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The Swiss Alps is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the world, and a haven for those who relish picturesque scenery in particular. However, among the traditional skiing resorts and popular holiday destinations also reside some of the worlds most remote places.

One such hamlet is a tiny place by the name of Obermutten. This almost completely anonymous Swiss town has not been known by many people throughout most of its history, and with good reason. Obermutten houses less than 80 residents, making it one of the smallest recognisable towns in Europe in population terms.

But the people of Obermutten decided a couple of years ago that they weren't going to let their lack of size and prominence detract from their attempts to attract tourists. They decided that in order to put their diminutive town on the map, some innovative marketing would be required. So the local people got their collective thinking caps on, and came up with a scheme which been hugely successful for Obermutten.

Facebook campaign

Obermutten is based in the Graubünden area of Switzerland, which is no stranger to tourism, but even some of the more hardened destinations in the region have been impressed with what Obermutten has achieved. The locals decided that a good way to market the town was via Facebook, and that this social media site provided an ideal opportunity to engage with travellers and tourists, and gain a new prominence and reputation.

What was particularly novel about the Facebook campaign launched by Obermutten was the personal nature of it. The small Swiss town announced that it would print out the picture of everyone who liked its Facebook page, and pin them on a noticeboard in the centre of the town. Those involved in the Facebook campaign also pledged to answer every single question which was posed by those visiting the Facebook page. They could surely only have imagined how involved this would become!

Early videos related to the campaign depict the Mayor of Obermutten pinning up the first ten likes of the Facebook page to the noticeboard in question. This began as what they believed would be a logistically simple task, but the personalised, innovative and community-focused approach that the Swiss town has taken has led to the Facebook page going viral beyond their wildest dreams.

Because the people involved in the Facebook campaign kept the initial promise by responding to all questions and hanging up the pictures of every single person that likes the page, Facebook users became increasingly engaged with the Obermutten campaign. The commitment of those involved to truly engage with the audience and create a real community feel was spectacularly rewarded.

Obermutten goes viral

Within no time it was necessary for the town to invest in a much larger bulletin board, and soon it was an equal necessity to print smaller pictures. Within a matter of months, even the walls of houses in Obermutten were plastered with Facebook pictures of fans. The Facebook page not only became a success, it in fact became the most liked page in Switzerland; an achievement that was scarcely believable for a town consisting of a few dozen people that virtually no one outside of Switzerland had ever heard of.

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Not only did Obermutten attract a huge amount of tourists to the small, picturesque town as a result of their efforts, but the Facebook campaign was eventually widely picked up by international media. This elevated the profile of the Facebook page and the campaign itself. Overall, putting the magnitude of success that this campaign achieved into words is extremely difficult, but it would be reasonable to describe it as stratospheric.

To put this campaign into perspective and give some solid data on what was involved, Obermutten spent only 10,000 Swiss francs (€8,300, £7,000 or $11,000) on their innovative Facebook campaign. By comparison, their return on investment was pretty staggering. Obermutten earned around 2.4 million Swiss francs (€2 million, £1.6 million or $2.5 million) from a combination of increased tourism and media attention. Some basic mathematics would tell you that this was 240 times what they spent on the campaign!

Obermutten has now attracted over 60 million fans from 32 countries spread across every continent. It has attracted more Facebook fans than such notorious holiday destinations as Saint Moritz, Helsinki and Florence. For a period of time it had the most active Facebook page in Switzerland, and received interactions from such notable sources as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Coca-Cola.

This was obviously an extremely notable campaign given the vast success that was achieved by such a tiny town with a relatively small budget. It was also unique in that no specialist marketing experts were involved.

Lessons learned

The Obermutten campaign succinctly illustrates some key aspects of digital marketing that the Digital Tourism Think Tank has reiterated several times previously. Personalising a campaign, making it interactive, and engaging directly with your audience to create a genuine communal vibe to a marketing campaign can reap rich rewards. The phenomenal success of Obermutten should make this abundantly clear.

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