Publisher's #YourMum campaign fails - or does it?

Your mum Image copyright Penguin

A Twitter campaign by a book publisher designed to celebrate mothers instead degenerated into playground insults.

It started with what seemed like the most wholesome of intentions. The UK branch of book publisher Penguin wanted to honour book-reading mothers in advance of this coming weekend's Mothering Sunday.

The problem? The hashtag they chose to promote was #YourMum - a phrase which, as many schoolchildren know, also forms the punch line for an endless variety of rude (some would say offensive) jokes. The mocking came thick and fast:

  • "Your mum is so hairy even Dora can't explorer #YourMum" - @Dom_Horton"
  • #Yourmum is so stupid when she heard 90% of all crimes occur around the home, she moved house - @thisisyourlaugh
  • #yourmum so fat she sat on an iPhone and made it an iPad. Still makes it easier to read eBooks on! - @DawnBurnett

There were of course many, many more tweets that were unsuitable for publishing on this mum-friendly blog - more than 7,000 messages in all used the hashtag. Some, though, speculated that Penguin's apparent ignorance was deliberate. "Knowing ploy or social media fail?" one commentator asked.

So who's responsible for #YourMum? A former Penguin employee, Jennifer Cownie, claimed it was her idea, although Penguin themselves have not confirmed this. Cownie's version of events appeared on a blog, Work in Prowess.

"There was a team brainstorm, we all ate lots of chocolate fingers and maybe made jokes about Oedipus," Cownie's quoted as saying. "I called it #YourMum as a work in progress title to indicate that the campaign name should be a bit odd and provocative. It was a plan that I was going to come back to and finish and make great (and maybe not call #YourMum? Or maybe call it that? Who knows?) BUT I ended up leaving the company rather suddenly so that didn't happen."

"I have no idea what happened after I left but I didn't really expect it to go live with that name. I totally love that it did, though," she writes. Although she no longer works for Penguin, Cownie says she's pretty sure the campaign wasn't designed with the adage "all publicity is good publicity" in mind.

"In terms of whether it was a cynical marketing ploy, definitely not," she told BBC Trending in an email. "They might have thought it would raise a couple of laughs but, as with anything viral, there's no way to predict a reaction like that."

For their part, the Penguin social media team have been good sports about what many have labelled a social media fail. "Thanks for pointing our #YourMum has an alternative meaning you guys! Now back to the books..." @PenguinUKBooks tweeted.

Blog by Mike Wendling

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