Dagnabbit: Why marketers love to curse

Published Mar 08, 2017 | Written by Chris Abraham

I confess. I swear. A lot. Amanda Zantal-Wiener, writing for HubSpot, makes it feel OK to admit this. After all, new research proves there is a strong correlation between cursing and authenticity in character. I am also unashamedly honest. 

And if you are something of a potty-mouthed marketer, then you are in good company, Doug Kessler, creative director of the agency Velocity Partners, has given numerous presentations on the power of swearing in your marketing.

Bad language might not be for everyone, and if you are not a natural cusser I do not recommend you start. But, when used right it can prove very useful.

Kessler gives five reasons for cursing in marketing:

  1. It carries the power of surprise.
  2. It signals confidence.
  3. It sends a signal to like-minded people.
  4. It signals authenticity.
  5. It’s funny.

In the article below Amanda explores the history and psychology behind swearing, and sites research that traces "much of the psychology of cursing to the amygdala -- a “mass of gray matter” in the brain that’s responsible for us experiencing emotions".

It is this emotional response which makes swearing effective in marketing. But, with most taboo's, proceed with caution and use in moderation. 

Not sure where the line is when it comes to streaming profanity? The Independent recently ranked every British swear word in order of offensiveness (CAUTION: this is exactly what it says on the tin). 


My first instinct is to apologize for it. But then, I came across new research that shows a strong correlation between cursing and authenticity in character. If only I had known that when I was a rebellious teen and could have retorted, as my colleague Kierran Petersen suggested, "I’m being authentic, Mom!" But it's true -- the study showed a positive connection between profanity and honesty -- on both a micro (individual) and macro (society) level.

Note: This post was written with civility and respect in mind. Its intention is to explore the use and potential ROI of profanity in marketing, and is not meant to offend or suggest that this practice is mandatory.

Published by Chris Abraham March 8, 2017
Chris Abraham