Like all marketing, much of enrollment marketing is about setting yourself apart from the rest. What better way to do that than with a marketing mascot program?
In this conversation with Kristi Lafree, Director of Enrollment Marketing at Butler University in Indianapolis, my co-host and I explore the opportunities for those who want to leverage a marketing mascot program.
Let me tell you, I was really excited about this conversation!
Not only am I a fan of Butler’s marketing mascot program, but my oldest son is also a junior studying photojournalism at Butler University.
So there are some aspects of this conversation that impacted me both as a professional higher ed marketer, as well as just the parent.
In fact, during the interview, Kristi gave us some incredible insights into how Butler cultivates a close relationship with their most important secondary audience – parents.
And although those insights are worth their weight in gold, I wanted to focus today on where Butler shines.
Introducing Butler Blue IV
Butler Blue IV, or “Blue” for short, is Butler University’s live mascot.
Blue is a 65-pound English bulldog – and he’s one of the most popular “staff” members at Butler.
Blue has a huge following on social media, especially from the athletics crowd. But really, his reach is nationwide these days. The mascot is often the first thing people know about Butler. When I share with someone about where I work, [Blue is] immediately the first thing they ask questions about. So Blue is a huge part of what we do and part of our success.
Living on campus with a member of the school’s marketing team, it’s not uncommon to see Blue ambling through any of Butler University’s offices visiting faculty, staff, and students.
In fact, having Blue on campus is an extremely convenient way to roll out their education marketing mascot program.
At Butler, both the admissions and marketing teams are housed in the same building, so Blue can assist whichever team needs him to help at the time.
But Blue is not the first Butler University bulldog.
Our live mascot program at Butler has a really rich tradition. Blue is the fourth Butler Bulldog that we’ve had. He was actually introduced around this time last year as a little tiny puppy. Our former mascot Butler Blue III – who I know many Indianapolis folks are familiar with – has since retired.
The whole idea of having a marketing mascot program got started with Butler Blue I, a female English Bulldog who served from 2000 – 2004.
Unfortunately, Blue I died in 2014 and was buried in the Bulldog Memorial on the Butler campus…
Which is an absolutely great idea to honor these amazing animals for what they do for Butler U!
Butler’s Marketing Mascot Program.
Butler Blue I made Butler history by showing up at ball games and other university events.
But things really got going when Butler began sending Butler Blue III (or “Trip” as he was affectionately called) on admissions visits for some high-touch marketing.
Blue is really like having another [staff member] on our enrollment marketing team. His reach and his impact with prospective students just continues to grow. And we continue to think of new ways to integrate him into what we’re doing with admission and with prospective students.
We began really doing that about five or six years ago, when we decided to send Trip to the home of a prospective applicant. He surprised that student with their letter of admission right on their doorstep! We’ve continued that effort ever since.
Kristi and her marketing team call this the #ButlerBound campaign.
In these past years, the Butler Bulldog has surprised prospective students at homes, schools, and even a locker room!
During a high school basketball game, Blue III came running into the locker room during half time and surprised the student applicant.
Many times, Blue travels with the basketball team and tries to make admissions deliveries in the homes of prospective students nearby.
Blue, the Social Media Guru Bulldog
Like all schools, social media marketing is crucial to Butler’s enrollment marketing strategy.
This is yet another area where Blue really shines.
It’s almost like we have two institutional accounts at Butler. Prospective students are probably more often following Blue on Instagram or TikTok before they’re going to follow Butler U – and we’re really okay with that. We have leaned into that, and we have thought about creative ways for Blue to introduce brand messaging on his platforms for that audience.
As a Bulldog, Blue can say cute – and sometimes cheeky – things on his social media to lighten up the Butler brand without causing any harm.
And that’s the perfect combination for social media success.
Butler’s “Pet Comm Flow”
One of the best ways Butler U is leveraging their marketing mascot program is using Blue’s voice to communicate with prospective students in their enrollment materials.
Truly, their “pet comm flow” is ingenious.
I’d say it’s the reason my son, Ben, is now a Butler student.
Before the pet comm flow reached Ben, Butler was another school flyer for him.
He applied to many schools around the nation that were the top-listed schools in his area of interest.
Butler was one of several to which he applied and which had accepted him.
After receiving his acceptance letter, Ben still hadn’t decided which college was the right one for him.
…one Saturday, we found two letters from Butler University on the counter. One was addressed to Tigger, our dog, and the other was addressed to Stormy, our cat.Click to tweet
We were dying to know what was in them, but we waited for Ben to come home first.
Inside the letter to Tigger, Blue wrote in a kind of a dog-to-dog type of conversation.
He congratulated Tigger for his human being accepted to Butler University and promised he was going to protect Ben just as if he were his very own human.
For the cat, it was a little bit more tepid.
Basically, it said “Hey, your human has been accepted. But I know I’m a dog and you’re a cat. Let’s respect each other.”
It was just brilliant copywriting!
My son was thrilled.
Kristi and her team at Butler had taken the time to tailor their communication in such a personal way through their pet comm flow.
They entered that part of his world that no one else had…
And it really worked.
Discover more when you listen to the podcast!
Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.
Listen to our interview with Kristi Lafree to get even more insights into:
- Cultivating the most critical secondary audience you have – parents
- Building secondary audience data for free
- Creating a comm flow for Generation Z
- Personalizing your enrollment marketing
Don’t want to miss a future episode?
Subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer podcast today!
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