Social Mediaville: Population, 79

SwitzerlandSize doesn’t matter.

Not when it comes to social media marketing at least. The tiny town — hamlet, really — of Obermutten, Switzerland, proved that with an unusual and extremely viral marketing effort in 2011 that generated tremendous Facebook and real-world interaction.

Obermutten is a small town with a population of about 79. It’s part of the canton of Graubünden, and the agency Jung von Matt/Limmat in Zurich handles the advertising and brand management for the region’s tourism. As part of the overall brand promotion for the area last fall, Obermutten promised to print out every Facebook fan’s profile picture and post it on the town bulletin board.

The result was overwhelming. With only a handful of Facebook fans prior to the Sept. 25, 2011 launch, the Facebook site boasted more than 16,000 fans at the start of 2012. Jung von Matt says traffic to the Graubünden tourism Web site more than tripled since the campaign started. That was the goal of the marketing — to stir interest in visiting the region and to promote its particular mountain charms.

“Besides [the Graubünden] brand campaign, we do several additional projects underneath this umbrella,” says Livio Dainese, creative director of Jung von Matt/Limmat, explaining that the Obermutten efforts fall under the overall branding work. “One campaign is meant to advertise ‘My mountain village.’ It’s a connection of several small mountain villages like Obermutten.”

The towns in the area are all quite small and at most have one hotel and perhaps a restaurant. But what they lack in size and abundance of amenities, they make up for in peace of mind and personal treatment of the guests, Dainese says. “Our goal was to achieve awareness for these villages without big media spending. And to show people all over Switzerland, and preferably also abroad, how beautiful and special they are.”

The campaign cost 10,000 Swiss francs, the equivalent of a little more than $10,000. The benefit has earned media of upwards of 2.4 million francs.

While the Facebook effort focused on Obermutten, it has boosted awareness of the whole region, evidenced by traffic to the Web site. “Obermutten was the village in the spotlight. But all the little villages profit from an increased request,” Dainese says. “The campaign has an image effect for the whole Graubünden tourism region but also shows you very clearly what Graubünden offers: very personal treatment for each guest.”

The marketing initiative was successful in part because the idea behind the campaign is simple — it’s based on a promise and the fulfillment of it. If you click like, we’ll post your picture. “The idea came out of this: all villages in Switzerland have a bulletin board where they welcome new inhabitants or announce when somebody died. Facebook is the Internet version of this. And how would a little mountain village treat a fan on Facebook? Most probably like one of their own. Very personal. So the idea was: Each fan on Facebook is like a new member of the community. And thus put [them] on the village bulletin board.”

The campaign had an intrinsic flaw, but it became an advantage: a small town bulletin board quickly fills up, so how would the town accommodate the fans? The town kept its promise and continued to hang up profile pictures, sometimes relying on the sides of barns for posting and on wooden houses all over the village. That effort drew press coverage — earned media — and more fans.

Jung von Matt/Limmat is working on several new campaigns for the region this year. And no, they won’t be written in Swiss.

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