Bill Rubin column: Girl Scout cookies and the 5 Ps
Thin Mint. Peanut Butter Do-si-Dos. Shortbread Trefoils. Samoas.
Just like the first backyard robin, Girl Scout cookie sales are another sign that Old Man Winter is on his way out and Spring is near. Hopefully. St. Croix County's economic development spin-master proclaimed his disdain for the winter of 2018-19 on numerous occasions. The bottom of the driveway is a prime location for his muttering. He has been waiting for a long-overdue robin as well as the first sleeve of shortbread treats.
From humble beginnings, Girl Scout cookie sales officially go back to 1917. They were launched in home kitchens of troop members. Moms served as advisors for the experimenting girls. Five years earlier, a troop in Oklahoma made cookies and sold them at the high school as a service project. This success led to sanctioned cookie sales across the country and globe. Shortages of sugar, flour and butter in World War II interrupted cookie sales. Non-edible calendars replaced cookies as the fundraiser for a while.
The economic development guy thought he'd been shut out of cookies for 2019. Door-to-door sales yielded to tables in convenience stores or big box retailers. For the trained observer, the free market system was definitely in play as makeshift booths were set-up in key parking lots. If a community could be oversaturated with coffee shops, could the same community or neighborhood support 4-5-6 cookie booths? Welcome to the free market, young ladies.
On a recent Saturday, the fast-talking economic developer walked into a retail shop. A young Girl Scout and her mom had staked their claim. It was not an ideal location. A promise was made. If the Girl Scout could recite the Five P's of a marketing plan, she'd get a sale. Hmm. The Five P's? The fast-talker helped her out: Product, Price, People, Place, and Promotion. Her mom jumped in, noting her daughter had her cookies as the product; the price was $5 a box, the people consisted of a mom-daughter team, they were selling in the lobby, and a double-sided sign served as their promotion.
After the $10 transaction, the mom said, "I think we learned something about those Five P's today." Indeed, Girl Scout cookie sales help build life skills and the sales help fund troop activities. The fast-talker got his shortbread and peanut butter treats. And he got more out of the conversation than the Girl Scout and her mom.
Here's to a life lesson.