Is it ever okay to drop an F-bomb into your marketing communications?
Why the fuck not?
During the inaugural session of my WORDPLAY writing course – which happened last week, and YAY, it went well and I didn’t die of a heart attack or anything – a participant asked me to expand on what I’d been saying about the importance of using your own natural voice when writing for your business.
“I’m a pretty irreverent person and I’ve been known to throw down an F-bomb or ten,” she said. “Are you saying it’s okay to do it when writing for my business? If so, when?”
That, as we say in the business, is an effing good question.
Below you’ll find some examples of businesses and entrepreneurs who know how to “cuss with panache” to convey a strong sense of personality and relate to their customers on a human level.
But first, let’s take a moment to review why you’d ever want to consider using an F-bomb in your marketing – and when it might be appropriate to do so.
You’ve got to sound like YOU
I’ve talked about the importance of using your authentic voice in your marketing before. People want to know that they’re doing business with PEOPLE – not companies. This is especially true online, when we rarely get the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the people behind the website.
When you write for your business using the same voice you’d use when speaking to a friend, you give people a clear sense of who you are. They will feel like they know you. And those who can relate to you will feel genuine affection for you and be more motivated to support your business.
Speak to the people who are most likely to love what you say
If you try to craft messages that speak to absolutely EVERYONE, you’ll end up speaking to no one.
The average Internet user gets bombarded by so much information, if your message doesn’t stand out in some significant way it will fade into the background and be forgotten.
So don’t try to talk to everyone.
Instead, focus on the people who share your interests and passions – and speak the same language. The best way to find them is to communicate the way you naturally do with the people you love most – then watch as the people who resonate with your message respond.
What IS your shared language?
Marketing is a two-way street: you communicate a message and then people who are interested notice it and respond. You are not the only person in the conversation, so you have to keep the needs and preferences of the other people in mind as well.
So if you’re selling products or services to, say, children or seniors or people who are very much in a professional mindset, it’s probably smart to lay off the F-bombs. Ditto if you speak only to spiritual seekers who are trying to activate their highest selves, or people in positions of authority, or corporate CEOs – unless you’re purposely targeting renegades such as Richard Branson.
(I get the feeling that man would be a blast at parties.)
But if you’re speaking to people who are anywhere from 21-60 years old, and you want to relate to them on a personal level, resist the urge to mute your natural edginess.
Use the same voice you always do and the people who speak the same language will hear and respond. And they will thank you for being so real.
When is the best time to drop an F-bomb?
If you’re the effing type of person who effing drops an F-bomb in every other effing sentence you speak, you, um, might want to tone it down a notch for your business writing. Repetition gets boring fast. And the more you use such a strong word, the more you bleed it of its power.
The best way to maximize its impact is to use it sparingly and only for the points you really want to emphasize. That will make sure people sit up and pay attention to the information that matters most.
Observe the mighty F-bomb in its natural habitat
Here are some great examples of entrepreneurs and business owners dropping strategic F-bombs on their website and blog in a way that makes sense to me:
- Danielle LaPorte: Here’s a blog post in which the creator of The Desire Map encourages us to tell fear to “fuck right the fuck off.” She also talks about being “so fucking liberated” by Jiddu Krishnamurti on her About page.
- Subversive Cross-Stitch: OMG, this amazing woman has done the impossible – she has made me want to learn how to cross stitch, just so I can hang some of her fabulous creations on my wall and give them to friends to make them howl.
- Alternative Badassery: You can tell by the name of the website that you’re going to get some edge here. This article on “Marketing for People Who Hate Marketing” makes me think it’s possible that the woman who wrote it and I were separated at birth.
- Dollar Shave Club: When the guy in the video tells me his blades are “F***king great,” I believe him. Plus he’s giving jobs to people like Alejandro!
- Onboardly: Here’s a progressive marketing agency that wants to explain why all of your content needs to be “Fuck Yeah!” I co-sign this sentiment.
Finally, consider the immense popularity of Go the Fuck to Sleep, a bedtime book written for parents of young children. What started off as a joke on Facebook turned into a New York Times bestseller. Why? Because so many parents could identify with his irreverence and exasperation with the young child who was depriving him of his much-needed sleep — and the surprisingly relatable way in which he expressed it.
As you explore these examples, ask yourself: does it sound like a real person is talking to you here? Do you feel like you can relate to him or her? And does that make you feel more positively toward the business or website?
Horrors! I could never be so vulgar
Then don’t be.
If you are not naturally the kind of person to drop an F-bomb in your daily conversation, then please don’t feel like you have to start using them in your marketing writing.
It’s not the F-bombs that make the above examples powerful, but the sense of personality behind them.
The whole point is to let your true personality shine through, not to try to sound like you’re someone you’re not.
So if your personal style of communication is more spiritual, elegant, refined, or cute, then please honour that. The point isn’t to be shocking or controversial but instead to be true to who you really are.
That is what’s going to attract the attention of people who resonate with your message and inspire them to support your business.
And that’s what marketing is all about!