F*#k it! Profanity and Marketing

Published: May 01, 2023

min read

Here we are – thinking profanity was offensive and not parliamentary language that can be used, certainly not in marketing parlance and there comes a study that proves us all wrong!

According to this study, it was found that consumers found profanity and swear words to be helpful. In product reviews, they found swear words conveyed either a strong opinion on the said product or served to intensify the attributes of the same.

It was found that profanity and swear words were perceived by consumers in a couple of ways. It was thought that when someone uses profanity or swear words in their speech, while talking about a product, they were actually expressing strong feelings about the product attributes – because what it meant was that they were willing to go as far as taking a risk and even break social taboos to express their feelings.

Profanity also works by conveying something about a product – it actually intensifies the attributes of the product itself. For instance, in the sentence “this air conditioner is f*%$ing quiet,” – the swear words actually do a lot in describing a strong attribute of the product.

This kind of thing works particularly well when it comes to word of mouth – or talking about something. Swear words and profanities are a part of language one hears or even uses every day.

The study also raises the question of “how much is too much?”

Marketing and the use of swear words

Profanity and swear words are a part of people’s every day lingo. Gen Z thrives on it. And they have short fuses – which makes it a fricking deadly combination, if I might say so.

So language with a smattering of swear-words is something that people can understand and even identify with.

But how about using it in marketing?

Should marketers use profanity?

It is true that the use of swear words can influence consumers. They can enhance the attributes of the product and convey the emotion of the speaker with regard to the product.

And with all the use of swear words in everyday life, using it in marketing communication can make you look human.  I mean, swearing is genuine and visceral. Absolutely fricking human!

But while profanity can work with some people, it might just be a bit too much for others. Is it worth appealing to one group of people while putting off another one?

The aim of marketing is to attract a wide audience to your brand. And the wider and larger your audience, the longer the list of words that they can be offended by!

Marketing messaging tends to highlight or accentuate an emotion that you as a consumer must be feeling. Do you really want to throw some profanity in to increase that already exaggerated emotion? Is that even a good thing?

While it is perfectly alright to use swear words on the rare occasion it warrants it, by and large, it is better to avoid using it. It depends on the context.

It is just not elegant and can speak volumes about your brand, should it be perceived the wrong way. It depends on your brand. Are you a brand with products that work with beer-drinking, loud, partyers? Swear by all means! But if you are a smooth and silky single malt that pairs with the finest cigars and dark chocolate, please refrain! 

It also depends on the audience you are trying to target and attract. Like I said earlier, it is just not worth swearing to attract one group of people, only to put off an entirely different group. 

Having said that – if you plan to use profanity just to attract the attention of people, or just for the sake of appearing cool, for heaven’s sake, don’t bloody do it!


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


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