Boy Scouts Decision Highlights Need for Brands to Consider Their Core Consumers


Faith Driven Consumers at heart of affinity market segment

The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) continues to grapple with its national policy on sexual orientation. This week’s announcement to postpone a final decision until May indicates a shift toward fuller consideration of viewpoints held by its core consumer members and natural affinity stakeholders.

Boy Scouts of AMerica
Picture taken by Tim Sharp/Reuters

While there are other stakeholders and market segments that have ties to BSA – an enduring brand that has contributed greatly to the development of American leaders for more than a century – at its heart are Faith Driven ConsumersBetween two-thirds and 70 percent of local scouting units are sponsored by faith-affiliated groups – the majority of which hold to historic and traditional biblical values and morals on human sexuality, marriage and family.

Thus, while Corporate America, individual board members, gay rights groups and public opinion polls may factor into the ultimate policy decision to be rendered, what matters most are the views of the scouts, their parents and the volunteer leaders who make up the brand’s natural affinity segment.

When it comes to corporate market segmentation decisions that could potentially alienate core consumer bases, wise brands must research the marketplace and carefully consider the potential impact a major shift might bring.

Here, BSA would do well to look north to its Canadian counterpart to get a glimpse of what happened when it adopted a worldview incompatible with its core consumers’ values. Specifically, when Canadian boy scout leaders changed their policy in 1999 to include females, atheists, agnostics, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals, the national membership rolls plummeted by more than 50 percent in only five years.

In delaying the decision until May, BSA leadership is clearly seeking to balance external input with internal input from regional scout councils, local troop leaders, and members. While the outcome of these policy deliberations remains to be seen, BSA is wisely seeking to more fully consider the wants, needs and desires of its natural and traditional affinity market – Faith Driven Consumers.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your brand know who its natural core consumer segment is?
  • Are you taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the needs, wants and desires of your core markets are respected and openly welcomed? 
  • Are Faith Driven Consumers one of your brand’s core stakeholders?   
  • Do you know how to effectively engage highly valued market segments without alienating other important target groups? 

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