Not everyone agrees with letting girls into the Boy Scouts, but it might have unexpected consequences from a marketing point of view.
Last week, the Boy Scouts of America board of directors voted to begin allowing girls into its Cub Scout program beginning in 2018 and older girls in 2019. Initially there has been mixed reaction and several groups are not very happy about it. Regardless of the moral, spiritual, or historic reasons cited against this decision, there is a distinctive marketing angle that must be examined.
A marketing perspective
See the link here for more information about the details of this decision. The primary marketing reason why the Boy Scouts should not allow girl youths into its organization is that this eliminates its competitive advantage. What has made the Boy Scouts unique and special over the last 100 years was the emphasis on building strong male character. By allowing girls, what makes the Boy Scouts any different than any other youth club? At the very least, they will have to change their name to "Family Scouts of America" or perhaps just "Scouts" but it is more than that.
They have a track record of successfully molding young boys into men. Molding girls into women is new territory for them. Who knows if the organization will have as much success with this demographic. True they have been accepting girls into their Venture program age 14 to 21 for decades now, but that is a separate issue that I will get to later. Cub Scout age girls of 5 to 10 and Boy Scout age girls of 11 to 17 will require different training of volunteers and a restructuring of the program.
The Boy Scouts have been doing a fantastic job with boys over the last 100 years and can only see failure if they change their strategy now. Besides, isn't the Girl Scouts of America supposed to be shaping young women?
A net loss in membership
The real reason why the Boy Scouts is now allowing girls into the program is an attempt to boost its declining membership. They might get a few new girls to join, but I predict they will mostly cannibalize new members from existing scouting organizations.
The vast majority of girls who would be interested in joining Boy Scouts will come from either the Girl Scouts of America who I predict will soon close its doors as an organization as girls leave for the Boy Scouts or from the existing Venture Scout program (a co-ed arm of the Boy Scouts). This will cause a steep decline in membership for these two elements, plus the many boys and adult volunteers who quit because they do not want to have girls in their troops. Overall the Boy Scouts might boost their membership in the short term, but in the long run, everybody will lose.
A better approach
To avoid these stated pitfalls, the Boy Scouts would have been better off lowering the age of Venture Scouts to 12 for girls so that they could join that program (which is what they really want anyway) and leave the young girls in the Girl Scouts where that organization shines. The Girls Scouts have been having a hard time retaining these older girls anyway. This way, everybody would have won and nobody would have to steal members from anybody else. It seems that the Boy Scouts did not consult any business minded individuals before making this critical decision. We will see whether or not it pays off for them.
Ethan Hausmann is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Community Outreach for Successtar Enterprises LLC. He is an author, professional speaker, and seminar/workshop instructor. Ethan has extensive knowledge and experience in marketing, customer service, leadership, and other small business related concerns.