* Warning: This article contains controversial opinions and is unsuitable for people who find it difficult to hold opposed ideas without a total meltdown!
There are many things I am not.
I am not a goody-goody, I am not particularly strait-laced and I am by no means prudish – honestly, far from it.
However, when it comes to copy there is one thing that really puts me off. It can even make me want to stop reading, and that’s the F-bomb!
Now, I totally understand the value of shock, especially in marketing. I also understand all about the ‘Overton Window’ and how the previously unthinkable can become ‘normalised’. I have a passion for psychology so get all that and much more.
But, regardless, I still think using the F-bomb is just a terrible and lazy idea.
From what I can gather, the main selling points (as put forward by its advocates) of using the word ‘f**k’ in your copy, are as follows:
And my reply to all of these points…..in just three words is….are you serious?
Come on. Really. Sure, if you are down the pub joking around with your mates, or stub your little toe, then yeah I completely understand it. In fact, I can thoroughly recommend a good old fashioned cuss.
But in your carefully crafted persuasive commercial copy? Nope. Not really.
Want to know why? Well, here go the cons:
Put it this way; the English language has evolved over thousands of years. The range and scope of its roots are mind-blowing. On its long, convoluted journey it has adapted, adopted, assimilated, split, stolen, merged and morphed back together in a staggering number of ways.
As a result, it has accumulated a simply vast vocabulary of words. Far more than probably any other language…and yet with such a rich resource at your disposal, you have to resort time and time again to one poor little overworked four letter word starting with F.
I mean, really?There are twenty-five other letters also crammed full of wonderful expletives – as well as many other splendid copulation synonyms to draw upon! Click To Tweet
You might think it speaks directly to your perfect, dream audience; is cool, great, rock’n’roll, and hiptastically wonderful.
But does anyone ever really know who reads their copy or when or where it ends up?
The digital world we now live in is completely infinite with no limits or boundaries in any direction or dimension. So once we send things out into hyperspace, we completely lose control of them, and they literally take on a life of their own and, hence, can end up impressing or disappointing for all eternity.
Even if your copy reaches your perfect audience who all absolutely and utterly worship the ground the F-word walks on, who is to say they are not sitting right next to their elderly aunt or an old fashioned nun on the no.9 bus?
Or for that matter, their six-year-old brother who is reading the copy over their shoulder and thinks that the new word they have just learnt is wonderful too and should be used as often as possible at their primary school!
Get my point?
We might all live in a nice global village now, but not all parts of it have the same values, cultures and beliefs. Far from it. Things taken for granted as normal in one country may be taboo, bad taste or even banned in another.
So why take the risk and offend a potential customer (or even be shadowbanned) when you don’t have to?
Just because people think it’s becoming more acceptable to drop the F-word into their copy these days, it could well be a fad and one that ages badly.
I appreciate that copy is all about staying contemporary, but I’m always surprised by how often old work I wrote years ago still pops up out of the blue when I least expect it.
Most of us produce work, not for ourselves but for our clients, and generally with the primary aim of selling some product on their behalf. So we don’t really want to be diverting attention away from that goal, do we?
It’s kind of erm counter-productive wouldn’t you say?
Advertising is chock full of clever and creative alternatives to the F-word.
So, if you really feel the need to use the F-word to try to look cheeky, funny or cool, why not take inspiration from these examples and do something original?
Someone a lot smarter than me once said: ‘It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently’.
You see, people have long memories and getting a reputation as an ‘unoriginal smarty pants potty mouth’ if you want to be in it for the long haul maybe just isn’t that wise!
And there is one last point I think worth mentioning. The subconscious mind has a real difficulty disassociating words. So, when you put your client’s name next to or near an obscene word it may well automatically put them both together! It might not happen, but it’s something to think about!
So there you have it: my top 8 reasons (plus a final bonus) to leave the F-bomb at home when you work on your copy, and try to be a bit more creative and original.
I’m sure lots of people will disagree with my viewpoint, and tell me why they love using it so much. That’s fine. I look forward to hearing from anyone– just do me one favour…refrain from using the F-bomb 😉