Just last fall, BSA made the announcement that they would now accept girls into their organization. While some met this with support, others voiced disapproval or criticism. The Girl Scouts of America were one of the more vocal organizations to do so. According to an article by CNN, GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan claimed that this decision was partially due to falling recruitment numbers of BSA. The Girl Scouts of America following Hannan’s statement said that, “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts have the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.” The organization referred to the positive effects of a single-gender environment claiming that, “Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs.” These comments were also met with criticism.
Despite all this, others applauded the choice, often referencing that with this decision, girls would now be eligible to receive the Eagle Scout Award. GSUSA does not have an exact equivalent of this award. The Gold Award, which could only in some respects be considered its equal is not nearly as known or recognized in comparison to the Eagle Scout Award. This, however is hardly the only reason for BSA’s decision. The organization described their choice to be a “step forward” stating, “The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls… Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing.”
Now 6 months since this announcement, both BSA and GSUSA have released compelling ad campaigns, each catering a little differently to their own current situations. At the beginning of this month, BSA released their campaign with the tag line “Scout Me In”, featuring images of both boys and girls together. BSA’s national marketing group director stated, “We wanted to speak to girls as they’re being welcomed in, but also to the boys out there—this is a campaign that covers both.” According to an article on Ad Age, the organization has already welcomed 3,500 girls participating in a soft launch this June, as well as open acceptance of gay boys, gay leaders and transgender boys.
Just a couple weeks later, GSUSA launched their latest campaign, “Lifetime of Leadership”. Though the timing seems in response to BSA, chief marketing and communications officer of GSUSA, Lynn Godfrey, explained that the campaign had been in the works since summer of last year, much before any of the more recent BSA activity. The campaign is an attempt to rebrand the organization even further than prior years, “amplifying and leveraging the power of Girl Scouts over 100-plus years,” as Godfrey explains. The Campaign, as well as its 60 second ad, features many well-known and accomplished women such as Venus Williams and Celine Dion, who have all been a part of the GSUSA at some point during its 106 years. Where as BSA’s campaign is centered around ideas of equality and inclusion, GSUSA’s message focuses on the empowerment of young girls through highlighting GSUSA alumnae whose incredible accomplishments have changed and shaped the world.
With both organizations having just over 100 years of history to account for, each faces unique challenges in terms of re-branding. Continued enrollment is vital to the longevity of both organizations, and in order to continue to gain new and enthused recruits, BSA and GSUSA need to not only consider the important foundational ideologies that make their organization great, but also the need to grow and change as an organization to meet the needs of young boys and girls in a constantly evolving social climate. These campaigns are the continuing attempts to meet these needs.
From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to think about:
- How might both brands measure success of their marketing campaigns?
- How should a brand consider bad public relations or controversy in developing a new ad campaign?
- What are some possible comments or critiques both organizations might face from their latest campaigns?