Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, boasts an enrollment of just under 2,400 and no official school mascot. Deanna Casterton, Director of Luther College Book Shop, sought to change the status quo by creating and naming a mascot for her store with the Nutty Election Day Celebration.Casterton said she had been thinking about a store mascot for a long time and was inspired by a campus resident.
“We have a lot of squirrels on campus,” she said. “Everybody likes them and they are really tame. You can walk within a foot of them before they run away.”
Just like that, Luther College Book Shop had a mascot, but a mascot with no name. Casterton said her staff took the Halloween holiday to plant the seeds for the Nutty Election Day Celebration, soliciting nominations for the name of their squirrel. It was a patriotic Halloween with red, white and blue decorations and ballot boxes for customers to submit name nominations.
“The top three names were Martin, Nutty and Squirrelly,” Casterton said. “People voted for their favorite on election day.”
To promote the Election Day event, Casterton and her staff took the message to the people.
“We bought red, white and blue Hershey Kisses, and passed them out in the cafeteria reminding people to vote for the store mascot on Election Day,” she said. “We also used window flyers and Facebook.”
On Election Day, the store was decorated with patriotic balloons, streamers and election booths were made for those voting for their preferred mascot name. The turnout included everyone from the university; students, faculty and staff.
“It was fantastic,” Casterton said. “After people voted they even received an ‘I Voted’ sticker with a picture of a squirrel on it.”
To take advantage of the captive audience, Casterton offered guests the opportunity to pop a balloon, each containing a different discount that was redeemable the same day or a free gift coupon. Sales for the day were more than twice that of a non-event day.
“We are always looking for ways to engage students,” she said. “There is something about popping balloons that students love.”
When the election dust settled, more than 300 people cast a vote and the winning name for the Luther College Book Shop mascot was “Martin.” Now when people visit the store in-person or on Facebook, they are greeted by the image of a 4-and-a-half foot tall squirrel with a name tag.
“He is just so darn cute,” Casterton said. “He brings a lot of attention and we were looking for something unique that would get people to pause and look at our posts online.”
With the sheer amount of noise in the social media space, Casterton said it was difficult to promote a sale or event because the message was coming from “the store.” Now messages come from Martin the Squirrel, and his presence is in demand.
“In the spring he will be travelling with the baseball team,” Casterton said.