Well, s#!t. Should you use profanity in marketing?
Old school marketers – and probably your mama – would say no. Keep your tone professional! Stay family-friendly. Make your copy as accessible and appealing to everyone as possible. That’s all excellent advice.
But, frack – times and tastes have changed. Plus, studies show that cussing, when used correctly, can actually help your marketing campaign. Swearing triggers emotions, something all marketers want to achieve. It creates a sense of inclusion as if your audience is in on the joke. People who swear are perceived as more trustworthy and honest – they don’t bulls#!t you – so swearing can help your brand achieve a sense of authenticity and be extra persuasive.
Therefore, is it possible to f%#kin cuss in marketing – and be successful? H-E-double hockey sticks, yes.
One of our favorite ads arrived at the end of 2020, a heck of a year for many of us. With that in mind, the ad, created by Canadian-based marketing firm Public, encourages folks to donate $5 to the Mental Health Coalition. The ad is full of folks telling 2020 precisely what they think of it, complete with more than 25 f-bombs and obscene hand gestures. Swearing is cathartic, so if you had a s#!tty 2020, you’ll likely relate to and feel a little better when you watch this video.
Other companies have found success by expertly using profanity in marketing. In 2012, Dollar Shave Club went viral for an ad called “Our Blades Are F**king Great.” There’s some cussing, and it’s funny as heck, but the ad also articulately explains why their razors are a good choice. The ad is memorable and easily sharable – another important component to its success. It’s no surprise that, four years after this ad went viral, the company was acquired by Unilever for $1 billion. Well, son of a gun.
You don’t even have to use actual profanity in your marketing for the ad to be effective. Fourteen (!) years after its debut, folks still quote Orbit Gum’s “Lint Licker” commercial:
And Air Asia scored a win with their simple, yet effective billboard in 2009:
We’ve used some spicy language here at Ray Rico Freelance, too. In 2020, we began sharing our favorite inspirational quotes on our social platforms as a fun and creative way to share a bit of encouragement with our audience. Here’s one quote we shared:
Sometimes, you just need a funny, relatable reminder at the beginning of your day, right?
Be F#@king Careful…
Don’t go wild with saucy language, however. It’s always a good idea to watch your language, as cuss words are f#$kin’ offensive to some people. You also don’t want to come across as immature or unprofessional. Basically: walk the line, use it sparingly and have some good taste, for Pete’s sake.
And of course, there is a major difference between using slurs or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist or racist language and cussing. You’re looking to make a d*&n statement, not insult and offend entire populations of people. Don’t be a d!@k.