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Should I swear in my marketing?
May 17, 2022

Dear FAM,

I know there are a lot of moving parts to this question, but I still want to ask it: how much swearing is acceptable in the marketing world? I see some brands succeed with swearing like Gary Vee while others fail miserably when they try. Is there a balance I can strike so I’m coming off as passionate and edgy, but without the blowback?

Sincerely,

Cursingly Curious

Dear Cursingly Curious,

Ahh, the subtle art of dropping an F-bomb.

This is one of those fine lines in the world of marketing. Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk go all-in on swearing while others keep it clean as a new penny. So how can you decide what’s right for you?

I went through this exact thought process while writing my book. I wasn’t able to have profanity in my manuscript as per my publisher’s agreement, but I actually really like swearing. So I started to think hard about this topic. My thought process ended up with two guiding principles:

  1. Swearing often helps me connect with my audience on a more emotional and approachable level than using softer language.
  2. If someone in my audience who gets offended by me saying fuck or bullshit, that’s their problem, not mine. The alternative is censoring myself, which is a form of people-pleasing.

Again, this was my thought process. You will need to find your own way to a balance that makes sense for you. The two points above guide me whenever I’m toeing the line between clean and dirty language, so maybe that could be a good starting point.

Now, when it comes to the impact of swearing on your brand and audience, there are advantages and disadvantages. My wife Melanie speaks from stage a lot, and in many cases the contract includes verbiage that prohibits swearing from stage. Sometimes you’ll run into similar scenarios (not just with speaking arrangements but with many other scenarios), and you’ll have to decide what’s right for you.

Would I turn down a $10,000 speaking contract because they prohibit swearing? Of course not. As I mentioned, I chose to work with a book publisher that prohibited swearing in the manuscript. I’m not going to treat those limitations as an insult or censorship—after all, there are other ways of expressing emotion, and I have a pretty good vocabulary.

I get there are some people and organizations that don’t like it. Fine by me. It comes down to mutual respect—for example, I don’t drop F-bombs in front of my grandma. I also don’t hock loogies in church. Church is a sacred environment and my grandma was raised in a different time in a much more conservative environment. I don’t want to be disrespectful, so I hold off on the F-bombs and loogies in those scenarios.

Think about what principles should guide your own swearing, as I did. You’ll find your way with it.

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