Bad Language is better than no language at all

by Julian Westaby.


I recently stuck up a poll on Linkedin to ask what people thought of ‘the use of bad language’ (swearing) in everyday business life. I’m interested in this because recently a really good wee ‘presentation’ has being doing the rounds. It’s called, depending on where you view it, “What the Fuck is Social Marketing” or, in some places, for those of a sensitive nature “What the F*ck is social marketing?” Anyway, my point is, as soon as I saw the ‘F’ word used in business, I was drawn to it, like a rude moth to the profanity flame. However, it just so happens the content for this little slide show is erm…shit hot, it’s really clever. It covers a HUGE subject in a simple way and passes what we call ‘The Granny Test’ ie my mum would read this and ‘get’ what Social Marketing is all about. So it’s this, the excellent content that makes it compelling, but it’s aided and abetted by the fact that a rude word in the title, used by a forward thinking firm had got you to open the…bloody thing in the first place.

So impressed was I with this slide show that I sent a wee e-mail off to the Head Honcho of Espresso, the Canadian Firm who came up with the ‘What the Fuck’ presentation. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, I was conversing over the ether with another senior member of their team, finding out all about them and getting up close and personal with their ‘tone’. It quickly became abundantly clear that their no-nonsense, straight talking was real, it wasn’t just the result of a brief dalliance with a clever copywriter. In other words, they were ‘honest’and their thinking was joined up, across the board, 360 degree (insert your own cliché here).

So what’s this got to do with swearing, Victor? Well, shock factor for one thing. Use comedy as an example. Great stand-up comedians don’t need to swear and they can make you giggle. A lot. REALLY fantastic stand-up comedians often use profanities and they can make you wet yourself laughing. Bill Hicks said of Marketing people in a seminal routine that’s available over your friendly neighbourhood Google “Just Fucking kill yourself”. He summed up/slammed (depending on your point of view) an entire Industry in a few minutes and it’s achingly funny and really enhanced by his ‘appalling’ use of language.

Today’s conclusion is therefore: Yes, use what my mother might call ‘industrial language’ but use it sparingly and if you’re going to do it, be really clever about it. As those clever Espresso people have demonstrated and as their name suggests, a short strong jolt can be good for Business!

Now Fuck off, we’ve got work to do.