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business models, strategies and technologies

Marketing using gravity-sensitive gnomes

The force of gravity is not the same everywhere. To demonstrate this basic law of physics, scale makers Kern & Sohn sent a plastic gnome on a global expedition …

The force of gravity varies slightly all over the world, due to the effects of latitude and altitude along with inconsistencies in the shape and texture of our planet.

Gnome with a story to tell

In the Gnome Experiment, German manufacturer of weighing scales Kern & Sohn makes sure Kern the gnome gets weighed wherever he gets sent. Destinations he has visited so far are displayed on a Google Map, with the relative size of the pins indicating how much Kern weighed when measured in different places. His entire world odyssey is documented by information from scientist friends “putting him up”’ while there, a blog he has supposedly written, and the diary of this intrepid globetrotting gnome on Twitter and Tumblr.

Gnome Experiment journal

Gnome Experiment journal

Kern the gnome travels in a reinforced case containing himself and a Kern EWB 2.4 Scale calibrated according to the effects of gravity at the company’s headquarters in Balingen, Germany. According to the Google map of his travels, Kern was at his heaviest at the south pole, where the slower spin of the Earth reportedly adds 0.5 per cent to a person’s (or a gnome’s) weight.

Techno-quirky delight – but …

The Gnome Experiment is a delightfully techno-quirky marketing/PR idea that piques the visitor’s curiosity, and apparently even resulted in the Discovery Channel featuring the Gnome Experiment on its Daily Planet show, scoring the company a high-value dose of worldwide publicity.

It’s a very pleasant change from the technospeak self-praise usually used for marketing such seemingly mundane equipment. And there aren’t many products that can include discussions of the search for the then-unconfirmed Higgs boson as a natural part of their marketing effort (see here).

This is then used to make sure any weight change he encounters on his travels shows up – and, of course, to highlight the sensitivity of Kern & Sohn equipment.

Unfortunately, all the brownie points the company wins from the Gnome Experiment and its creative thinking seem to evaporate if anyone follows up on the campaign to find out more about this seemingly inventive, creative manufacturer and its products. At the company’s website, you’re faced with an ultra-boring, product-focused website. And as for the film introducing the idea, with (what purports to be?) the company’s managing director reading from a script in painful English – well, because of the huge discrepancy between the glorious wackiness of the gnome marketing and the numbingly ordinariness of the website, it’s difficult to know whether it’s agonisingly serious – or just a semi-delicious spoof.

Ignorance is bliss. I decided to remain in the world of enchantment.

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