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Globetrotting Gnome Propels 5,000% ROI


Like Travelocity mascot The Roaming Gnome, garden ornaments really get around these days. Take Kern the Gnome, Germany-based Kern & Sohn Precision Scales‘ peripatetic yard ornament. As part of the company’s recent Caples award-winning marketing campaign, Kern has been spotted in such locations as Tokyo, Lima, San Francisco, and the South Pole.

Kern & Sohn makes extremely sensitive measurement instruments, including scales that detect minute differences in weight. To demonstrate its scales’ precision, the company sent Kern the Gnome on a series of missions, which he then documented in “white papers.”

The goal of the targeted experiment was to catch the attention of scientists around the world. They were invited to use the company’s scales and Kern the Gnome to test the hypothesis that, depending on where he is in the world, a person weighs slightly more or less because of Earth’s fluctuating levels of gravity.

As part of the experiment Kern, who’s made of metal, was packed in a case with one of the scales and dispatched from mountaintops to the bowels of the earth. To document it Kern & Sohn’s agency, OgilvyOne London, ran three ads in selected science-supply journals celebrating amazing scientific stories that aren’t common knowledge.

The ads—written as scientific “white papers” by Kern the Gnome himself—detailed each of Kern’s visits, including his trips to the Amundsen Scott Research Station at the South Pole and the Sanford Underground Research Facility. The “papers” also included fun facts, such as Kern’s ears popping in the high-speed elevators to the subterranean research center, and serious ones, such as the little-known fact that Earth is actually slightly potato-shaped. Most important, the “papers” explained how the scale demonstrated that the gnome’s weight varied slightly at different points on the globe, proving that gravity varies around the Earth.

After running in just three German magazines, the “white paper” ads—designed as direct response mechanisms—sparked interest in the gnome story, generating nearly 1,000 new requests to weigh it, more than 7,000 new visitors to gnomeexperiment.com, and a 27% surge in visits to Kern & Sohn’s website. Additionally, two major distributors signed up with Kern after viewing the ads; the deals will result in an estimated 5,000% ROI in the coming year.

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