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Hijacking a Hashtag

posted: 6.11.13 by Traci Gardner

JELL-O launched an advertising campaign a couple of weeks ago based on hijacking the social media hashtag #FML and redefining the abbreviation to the family-friendly “Fun My Life.” In case you are not aware, #FML is normally expanded to the R-rated phrase “Fuck My Life” and is typically applied when things are less than ideal.

JELL-O’s campaign apparently started on May 20 with this Tweet:

 

My first thought upon seeing that Tweet and the related JELL-O website was that their social media director needed to be fired. I am not sure how you could get further from the original meaning of #FML than “Fun My Life,” and the potential for misreading is enormous. Worse, JELL-O looks clueless to any veteran of social networking.

JELL-O is soldiering on with the campaign, seemingly oblivious of the absurdity of their current message. JELL-O has replied to some of the #FML Tweets with suggestions of free gift cards and other goodies and cartoon drawings, but generally the conversations sound either awkward or inauthentic. For example, Diana Mendoza (@DianaMendozaaa) tweets, “Yo @JELLO I got syrup all over my favorite blouse! #FML” to which the JELL-O Twitter account replies, “@DianaMendozaaa keeping clean is the first step to a productive day. The second step is Zen gardening. http://t.co/4SbNmAsJsF.” Um, really?

As if that isn’t enough of a social media nightmare, JELL-O has added a sidebar to the Fun My Life website that lists every Tweet including the #FML hashtag, even though the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with JELL-O and probably were written by people who do not even know the JELL-O campaign exists. Here are a few random “Live #FML Tweets” that appeared on the site while I was writing this post:

  • Marissa Pearson (@mjpsoccer20): They say bad things come in 3s. One more thing to go! #fml
  • Courtney Tatro (@CourtneyjTatro1): Final exams start tomorrow #fml
  • Cindy K (@CinCity8503): I thought today was Friday.. #fml
  • Melissa (@MELt_d0wnn): might be going to the hospital #oh #fml
  • NiamhKearns♥ (@nkearns_647): I have a ICT and geography summer test on the same day 🙁 #fml

I am fairly certain that none of those folks are thinking that fun with JELL-O is the solution—unless we mean JELL-O shots, but surely that is not the message JELL-O wants to promote!

Maybe JELL-O’s promotion will succeed. The company has certainly provided a wonderful example for classroom discussion about checking things in Urban Dictionary. The campaign also provides fodder for a debate about what is appropriate in online advertising. For background, add a few articles like Digiday’s report this kind of promotion “reeks of cheesy desperation” and Social Media Today’s account featuring some of the very clumsy responses in the campaign.

For my part, I’m squelching an overwhelming desire to reply to JELL-O in the words of another Internet meme:

[Photos: Strawberry Banana JELL-O: Jell-O by Banalities, on Flickr; Inigo Montoya Meme: MemeGenerator.net]


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