Girl Scouts start a cookie rivalry

The Girl Scouts of Connecticut had big changes for 2008: The state's five Girl Scout councils had merged into one, and, as a result, Girl Scout cookies would only be sold for one, four-month period, rather than throughout the year.

The Girl Scouts of Connecticut had big changes for 2008: The state's five Girl Scout councils had merged into one, and, as a result, Girl Scout cookies would only be sold for one, four-month period, rather than throughout the year.

To sell the target 3 million boxes, the Girl Scouts hired Adams & Knight to create awareness. The group also wanted to promote the programs within the Girl Scouts organization.

“We needed one area where we could really capture everyone,” says Gary Griffin, PR director at Adams & Knight.

Strategy

The Girl Scouts and Adams & Knight decided to generate media buzz through a vote for the state's favorite Girl Scout cookie.

“You can... [always] have a voting element... but we were concerned,” Griffin says. “Is this the thing that's going to make [Girl Scout cookies] fresh... again in the media?”

Through media outreach, celebrity spokespeople, and press events, the campaign would drive traffic to the Web site, CookieVote.com, where the group's message would be a constant presence.


“The key thing was making sure we had [a] consistent message that was attractive,” says Jennifer Smith Turner, CEO of Girl Scouts of CT.

Tactics

The effort turned into the most aggressive use of the Web in the history of the organization. Local celebrities were profiled about their favorite cookies, including Diane Smith, host of WTIC-AM News Talk's “Morning Show,” who encouraged people to go to the site.

The team held a press event when the cookies were delivered, and a local restaurant owner made a special dessert, chocolate peanut butter Girl Scout cookie pie, which was covered by food journalists.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced the winning cookie, Thin Mints, in Hartford, CT (pictured).

Results

In total, 10,000 votes were collected and the set goal was reached with 3 million boxes of cookies being sold. Media coverage reached outlets in all parts of the state, including radio, TV, and the Hartford Courant.

Although Griffin worried about the overexposure of voting and how it would be received in a presidential election year, he says his reservations proved to be unnecessary.

“In the middle of this enormous presidential election, the notion of a vote fit into the consciousness of the people,” Turner adds.

Future

Adams & Knight will continue to work with the Girl Scouts of Connecticut on various projects.

PRWeek view

When working with a familiar brand, it's easy to slip into complacency. Each year, the Girl Scouts of Connecticut issues a press release announcing the cookie sale.

The Girl Scouts and Adams & Knight realized new excitement needed to be generated for the event, so using the Web, enlisting local celebrities, and creating stories for the media was a smart idea.

They were also able to leverage the Girl Scout cookie to create a call to action that would ultimately reap sweet rewards. All those votes show that people care about Girl Scout Cookies. The campaign effectively conveyed that you had to get them before they were gone.

PR team: Girl Scouts of Connecticut and Adams & Knight (Avon, CT)

Campaign: CookieVote.com

Duration: January-April 17, 2008

Budget: $25,000

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