selling cookies and learning a lot from that experience, but they are also doing a host of other really wonderful things.
MARTIN: Now, in some of the literature that's been put out about these changes, there is this focus on trying to attract girls who aren't really joiners. I mean, there's also a lot of competition for young people these days, you know, there are a lot of things they could be doing with their free time. Who are you trying to attract? And how do you attract a non-joiner?
Ms. RICHIE: I think you attract a non-joiner by letting her know what happens at Girl Scouts, and what Girl Scouts do. So, and as I look at it as an opportunity for young girls, it's a very holistic multi-faceted experience. So, some of it is going to be camping, and some of it is going to be community service, and some of it is going to be personal development, and I think you get a much more multi-faceted holistic experience with the Girl Scouts than you might get should you do an activity that is more single-mindedly focused, like swimming, or soccer, or piano.
Not that those things are bad, but I just think this is a really nice compliment to that, and I think looking at the imagery of the brand is one of the ways we hope to attract people. I think we will look at who we partner with, looking for people and organizations that share our values, but are also relevant to today's girls. For example, we partner with Vanessa and Angela Simmons, the daughters of Rev Run and Justine Simmons, and they are working with us as mentors and role models to girls, so I think when young women get a greater sense of not only what we do but the other young women who choose to partner with us, I think that's going to really help.
MARTIN: So, in five years, or - I just threw out that number randomly, but when your tenure at the Scouts is over, if people play the word association game, and someone says "Girl Scouts," what's the first word you want people to say instead of "Thin Mints"?
Ms. RICHIE: Leadership.
MARTIN: There you go. There you have it. Laurel Richie. She is the new chief marketing officer for the Girl Scouts. Hey, thanks, Laurel, and good luck!
Ms. RICHIE: Thanks so much!
MARTIN: Take care.
Ms. RICHIE: Bye-bye.
STEWART: I wonder if they'll change the kind of badges you can get, because I think that would make a big difference. You know, because I think some of the badges might seem...
MARTIN: Out dated.
STEWART: I have nieces, and their favorite word, "it seems corny." That's one of their favorite words, but you know, you've got to change with the times. How about a badge in some sort of Internet activity?
MARTIN: I like it!
STEWART: That would be good, right?
MARTIN: I like it.
STEWART: Science, math...
MARTIN: Maybe Laurel is still on the line.
STEWART: We're full of ideas. This is the BPP from NPR News.