BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Walmart, which has been going after a lot of brands lately with the restage and expansion of its Great Value private label, now appears to be taking on the Girl Scouts.
On her Authentic Organizations blog, C.V. Harquail takes Earth's largest retailer to task over the apparent expansion of Great Value onto Girl Scout turf.
"Just when you think your opinion about Walmart might be changing ... just when you think that maybe, just maybe, Walmart was learning to be a better citizen ... Walmart turns around and does something really despicable," Ms. Harquail writes. "It's not discriminating against women, strong-arming suppliers, polluting neighborhoods or racing to the bottom of the China Price. No, this time, it's closer to home, and in my case, really close to home. This time ... Walmart is knocking off the Girl Scouts."
Ms. Harquail was for years the "Cookie Mom" for her daughter's troop, so she said she recognized right away the distinct flavor and texture of Thin Mints and Tagalongs, the Girl Scouts' two most popular varieties, when she sampled them at the recent BlogHer conference in Chicago. Trouble is, they weren't Girl Scout cookies. They were "beta" versions of Great Value products, which the retailer was touting heavily in a substantial presence at the event for mainly mommy bloggers.
"The exclusivity of Girl Scout cookies is what makes the cookies really sell," Ms. Harquail writes. "But now, Walmart is shoving itself in front of these little girls, and knocking on your door to sell you their almost-as-good fake Thin Mints and fake Tagalongs, whenever you want them."
This, she writes, threatens the organization's ability to do raise money, and raises questions in her mind about whether it really cares about the community.
BlogHer, of course, is a place marketers go to listen and establish dialogue with women on the front lines of social media, and Walmart has now fully engaged one. While its suppliers are prone to suffering Great Value knockoffs in silence, not so den mothers and cookie-sale organizers.
The Girl Scouts of the USA were a bit more measured. Spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins said other manufacturers and marketers have probably come close to the taste or appearance of popular Girl Scout varieties in the past, though none immediately sprang to mind for her.
"I would hope that people realize," she said, "that when they buy Girl Scout cookies, they're also helping little girls."
A Walmart spokeswoman, contacted for comment and forwarded a link to the blog post, did not respond to a request for comment.