Marketing and Strategic Positioning


Ron Wilbur, vice chairman for marketing for the Orange County Council, left, discusses marketing with Scoutorama Chair Greg Haskin, center, and advertising executive Greg Mitchell. Mitchell's agency donates creative talent to the council.

"In our marketing, we try to reflect Scouting's core values in a way that the community will embrace. We position Scouting as a phenomenal cause to champion because it pays back generation after generation," remarks Ron Wilbur, vice chairman for marketing for the Orange County Council in Costa Mesa, California. Taking this approach to heart, the council has been highly successful in its membership efforts, as well as in marketing its outdoor programs and facilities and in its strategic positioning.

In 2002, the council refined its bilingual membership marketing campaign. This creative series was part of the overall effort that the National Council named Best Marketing Campaign in its class in 2001. The campaign consisted of engaging tools to reach inside and beyond the classroom, including posters, stickers, and surfboard key chains. The council also tested a direct-mail recruitment drive. According to Wilbur, the council strives to quantify and measure results objectively, which is challenging because of marketing's often subjective nature. With direct mail, responses can be measured. The council anticipates a 1 percent response rate from its drive—a success by direct-mail standards. More important, the council will have accomplished its marketing goal of directly communicating to families the positive impact Scouting can have in their lives.


As the largest council in Southern California, the Orange County Council was central to the 2002 formation of the Southern California Marketing Coalition. Composed of all 11 local councils, the coalition shares solutions and resources and promotes communication across its vast area. To date, the coalition's largest joint project was the creation of a new Southern California public service announcement. Aired over the entire area, the television spot has been a successful first attempt at coordinating broadcast media for the Los Angeles market.

The coalition has also concentrated on instant communication through online efforts. Council representatives exchanged e-mail lists and created an easy Internet access point for all councils at a shared home page. Coalition plans include a public relations campaign to coordinate council news releases and media contacts in the market area. Orange County Council coalition representative Brett Beck says 2002 saw a strong beginning for the coalition. He adds, "In the next few years, I think we'll start to fully realize the potential of coordinating our efforts in what is the single largest market in the U.S."

The council also places marketing emphasis on outdoor programs and facilities, including an extensive Scoutorama and redevelopment of its camp. In 2002, Scoutorama marketing materials included postcards, bus shelters, and Web site pop-up windows, among many others. All these efforts resulted in ticket sales of $360,000 and an attendance of nearly 25,000, notable increases over the previous year. Enjoying extensive newspaper and radio coverage, the Scoutorama itself served as a tremendous marketing tool. Such focus can go a long way. As Scoutorama Chair Greg Haskin comments, the event "allows Scouts at every level to interact, taking pride in their own organization and admiring the accomplishments of others. The Scoutorama reinforces all of the great things about the Scouting experience."

In part to market its facilities, the Orange County Council created a CD-ROM, which has proven to be an effective, easily updatable, and inexpensive resource. Users can take a virtual tour of the council's Lost Valley Scout Reservation, experiencing 360-degree views of the camp's recent $12 million in improvements. The disc includes promotional videos for the camp, the council's $5.2 million sea base renovation, and other programs. Additional efforts to market the redeveloped reservation involved making promotional presentations to 80 percent of the council's units, up from only 25 percent in 2001. The result was a jump in camp attendance of almost 50 percent.

To ensure a unified marketing emphasis, the Orange County Council works with advertising agency FCB Southern California, which donates its creative talent. Benefits of the council/agency relationship flow both ways. According to Greg Mitchell, agency management supervisor, "Agency personnel really believe in Scouting's cause. They know the council gives youth values and memories that provide direction for the rest of their lives. It's good to know you're helping out with something like that."


Marketing committee member Cheryl Hardy, Council President Doug Hayman, and Scout Executive Chuck Keathley, left to right, of the Erie Shores Council review marketing material.

Envisioning tomorrow and providing opportunities for generations to come has also been the focus of recent marketing efforts of the Erie Shores Council of Toledo, Ohio. A 15-time National Quality Council, Erie Shores is putting into effect its long-range plan to create a Cub World and make other major camp improvements. "It's all a part of our initiative to bring more programs to the youth and keep them in Scouting longer," says former council President Dick Reynolds.

To fund improvements and additions to Erie Shores' two camps—Camp Miakonda and Camp Frontier—the council realized it would need to reach beyond traditional fund-raising. After extensive committee research and a survey through an independent firm specializing in nonprofit fund-raising, the council's solution was to sell more than 50 rarely used acres of Camp Miakonda. Proceeds would be placed in a trust fund subaccount with a 5 percent spending limit in any calendar year.

Although it made financial sense, the initiative presented a marketing challenge. As one of the oldest Scout camps in the United States, Camp Miakonda is legendary in the local community, and there was resistance to selling even part of it. The council devised a marketing strategy to speak directly to parents, volunteers, and the community to address any concerns and gain support.

Council President Doug Haynam and Scout Executive Chuck Keathley conducted fireside chats in each district, giving a PowerPoint presentation that fully explained why the council was selling the land and how the revenue would be used. Question-and-answer sessions were major components of the chats. "We made ourselves available to talk and listen to anyone who wished to talk about the sale," Reynolds says.


Erie Shores Council Scouts will benefit from volunteer leaders' plans to create a Cub World and make other major camp improvements. Scout Executive Chuck Keathley is tasked with providing support to the volunteers.

Another key to the council's marketing strategy was a direct-mail piece entitled Jack's Day at Camp, which tells the story of Camp Miakonda and its future through the eyes of a Cub Scout. Marketing committee member Cheryl Hardy explains that the brochure's purpose was both to inform and to eliminate misconceptions about the sale. "We wanted to stress that the council was not selling Camp Miakonda, only a small portion so that current and future Scouts could build the same kinds of camp memories that earlier generations had," she says.

Mailed with a personalized letter from the executive board and Scout executive, Jack's Day at Camp emphasized the initiative's vision for the future. Since the brochure was from Jack's perspective, the piece could speak to readers' hearts and clearly present the sale's financial facts. The brochure also stimulated excitement with descriptions of proposed thematic program areas like an American Indian village, frontier fort, and pirate ship. Hardy, whose firm donated its services to create the piece, says the creative "staff was very enthusiastic about the project. They were able to get engrossed in it because what the council is doing makes total sense."

Initial plans for the Erie Shores Council's program improvements are under way, ensuring unique experiences and lifelong memories for both today's and tomorrow's youth.