Tuesday 2¢: Potty Mouth with Purpose

This week’s half-arsed idea, swearing in marketing, should you?

A few months back, I saw a post on LinkedIn that was sharing the promotion of the Everyone Hates Marketing newsletter. “Learn to stand the f*ck out”, it boldly claimed.

It floated into my feed as one of my connections had commented, questioning the use of profanity in the promotion.

I squirrel these things away in Google Keep, ready for a moment of blogging inspiration, and it came to mind as I swear, or more specifically, I swore a bit on my podcast last week. Not with purpose. I just did. It is, after all, called The Rockstar CMO F’in’ Marketing Podcast.

As the adults used to say when I was a kid – was that big or clever?

According to another comment in this conversation on LinkedIn, Will Smith (when he is not smashing comedians in the face) once said he doesn’t swear in his raps because his grandma told him, “Truly intelligent people do not have to use words like this to express themselves.”

I think when I was a kid, my Dad would say similar to me about it being a sign of having a limited vocabulary.

However, on becoming an adult, I quickly discovered he swears like a f**king trooper.

Back to whether you should be profane in marketing, well, of course, it depends, and if I was discussing this on the podcast, I might say – here are five f’in’ reasons:

  • It shows a rawness and passion for the topic
  • It grabs attention, of course; that’s why swear words were invented
  • It can be surprising or funny
  • It can help you differentiate, show your voice and find your kind of people
  • It’s a bold move. It shows confidence

What should you be careful of?

  • That surprise is not a jolt; you are on brand. The thing that shocked us about Will Smith whacking a guy at the Oscars is he’s the “never swore in his lyrics” guy
  • Depending on context, it can exclude people if it comes across as too male or macho. Of course, swearing is an inclusive sport, open to all. Just be sensitive to the context.
  • You may sound oafish, crass or insensitive. Maybe that’s your brand, but remember, someone may be thinking, “oh that shows a lack of vocabulary”.

It boils down to the A word:


(and not looking like an arse)

YAWN! Yeah, I know, we’ve kinda sucked the joy out of “authentic” in the last couple of years, and it’s the first line of any messaging advice these days, but it’s true.

Are these the words that reflect you and your brand, and would people hear them if they spoke to you and your co-workers? If you sign up to Everyone Hates Marketing, based on this promotion, is the language and advice as direct as the promotion?

I got curious on this topic, did some research, and I wondered what the author of Everybody Writes, Ann Handley, would do. I can’t imagine her being profane.

And in this blog post (and I warn you, if content youth is your thing, this is a whole FIVE years old) she writes:

“I’d never advocate for the use of profanity in marketing. Most companies should not curse in their marketing. Full. Stop. Why? Because, most of the time, it’s gratuitous. It’s often meant to provoke, in a cheap, forced way. It tends to come across as bridge-burningly aggressive”

Ann Handley

And yet, the article is about her admiration for an article called “How To: Fucking Work from Home”.

Her piece bubbles with that frustration—not just in the story she tells, but how she tells it, and the language she uses…. if you ARE going to swear in your marketing… OWN IT. Be unapologetic.

Also Ann Handley

Ann is conflicted, as evidenced by the title; “I Should Hate this LinkedIn Post, But Actually It’s the Greatest“. I really encourage you to read Ann’s post and the comments.

Back to my podcast, The Rockstar CMO F’in’ Marketing Podcast, I may struggle with describing myself as a Rockstar (that’s a topic for another day), but the f’in’ bit – 100% on brand.

So, if you want to be profane, have a potty mouth with purpose.

Fancy more of this?

Subscribe to my Rockstar CMO Newsletter