Foul language in marketing

Picture of Tom Dougherty
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

2 November 2020

Using foul language in marketing

There have been times when we at Stealing Share haven’t been afraid to use foul language in our own marketing. “Don’t use the same old shit” was a slogan we used once. We think we’re no longer living in the 20th century. When saying a curse word gets your mouth washed out with soap.

Nope. The internet and social media spurs all kinds of word usage. A lot of it unnecessary. And simply used to troll the rest of us. We’re living in the Borat era. But sometimes a good “shit” or “goddamit” is effective. And brands shouldn’t automatically refrain from it.

A good example is the recent campaign by agencies MullenLowe and Mediahub, encouraging mail-in voters to recheck their ballots. The first video on the docket: Gone2Shit.

“With an election as emotional as this one, foul language may be the only appropriate response.”

Now, the media itself is often the message. You wouldn’t necessarily use foul language for the TV airwaves. The Gone2Shit spot is being shared on social media and donated online media time.

And in this case, it’s funny. The spokesman, JJ Wright, looks like an upstanding, older man, playing it straight. And it gets the point across. Don’t let your ballot go to shit.

Foul language or no? Your brand answers the question.

The spot – and there are others – also fits the brand face of today’s political world. That’s an important consideration when using foul language or simply edgy language. Your brand tells you whether you have permission to throw in a “shit” every now and then.

foul languageFor example, Hallmark doesn’t have that permission. But Harley-Davidson does. In fact, if we were counseling that motorcycle brand, I’d say the edgiest language it can find would raise its voice above the noise. Foul language wouldn’t be off base.

The lesson? Don’t be afraid of being shocking. Target audiences are fed so many marketing messages each day that you have to be louder, in a sense, to be heard. But it takes consideration. Your brand tells you how far you can go.

With an election as emotional as this one, foul language may be the only appropriate response.

See more posts in the following related categories: Advertising Marketing


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