Oh Penguin, even Your Mum knew better than that...

Oh Penguin, even Your Mum knew better than that...

11 March 2015 | Pic PR

Try to think back, way back, to the bygone days of the 90s. Will Smith was providing us with his delightfully clean rap and dib dabs were like currency on the playground. The Spice Girls were still going strong and a Budweiser advert had us all shouting “WASSSUPPP” at each other. It was also the last time I think I heard a ‘Your Mum’ jibe. Well, that is until yesterday when the plethora of insults we thought were dead were re-ignited by an extremely unlikely source…

With the impending arrival of Mothering Sunday, many brands are utilising social media channels to create conversations, engage with consumers and promote products. One brand that obviously had this intention was Penguin Books when they decided to employ a seemingly innocent social media campaign to promote books as the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. However one ill-executed hashtag later and the wholesome promotional scheme has been turned into a complete laughing stock.

The problem arose soon after Penguin UK tweeted its followers encouraging them to ask for recommendations on ‘bookish gifts’ that would be greatly received by the mothers in the UK. Seems like a fairly harmless request right? Well it was, apart from the fact that those naïve folk at Penguin opted to use the hashtag #YourMum as the pivotal basis for the campaign. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was at school if you heard someone utter this term you knew it was about to kick off. Throwing out one of these insults was as taboo as it got and would soon be followed by a round of ‘ooooo burn’ from a gathering audience. It would appear however that the social media team working on behalf of Penguin forwent this amusing adolescent experience.

The result? A barrage of ‘clever’ Your Mum jokes directed straight back at Penguin books. There were various one liners that had me giggling away, quite a few are a bit too vulgar to mention, however my more PG favourites included:

  • #YourMum so fat she sat on an iPhone and made it an iPad. Still makes it easier to read eBooks on!
  • The best thing about @PenguinUKBooks #YourMum campaign? They’re doing it EVERY LUNCHTIME this week. Just like, you know, #YourMum
  • Do not believe @PenguinUKBooks did not know about #YourMum. She can easily be seen from Antarctica.
  • Waterstones even got in on the action tweeting @PenguinUKBooks “You’re braver than we are.”

Despite the apparent misunderstanding the hashtag has gone viral and has proved so popular that yesterday it achieved trending status. While it may seem the original intent of the campaign has been lost, some are now questioning whether the publisher’s ignorant social media fail was in fact an incredibly well timed PR ploy.

A former Penguin employee, Jennie Cownie, has taken credit for the mishap, stating that the initial idea originated from a team brainstorm about the development of a campaign to run for Mother’s day. The plan was written up and as a working title it was dubbed #YourMum. Cownie ended up exiting the company rather suddenly, leaving the campaign in the ‘capable’ hands of her colleagues. She had not actually intended the tag line to be used in the public domain but has found its success extremely humorous.

Penguin have been good sports about what many are labelling the biggest social media fail of 2015 tweeting – “Thanks for pointing our #YourMum has an alternative meaning you guys! Now back to the books.” At the end of the day, whether it was intentional or not, the hashtag has definitely caught the imagination of the public. In the last 24 hours alone there have been over 500 posts using the hashtag, generating an estimated 9 million impressions. Through this misinterpreted social media campaign the brand has undoubtedly gained substantial exposure, albeit for perhaps the wrong reasons. With the attention it has received, Penguin look set to continue the campaign for the rest of the week.

So, to quote one twitter user ‘Tomorrow we all get to do #YourMum again.”