Do Swear Words Make Your Brand Seem More Authentic?


Pardon our French.

Lightboard with the words, "F@ck it"

Fcuk. It’s not a swear word, as such, but the marketing team at UK’s French Connection knew what they were doing when they fashioned this anagrammatic logo some years ago, and these days an increasing number of brands and people in the public eye are unabashedly, outright cursing for our attention. Often we love them for it (Obama’s penchant for ‘motherf**cker’ was nothing less than charming and, let’s face it, we’d all like Gwyneth Paltrow a hell of a lot less if she didn’t say ‘sh*t’ all the time), so here are five reasons why swearing works for certain straight-talking brands – and could for yours.

It’s funny

Swearing can be a simple way to win a smile, and humour was part of the reason a couple of lads in Melbourne created their toilet paper business. “First of all, it’s funny. Lots of room for toilet jokes, which we love,” say the crew behind Who Gives a Crap, who’ve got the cool kids stocking up on their cutely packaged toilet paper (designed, funnily enough, by a studio called Swear Words), “but really, we love toilet paper because for us, it’s our way of making a difference.” Donating 50 per cent of profits to improving sanitation in the developing world, these guys are quite literally changing the world by getting us to chuckle over an otherwise mundane product.

It’s humanising

In the battle of breaking down stereotypes, swearing is a powerful weapon. Take, for example, Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway – the pair behind the Thug Kitchen blog and bestselling cookbooks preaching the gospel of veganism from their potty mouths. Speaking with Collective Hub a couple of years ago, Michelle said “[It] should tell you something about vegan culture if our blog, that will swear right f**king at you, is seen as more open and welcoming, than the rest of vegans. That’s not good, other vegans… that’s not good.” As Michelle and Matt have found, salty words can make your brand appear more approachable and authentic.

It’s a leveller

Aussie wine start-up Vinomofo have taken the uppity art of wine connoisseur-ing down a peg or two, saying that “Good wine should never be intimidating, or the domain of a chosen few self-proclaimed ‘connoisseurs’ – that’s all just bowties and bullsh*t, and those days are gone.” They’re appealing to the masses by speaking their (colourful) language, and benefiting in turn from the social effects of swearing – studied in depth by Monika Bednarek, a senior lecturer in linguistics at the University of Sydney. “Swearing is important for creating close relationships, friendship or intimacy with others, and bonds can be formed around it,” she told The Daily Beast, and for Vinomofo, it’s galvanised half a million “wine loving mofos” across the globe.

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It’ll get you publicity

What was mistakenly thought to be a ballsy move by Tourism NT in November of last year was quickly revealed as a guerrilla campaign from a group called NT Official – aimed at attracting “younger travellers” to Australia’s Northern Territory – that positioned it’s slogan ‘C U in the NT’ suggestively across a range of merchandise. The controversial design caused quite the stir across social media and garnered international attention, both bad and good  (The Advertising Standards Board upheld a complaint that argued the use of this term was “extremely denigrating to women”, while some responders remarked that they’d never even heard of the NT before the campaign). Regardless of which side of the c-bomb fence you stand, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

It oozes confidence

Science has long linked swearing to an increase in self confidence and heightened sense of control, so Sarah Knight was clever in naming her book – that she penned in the hope of helping us take back our lives and time from people we couldn’t care less about – The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K (just try saying that title without feeling at surge of satisfaction). British psychiatrist Neel Burton wrote that, “by swearing we show, if only to ourselves, that we are not passive victims but empowered to react and fight back,” and this boosts our self-esteem and inspires further action. Confidence is also a mighty attractive attribute, so from a branding perspective, a little cussing could be the way into many a heart.

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