Campaign of the decade 2015 Article icon


Kern & Sohn

Agency: Ogilvy PR/London

Precision scales rarely feature in the news, so when German manufacturer Kern & Sohn wanted to raise awareness of its products and grow its share of the important science and education market, it faced an uphill battle.

However, the solution devised by agency Ogilvy PR/London created a global phenomenon, reaching more than 350 million people across 152 countries and increasing sales of Kern & Sohn’s scales by 22 per cent within just two years. Year-on-year, sales were up 40 per cent and continue to grow at that rate.

The campaign focused on one of Kern & Sohn’s unique selling points, which is that scales are calibrated for local gravity because, as the earth is slightly potato shaped, weights can vary in different countries. It also featured a character from Bavaria, where Kern scales are manufactured – the garden gnome.

In November 2011, a chip-proof garden gnome named Kern was calibrated to local gravity at Kern’s German headquarters in anticipation of the world’s fi rst mass-participation global gravity experiment. Travelling in a special fl ght case carrying a set of Kern scales, lab quarters and dusters, the gnome was sent to Kern & Sohn’s existing customers and leading scientists around the world, who were invited to weigh him before sending him on to the next volunteer.

The blog and Twitter feed were created to host experiment results, invite people to participate and engage fans. Within one week, it had achieved more than 52,240 views, with a new participant enlisting every 20 seconds, and had been linked to 16,386 websites.

During March 2012, social media news releases targeted at major news outlets as well as specialist science publications brought attention to as Kern posted details of his weigh-ins at iconic locations, ranging from Sir Isaac Newton’s house near Grantham in Lincolnshire to the South Pole, on Tumblr, along with travel snaps, videos and facts about gravity.

Each participant was also provided with the tools to allow them to share information about the weigh ins with local media outlets and associates.

Standing beside the infamous tree at Sir Isaac Newton’s house, Kern, in his jaunty blue hat and white tunic, weighed 308.58g while in Snolab in Canada, wearing a plastic scarf over his hat, he weighed 307.63g.

The campaign also took the gnome to local primary schools, who added the experiment to their curriculum, universities and centres for science, such as the large Hadron Collider. Media outlets across 152 countries, including Straits Times, Fox News and Le Monde, carried the story of the gnome’s journey. It even became a TED talk.

About 2,200 former customers of Kern & Sohn got back in touch after seeing the Gnome Experiment, which also generated 1,445 new leads, of which 40 per cent were from schools and 25 per cent from scientists.

The Gnome Experiment became the most awarded PR campaign in the world. Its legacy has since been captured in a permanent exhibition at the Science Museum in Berlin, while the Discovery Channel has optioned Kern the Gnome as a regular character in a television series about science. Many other television companies have also expressed interest in Kern.

The judges of the Decade of Excellence Awards were just as enchanted as the judges back in 2012, who presented the Gnome Experiment with the Best International Campaign in the CorpComms Awards.

‘This was an innovative campaign that exceeded all objectives,’ said one. ‘It was ingenious fun with great PR and commercial results.’