Thursday March 28, 2013 | 04:23 PM

This morning, many Mainers checking into Twitter saw this request from L.L. Bean:

The link leads to the voting page of the Washington Post's annual Peeps diorama contest, in which a major contender this year is this charming Maine coastal scene rendered in marshmallow confection and modelling clay:

Pictured: a close-up of the "L.L. Peep" diorama. Courtesy of Peter Vogt.

The "L.L. Peep" diorama is the creation of the Vogt family from Washington, DC: Lucy Vogt, 11, Elizabeth Vogt, 14, their father Bradley Vogt, 47, and grandfather Peter Vogt, 71.

Many of the contest's dioramas are topical, and the "L.L. Peep" entry references this year's 100-year anniversary of L.L. Bean. But there's also a personal connection for the Vogt family, who spend summers in Owls Head.

"We are long-time Maine-connected people," says Bradley Vogt. "Both my parents went to Colby College, and we've been going to Maine for about 40 years in the summers. Our kids go to camp in Maine. And we've always really liked LL Bean, its products, their quality and service."

The Vogts didn't coordinate their entry with the company in advance. "I had wanted to send some pictures up to L.L. Bean corporate headquarters, but there was just too much to do, various other obligations, we never got around to it," says Peter Vogt, Bradley's father, who was in charge of photographing his son's and grandaughters' creation. 

But in the last few days, as people started sharing their diorama on various social media sites and it became a modest success, someone at L.L. Bean noticed. The company posted their first link to the voting page in the early afternoon of March 27.

Pictured: the Vogt family, (from left) Bradley, Elizabeth and Lucy, prepare to photograph their diorama. Courtesy of Peter Vogt.

"Last night I called their customer service," says Peter Vogt. "I told them the story, and they were really so constructive and earnest and thoughtful. I emailed them pictures about 9 o'clock last night. And about 10:15 I get a response from them... (it was) the best response to an email from a corporation that I think anyone has gotten, and it happened in about an hour."

Vogt forwarded me the message, which is signed from "James M" in L.L. Bean's customer service department. Here's an excerpt, which I include here as a case study in the company's storied customer service and brand: 

"How wonderful is this! We loved the story and pictures; I have already shared them with some of my peers... Mr. Vogt, thank you and your family for this tribute to L.L.Bean, we love the L.L.Peep!!!"

In the last 24 hours, L.L. Bean has deftly promoted the Vogts' diorama contest entry and used their own social media prominence to boost what had been a modest viral phenomenon into something larger. As of this afternoon, the "L.L. Peep" diorama is in 4th place in the Post's "People's Choice" contest, with 1800 votes and counting.

"Our older two daughters are on Facebook, and they think it's cool," says Bradley Vogt (who doesn't use Twitter or Facebook himself). "For example, a friend of Elizabeth's from camp saw the diorama on Facebook and sent it to Elizabeth, not knowing that Elizabeth was one of the artists."

If you'd like to help "L.L. Peep" win, there's still time to vote on the Washington Post website by following and sharing this link:


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I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.

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