To give, or not to give, a [email protected]?

06.13.2018
photo of (add)ventures team watching team presentation at providence headquarters

Inspired by the classic Got Milk? campaign, members of our team converged to host bi-monthly luncheon sessions that dissect different communications tactics and consider opportunities to implement them in our own work. After all, what’s better than talking trends over delicious foods among the company of close creatives?

Our debut discussion stirred the profanity pot with a question posed to all of our team members – “Should brands use curse words in their marketing strategy?”

Examples like Kmart’s Ship My Pants, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese’s #SwearLikeAMother and HopCat’s Inappropriate Cat got our team thinking about how the use of profanity (and the avoidance of it) can be powerful in establishing connections with target audiences and boosting campaign recall.

But should profane language be peppered into every communications campaign? Here’s what we learned.

Hell yeah! Profane language can:

  • Help build authenticity in character.

In fact, according to a study by Stanford, profanity is associated with less lying and deception at an individual level and higher integrity at a societal level. The result? Consumers may trust brands that swear more than those that don’t.

  • Help ads stick.

Research by Harvard University shows that our memory skills are improved when we hear swear words, which can boost ad recall. We saw this first-hand during our strategy session – our team was able to recite lines from Orbit’s “Dirty Mouth Test 27” commercial nearly 11 years after its debut!

  • Make brands more relatable.

Feedback from our team confirmed that cursing can help consumers feel like they’re connecting with like-minded people. Plus, profanity adds a bit of passion to otherwise clean communications.

Heck no! Curse words can:

  • Make your brand look crass.

All curse words aren’t created equal. Brands should ensure that any use of profanity aligns with their mission and values and doesn’t stray too far from their voice or tone.

  • Offend consumers.

Our team agreed that profane language may be better received by some generations than others. The take-home message? Know thy audience first, inject foul language second.

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