Global Public Relations Campaign – case study

Category: Global Public Relations Campaign.

Ogilvy Public Relations London - The Gnome Experiment

How do you reach more than 350 million people in 152 countries with a business story about a precision scales manufacturer and accuracy in measurement to achieve an uplift in sales of 22%?

By combining a little known gravitational fact with a garden gnome and creating the world's first mass participation gravity experiment.

Brief and objectives

Kern, a precision scales manufacturer, wanted to build its brand, differentiate itself and grow market share within the science and education sectors.

However, with millions of schools and laboratories around the world to reach, Kern faced the challenge of a highly commoditised marketplace and a disinterested media.

Ogilvy PR/London and OgilvyOne were challenged to deliver an engaging business campaign that would affect behavioural change within the target audience, encouraging them to recognise brand 'Kern' for the first time and make purchases based on familiarity and preference.

Three key objectives were set:

  1. Drive sales of scales to the education and science sectors by enhancing Kern's brand visibility and preference amongst these key markets.
  2. Generate conversations internationally around gravity's influence on weight measurement – explaining the importance of Kern's USP - calibrating scales for local gravity.
  3. Raise awareness of Kern's reputation for accuracy within and beyond its existing customer base - securing coverage outside of specialist media.

Strategy and tactics

To give the public a reason to talk about Kern and 'accuracy in measurement' we set out to make complex science accessible, harnessing Kern's gravitational calibration USP.

After conducting in-depth research into education and science influencers, and delving into scientific theories on weight and measurement, we conceived of the Gnome Experiment – a global research project aimed at proving the scientific theory that gravity varies from place to place affecting weight.

We would:

  • Harness compelling science surrounding gravitational anomalies to engage new audiences
  • Give Kern a personality that would speak to all media channels
  • Transform the way Kern reaches buyers, targeting influencers via new channels and encouraging interaction with the brand
  • Go beyond traditional media, amplifying flagship coverage and developing engaging sharable content
  • Offer local stories anchored in international activity targeting territories including; Switzerland, South Africa, the UK, the US, Canada etc. for physical activity to spark local conversations yet attract international attention


In early 2012 we created of a chip proof garden gnome (also called Kern), providing the campaign with a universally appealing personality. Gnomes are famed for their love of travelling and originate from Bavaria, where Kern scales are manufactured. We also prepared a flight kit containing a set of Kern precision scales and the gnome which was then circulated between scientists and existing Kern customers globally. This provided professional endorsement of the Gnome Experiment as individuals weighed the gnome at their location before passing it on.

In March 2012 we initiated media and influencer engagement:

  • We developed a blog and website ( to host experiment results and directly engage volunteers and fans. Through these channels, and across other social media, the gnome's own personality emerged; scientifically irreverent
  • Social media news releases targeting global media as well as science and education influencers brought consumer and target business attention to – requesting volunteers and engaging millions
  • We provided experiment participants with the tools to share their involvement with local media and friends
  • We shared content including travel snaps of the gnome, video and facts about gravity to encourage further sharing

Research, Planning, Measurement and Evaluation

Our audience analysis (surveys, perceptions audit and analysis of Kern's historic sales data) revealed; low brand recognition for laboratory grade balances, a highly commoditised marketplace, no significant discussion of measurement and accuracy outside of specialist titles, and few independent views on quality, reliability or precision.

Recognising that Kern's targets represented a global audience, from school teachers to Nobel scientists, we established that this extremely diverse group is influenced by equally diverse sources, including friends, peers, and media. They are highly active on-line; inquisitively seeking out, discussing and sharing information they 'discover' from a host of influential and specialist cross-media sources.

Our creative use of little-known gravitational facts and a travelling gnome brought together academics, scientists and the media; sparking global conversations through the world's first mass-participation gravity experiment.

Relation to objectives:

  1. Drive sales: In only two weeks following the campaign launch Kern saw:
  • Product sales to target groups increase by 22%
  • 2,200 former customers get back in touch
  • 1,445 new leads generated: 40% schools, 25% scientists
  1. Generate conversations: Kern and its USP were debated amongst scholars, scientists and the general public across all media. Its experiment increased global understanding of the issues of gravity and weight measurement reaching an audience of over 350 million. Corporate website visits increased 256% and Gnome Experiment volunteers ranged from schoolchildren to internationally acclaimed scientists.
  2. Raise awareness: Globally, people became enthralled by the Gnome Experiment as it brought science to life. For the first time Kern drew the attention of popular science publications, national newspapers, influential on-line publications, broadcast news and social media. For example: New Scientist, Fox News, BBC, the Metro, Le Monde, Straights Times and National Geographic, etc.

Budget and cost effectiveness

On a limited budget (£10,000), our campaign took Kern from laboratories and schools into people's daily lives. Millions learned about gravity, tens of thousands shared our content, and thousands volunteered to take part in the experiment.

Lauded by Oxford scholars and science geeks alike our campaign resulted in schools incorporating Kern's experiment into lessons, a TED presentation, National Geographic feature articles, and TV production companies around the world vying to feature Kern in shows. Some key highlights:

Week One after launch:

  • 16,386 websites linked to Kern's
  • News, science and education shows globally ran dedicated Kern segments
  • saw 52,425 views, with a new participant enlisting every 20 seconds

By Week Two:

  • Coverage reached an audience in excess of 355,378,000
  • Analytics revealed coverage reached 152 countries
  • 1042% ROI achieved based on new distributor sign-ups alone
  • Schools around the world added Kern's story to the curriculum
  • The experiment became a TED talk


The experiment continues… recently Kern's Gnome visited Newton's apple tree in the company of BBC's Newsround, followed swiftly by a trip into earth's upper atmosphere in NASA's zero-G flight trainer.

But that's nothing compared to his next adventure… Kern and his trusty scales will be accompanying the Discovery Channel as feature characters in an entire science series filmed all over the world – a priceless result for an earned media initiative.

Check out Kern's video: