A view from Dave Trott: Killing two birds with one stoner
A view from Dave Trott

Killing two birds with one stoner

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Big data is blind faith

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Danielle Lei is one of 41,000 Girl Scouts. One of the main ways the organisation funds itself is the sale of cookies.

Funding uniforms, premises, admin, training, transport etc costs nearly $800m a year.

That means the girls need to sell about 200 million boxes at $4 per box.

Not cheap for a box of cookies.

But there is another side to it.

By selling the cookies, the girls learn basic business skills: they learn salesmanship, they learn confidence, they learn to be outgoing and talk to people.

And the cookies are high quality and delicious, with a dozen flavours including: Mango Crème, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties and Dulce de Leche.

Part of the exercise is to encourage the girls to think up ways to sell these cookies.

Girl Scouts are naturally competitive, so they want to sell a lot.

They consider the problem.

What is the product?

Who would want it?

When would they be in the most receptive mood?

Once you cut out all of our fancy language, that’s not a long way from what agencies do.

Except we have departments for each of those functions, so we can charge clients a lot.

Danielle didn’t have any fancy departments to do her thinking for her.

She had to use old-fashioned common sense mixed with spotting an opportunity.

Otherwise known as creativity.

The answer to the first two points was obvious: what are we selling and who would want it?

But the opportunity lay in the third question: when are they in the most receptive mood?

Normally, Girl Scouts simply visit affluent neighbourhoods knocking on doors.

Depending on well-meaning neighbours being willing to pay a premium for a good cause.

But Danielle didn’t want to do what everyone else did.

She thought the opportunity lay in the many delicious flavours of Girl Scout cookies.

She thought the opportunity lay in offering them to people at exactly the time they’d be most interested.

Marijuana had recently become legal in California.

So Danielle set up her stall outside the Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco.

As customers were leaving with their purchase, they couldn’t help but notice all the delicious flavours of cookies.

In that situation, $4 a pack seems great value.

Danielle sold 117 packs in just two hours, nearly one a minute.

A lot more than she’d sold the previous day in Safeway’s car park.

Which isn’t surprising really.

Safeway sells many boxes of cookies – lots are cheaper than the Girl Scout ones.

And at a supermarket, cookies are a secondary purchase.

But outside the marijuana dispensary there aren’t any cookies.

So she had a monopoly on distribution outside an outlet for a product that stimulates appetite.

No wonder she sold many more than she did outside Safeway.

Danielle had worked out the product, the consumer, the advantage and the opportunity.

And she’d done it all without a strategy department, insight department, media department or creative department.

A Girl Scout had done it all on her own.

Let’s hope clients don’t work out how easy this creativity business is.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.