Girl Scouts Get Their Digital-First Merit Badge

Girl Scout cookies

Arguably the best culinary time of the year is approaching as the Girl Scouts are once again peddling their delicious wares to the general public. Over the next few weeks the seasons of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Lemonades and Peanut Butter Patties will once again be up for sale and coming soon to a suburban pantry near you. But as with everything these days, there’s a digital twist.

Responding to the pandemic, the organization noted in a Tuesday (Jan. 12) press release, has meant a needed to elevate the level of a digital game already in progress. As the 2021 season kicks off, Girl Scouts are including contact-free pickup and delivery orders through a new national collaboration with Grubhub and opening up cookie ordering nationally to the public on Feb. 1, so no one has to seek out a specific Girl Scout to make their cookie order.

“We’re proud of the resourceful ways Girl Scouts are running their cookie businesses safely and using their earnings to make the world a better place,” said interim GSUSA CEO Judith Batty. “This season, our girls will continue to exemplify what the cookie program taught them — how to think like entrepreneurs, use innovative sales tactics, and pivot to new ways of doing business when things don’t go according to plan. The cookie program is what keeps Girl Scouts thriving in communities across the country and is proven to build girls’ leadership skills and help them become successful in life.”

Lest it seem team PYMNTS is a bit over-enthused about the coming cookie rush, at least it can be said we are not alone. Girl Scout cookies, apart from being delicious, are big business. Really big. According to reports, the Girls Scouts of America (GSA) organization sells more cookies annually than Oreo does.

It may have started as a bake sale, but the cookie selling machine is a horse of an entirely different color in the modern era. The organization’s Digital Cookie platform now means Girl Scouts no longer have to sit outside supermarkets at tables full of cookies — since the mid-2010s Girl Scouts nationwide have been able to track their orders online, manage a customer database, interact with buyers via email and even do some light analysis on the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

Top cookie sellers in grades 6 through 8 are known informally throughout the organization as the Girl Scouts’ “cookie executives” — complete with business cards, pitch meetings and active strategizing on how to better corner the national cookie marker.

Members have to sell 500 boxes of cookies to sit on the high-ranking cookie committee, which is required by the organization to collaborate and come up with ways to help the GSA as a whole.

“This is big business … These girls are helping the bakery decide what their product launch is going to look like,” said Meridith Maskara, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater New York. “These are big three-year or four-year strategic decisions that they’re contributing to.”

It bears noting that while one might assume the Girls Scouts would have been caught up short by the global emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, they weren’t. The Girl Scouts, as it turned out, didn’t need to make a mad digital pivot to keep the cookies coming — they were already multiple years into the project.

Boy Scouts are known for their pledge to leave any place better than they found it. The Girl Scout pledge is less well known, to build a better world. Can digital cookies be considered living up to that mission? Well, it has been a hard year, and Girl Scout cookies are undeniably delicious. It’s an outside-the-box take on baking up a better world, but one we will be happy to have.

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