How Girl Scout Cookie Brand Names Cause Chaos Amongst Consumers

There are few people in the world (or at least in our office) that don’t get excited when the time to order Girl Scout cookies rolls around. This week the cookies arrived and the debate began over which was the best.

Personally I’m partial to those cookies from the peanut butter family, but what you call them depends on where you are. What I call Peanut Butter Patties and Peanut Butter Sandwiches, others refer to as Do-si-dos and Tagalongs. There are few issues until the occasion that the brands flip. When that happens be prepared for an angry backlash.

The Girl Scouts of America have long realized that a primary driver of purchase is the fact that you feel good after making a purchase. You buy to help out the Girl Scouts. Price and actual product coming secondary. The Boston Globe reported that price “is hardly ever a factor, until buyers find out that the same box of cookies is selling for less in the next town over”.

So with goodwill being the primary driver of purchase, why not rename boring cookies with clever names to reinforce that branding? Now instead of getting a cookie you get a “Thanks-a-Lot” or a cookie that references the fun you are enabling with “Do-si-dos” or “Tagalongs”. Now you aren’t buying a cookie; you’re buying a feeling.

That’s just smart marketing.

Yet the country is split on the names of their cookies. Half call shortbread cookies “Shortbread” while the other call their cookies “Trefoils”.

Occasionally the name flips, a girl scout troop is pushing a “new” product, and people freak out a little. Why? Because there are people like me who don’t like change. I’ve been eating Peanut Butter Patties my whole life.  I’m loyal to that brand and not to Tagalongs. Don’t change my delicious cookies!

Similarly a person who’s been eating “Tagalongs” their whole life doesn’t want to start selling or eating “Peanut Butter Patties”.

Carrie Stetler from the Star Ledger justifiably complains:

“I’m outraged–yes, outraged–that Girl Scout Cookies have new names.

Samoas are now “Caramel deLites.” Do-si-dos are “Peanut Butter Sandwiches.” Tagalongs are “Peanut Butter Cookies” and Trefoils are “Shortbreads.”

But how are we going to move cookies with dull names like “Peanut Butter Patties?” And won’t we get tired of explaining to customers what happened with the names?

If our cookie sales drop this year, the ABC Bakery will hear about it from this irate mom, believe you me!”

Carrie Stetler, Star Ledger

The problem is that there are two bakeries producing these cookies and only one is allowed to use the special brand names. Depending on the county you are in, you get one or the other. Occasionally your Girl Scout troop’s bakery changes and all hell breaks loose. See Carrie’s complaints and my long held refusal to acknowledge Trefoils.

So my recommendation to Girl Scouts of America – change the name and make it permanent. Consistency in branding is key and if the name changes, every year you’ll have the same freak out from some section of your customers. Work to avoid that.

In order to avoid that, put together some educational materials that explain the name change, both to the people selling and to the people buying. To the sellers explain how the name change will help improve sales and tie people to the organization. To the ultimate buyers explain how donations help the Girl Scouts they are supporting. They used to have great stories on the donation sheet and the boxes that explained how the money raised worked to benefit specific programs. That was great stuff!

What do you think? What are your cookies called? And even if called by a different name, what’s your favorite?


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