One of the keys of a good brand relationship is a genuine connection, and Girl Scouts certainly qualifies. Founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, the organization currently has 3.2 million members, and more than 59 million women were Girl Scouts as children, me included! The Lovemarks website describes Girl Scouts of the USA as “a youth organization for girls in the United States.”.
Girl Scouts is certainly a youth organization, one of its points-of-parity (similarities to other brands), along with similar organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club, 4H, and the Boy Scouts of America. In addition to serving youth, these organizations all aim to create safe, fun environments in which children can learn certain skill-sets.
The Girl Scout’s main, and most obvious, point-of-difference (what sets a brand apart) is that it solely serves girls. As an organization focused on girls, it sets itself apart from other groups, allowing the Girl Scouts to create a program that girls respond well to. The organization also has a certain respect and recognition to its name that is a credit to its programming as well as its marketing to build great leaders, which sets itself apart from others.
Perhaps the most recognized point-of-difference is Girl Scout cookies! There is no other organization that can create such a feeling of anticipation from five words: “It’s Girl Scout cookie time!” The Girl Scouts is so smart with this fundraiser as well. They don’t just sell cookies, they sell an idea – the idea that empowered girls can make a difference. I encourage you to look at – really look at and read – a box of Girl Scout cookies. Last year’s boxes included the phrase “Oh, what a girl can do!”, the five skills girls learn through selling cookies (goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics), and quotes like: “Taking on new challenges builds our confidence. When we achieve our goals, we grow even more empowered.”
According to the Lovemarks website, “Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever.” I can’t think of a better way to describe Girl Scouts; I even have a magnet on my car that says “Once A Girl Scout, Always A Girl Scout.” I became a Girl Scout as a first grader, and was the last one from my troop to stay in Girl Scouts through my senior year of high school. I loved being a Girl Scout, and I’m thrilled to be a registered Scout again now that my daughter is a Daisy Scout.
It’s almost hard for me to explain my loyalty to Girl Scouting, because it is such a part of who I am. I learned so many life skills through 12 years of scouting, everything from managing friendships, learning how to make fire lasagna, how to build a camp fire, managing finances, planning meals, becoming independent, and mentoring younger scouts. Some of my fondest memories involve Girl Scouts, and I still remember most of the songs, which I now sing with my daughter.
As an adult, it can be scary to try to relive something that you held so dear as a child, because sometimes it just doesn’t hold up. This past summer my daughter Sassafras and I headed out to her first Girl Scout camping experience, and I was full of excitement and a bit of trepidation. From the moment I pulled into the camp, it was like going home again. It still holds up.
As a Girl Scout, I know what the program did for me, and now as a parent, I love seeing how it’s shaping my daughter. During our summer trip, she had the opportunity to climb a 60-foot wall. She choose to do the hardest side – the cargo net. From the bottom, it looks simple – just climb up like a ladder. But Sass soon found out just how hard it was once she got both feet off of the ground and her feet pushed out. She got a few feet up, struggling the whole way, and had to stop when a storm rolled through. Several hours later she had her chance again, and she did not give up. I have never seen my five year-old so determined, and she climbed the whole way up. The look in her face of sheer pride to accomplishing this difficult task was probably more rewarding for me than to her.
One of my most prized possessions is a Girl Scout Handbook that was printed in 1934. The original owner, Mildred Hunt, kept this handbook until she passed away, at which time it was given to me by her son, a coworker of my father’s who knew I was in Girl Scouts. The book describes Girl Scouting as this:
A Girl Scout has kinship with the pioneers who have gone before her. The adventure that was theirs, the joy of accomplishment, the satisfaction of giving service to others belong to the girl of today just as much as they did to Sacajawea, Louisa Alcott, Juliette Low, or to any other pioneer spirit.
Friendliness and helpfulness are Girl Scout ways and a Girl Scout tries to be prepared to do her share in her home and in her community. To this end she learns to cook and sew and hammer and saw-to make things herself. She learns to care for little children and sick persons; to keep herself healthy; to give First Aid to the injured.
This message still resonates today, and the Girls Scout’s mission is simply a refined version: “Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”