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Jun 17, 2014    Industry Intrigue

Implicit Swearing – Clever or Crude?


A few months ago, I was drying my hands in the bathroom after taking a particularly difficult exam when I noticed the label on the paper towel dispenser. “Wash and dry your hands, for the health of it!” My brain still cloudy with numbers from the exam, took a moment longer than usual to process this pun. Then the light bulb, “oh, like ‘hell’. Ha.”

Yes, one “ha”, that is all the phrase got out of me. I started thinking about other slogans that I’ve seen that try to illicit attention by using undercover swear words. I concluded that companies who try to do this have a lazy marketing executive somewhere who is literally cursing at his desk.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against swearing, I had just never seen a slogan like that executed cleverly. That is until I did some research.

Remember Kmart’s Ship My Pants commercial? Okay, that was hilarious. They also have another one about Big Gas Prices. My favorite is Sofa King’s “Our prices are Sofa King Low” – a slogan that was actually banned in the UK.

These definitely get more than one “ha” out of me. They are funny because they have a meaning that stands alone from the cursing. When you figure out what they are really trying to say, you feel clever, like you’ve been included on some inside joke.

For every person who might enjoy the brief moment of connection with the marketer’s message, there will always be those who are not so amused. I was talking to a guy once who, at 22 years old, said his mother did not want him to be friends with people who swore. (Sidenote: He went on to say that he would be friendless and, in fact, not be able to be friends with himself if he followed that mantra.) If a brand is willing to take that risk to be “fun” and “edgy”, they must also be prepared for backlash from people like the aforementioned mother.

So what do you think? Is implicit swearing clever or crude?

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