Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walmart creates “cookie controversy”

Submitted by: Cole Buergi, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

After rebuilding its image of “killing the little guy” and, more recently, acquiescing to the controversy regarding benefits to its workforce, Walmart is facing yet another potential black eye with the public, this time it’s the Girl Scouts taking the swing over a “cookie controversy.”

Walmart is bringing to its shelves cookies that are very similar to Tagalongs and Thin Mints, two staple brands that the Girl Scouts rely on during its annual cookie sales fund raiser. Limited access to these delectable favorites is what helps generate sales for the Girl Scouts by creating a desire to buy far more boxes of cookies than usual, just to have a supply that lasts longer than one day.

The Scouts are afraid that if Americans can purchase similar flavored cookies anytime they desire, sales will diminish during their fund raising season, threatening the Scouts ability to raise money to fund their programs. These programs provide opportunities for all girls to build character and skills for success in today’s world.

If this story gains traction in the national media, Walmart will once again be scrambling to defend itself against a new image threat, ticked off moms and their daughters.

There are several ways for Walmart to handle this potential PR crisis. They could stop selling these imitation cookies, offer a percentage of the profit from each imitation cookie sale to the Girl Scouts or just ignore it and hope it goes away. If history holds true, the latter will likely be Walmart’s stance and, once again, company executives will be wondering why their image is tarnished and there again left picking up the crumbs.

My suggestion for Walmart: address this issue before it becomes much more public than need be.

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