Technology: Gnome weighs in for Kern scales

Kern, a precision scales manufacturer, wanted to increase its market share in the global science and education sectors. Ogilvy was asked to create interest in the scales within traditionally uninterested media.

Globetrotter: The gnome was taken around the world
Globetrotter: The gnome was taken around the world

Campaign: The Gnome Experiment
Client: Kern & Sohn
PR team: Ogilvy Public Relations & OgilvyOne
Timescale: November 2011-March 2012
Budget: £10,000



  • To drive sales of Kern scales to the education and science sectors
  • To raise awareness of Kern's reputation for accuracy beyond its customer base
  • To generate conversations about gravity's influence on weight measurement
  • To secure coverage outside the specialist media.

Strategy and plan

Ogilvy set out to make the complex scientific issues of measurement and accuracy more accessible by offering content that would appeal to a global audience. Kern's unique selling point (USP) is that its scales can be calibrated to local gravity (the strength of gravity varies across the world). That message had to be conveyed to the public. To do this Ogilvy wanted to create a personality for the brand that worked across media, from TV to Facebook.

Ogilvy created a chip-proof garden gnome named Kern to give the campaign a personality. A kit containing the gnome and a set of Kern precision scales was circulated among invited scientists and Kern customers around the world, inviting them to weigh the gnome at their location. The campaign targeted people in relevant iconic or scientific locations, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Newton's tree, to create media interest. They could share their findings at

A gnome diary was also developed on Tumblr to showcase the pictures participants had taken after they had weighed the gnome, along with their findings. Other content created on the blog included videos and facts about gravity designed to encourage discussion and sharing online. In mid-March, the PR team released the story to key news organisations and science and education thought-leaders around the world, such as New Scientist and CBBC.

Measurement and evaluation had 52,425 views in the first week after the launch of the campaign and 16,386 websites worldwide linked to the site. By the end of the second week, Google Analytics revealed the campaign had received coverage in 152 countries.

The number of visitors to Kern's corporate website increased 256 per cent after coverage in Le Monde, the Metro and on Fox News. For the first time, Kern drew coverage from science publications, such as New Scientist and National Geographic, and the BBC.


Sales to target groups increased by 22 per cent in the two weeks after the event. About 2,200 former Kern customers got back in touch.

Kern's USP was debated by scholars, and during a talk at a TED conference. Participants in the experiment ranged from scientists to schoolchildren, exactly the intended target audience.




Imagine a global league table of low-engagement businesses. Where would precision scale manufacturing rank? My hunch says somewhere between packaging adhesives and industrial coatings.

Faced with such a challenge, the creators of this campaign adroitly adopted two winning strategies from the age-old box of 'things that make interesting content for media, customers and the wider world'.

First, the PR team identified a USP - that some scales can be calibrated to local gravity.

Second, in the absence of a skateboarding duck, they created a cute gnome to bring the story to life, adding further interest by taking him on an impromptu world tour, facilitated by a solid suite of digital tools to drive sharing and conversation.

So what's missing? Given that the primary objective was sales, it's unclear how the campaign linked into a wider integrated marketing - and sales - plan. Did a two-week 22 per cent sales uplift meet the objectives of the campaign and was it sustained into weeks three and four?

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