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December 17, 2015
On Cursing!!!
Think it’s cool to include cursing, or the suggestion of cursing, into your ad copy? Or any of your content? Think it adds emphasis and surprise and connects with all those Millennials who don’t give a…well, who use a curse approximately once a sentence?

If you are in a marketing role and you condone cursing as part of your brand positioning or messaging strategy, you’re making an egregious mistake. All the passion and relevance you think you are adding are being Trumped (yes) by off-brand messaging. If cursing is not part of your brand and you are cursing, you are distracting me from the core message.

And I’m not happy about that if it’s my marketing budget we’re talking about.

Defenders of the curse love to talk about authenticity and humor and how they are speaking with like-minded audiences. That’s great.  Here are two questions I have never — and I mean nev-er — seen anyone address head on:

1. Why can’t you find a more descriptive word that enhances the message instead of just turning up the volume, which is essentially all that curing accomplishes? You’re “saying something louder”; this helps? Do those three exclamation points in the headline really help? Really?

2. Where are the metrics that demonstrate it’s more effective?

Do I curse? You bet your…yes, I do. Often I curse for the sake of it; I can’t say it helps anything other than making me feel good (although this is a high priority, certainly). And it does become more of a habit the more I do it.

Is it everywhere? Yep. Music, movies, TV, websites, blogs. Pretty much everywhere. So much so that it’s not surprising. Or unusual. Or interesting. It loses any effectiveness, if that was even a possibility.
Are you listening, cursers? It loses its effectiveness the more you do it. So why the…why continue doing it?

Let’s sum up, shall we? It loses effectiveness over time. It can be replaced by more effective communication. It has not been proven more effective. So what is the rationale behind doing it?

In virtually every article I read in preparation for this piece, the essential argument in favor is 100% subjective. Someone thinks it’s authentic. Or assumes it doesn’t offend others. Or they cite Richard Pryor or Gene Simmons to justify its use.


I’ve read that cursing can bring dull and lifeless copy to life. My response: Why did the dull and lifeless copy exist in the first place? Are you kidding me? This is marketing, guys. You can’t use “it just feels right” as a rationale. How about this: Let’s all agree that working harder is the golden rule; the way to achieve the goals we set for our businesses.

Let’s work a little harder to find a better word, one that adds something other than abject noise. It’s not a bomb anymore; it’s just an F.

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Robert Calvanico is Client Services Director for Living Group, a London-based integrated digital and branding agency. He leads the Living team's New York office. Robert has held management positions at agencies such as Euro RSCG, Cossette Post and Blue Fountain. He is a passionate sports fan and music lover, and lives in Tribeca, New York City.
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