No Fan of Profanity: Why Marketers and Baseball Players Should Leave the Foul Language in the Dugout
If there is one thing I cannot tolerate as a professional communicator, a decent human being, a smart business person and “my mother’s son” … it’s cursing, gad dang it! Profanity. Foul language. Potty mouth. It’s not right, not necessary and not advantageous to 99 out of 100 brands. Yet, more and more seem to be using it.
While in Broward County, Florida last week I was caught off guard by the 2012 baseball season because spring training was in the air before it was in the NY sports headlines. Between the Grapefruit League locals and the excitement around the new Marlins Stadium it was obvious that it’s almost time to Play Ball. Thoughts about fly balls and line drives, run downs and championship runs, AJ Burnett in Pittsburgh and not in Pinstripes all put a smile on my face. However, it led me to a less pleasant thought and the basis of this post. When it comes to profanity, baseball players are given a 4th strike – like brave soldiers, drunken sailors, creative geniuses and people in pain – they have been afforded a ‘look the other way’ for an occasional unacceptable outburst. Marketers have no such luxury.
As a die-hard, life-long Yankees fan I emphatically love the boys of summer and am excited about spring training. I have been rooting for the Bronx Bombers since before Steinbrenner took over, cried when Munson passed over and still attend and/or watch over 125 games each year. I have worked through conflicted feelings created when the home team acquired hated ex-Red Sox players – Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon … and before my time, Babe Herman Ruth – but somehow kept on rooting for them and embraced the enemy imports from the first crack of the bat or high hard heater. Still embrace them as Yankee champions … except for Clemens. Boston can have him back.
Good clean fun, I thought. Moms and Apple Pie. America’s pastime played by greats from Gehrig to Jeter. In a word: Tradition! Unfortunately, while Lou and Derek are exceptions, another traditional in baseball is cursing … as in ‘#+%#!!’ umpire!
Foul balls are not good. Foul language is much worse. Unlike baseball, it has not been a tradition in marketing or PR for good reason. Let’s hope it doesn’t become one, especially as the direct to consumer access eliminates the compliance and clearance gatekeepers and takes our game directly to the fans.
Here are 2 examples where language a gentleman would not say in front of a lady is used to market a product or service. Both online brands – caterer.com and dollarshaveclub.com – produced web videos that try to be funny. The Dollar Shave Club content shows signs of comic talent and timing; Caterer.com simply took a bad joke too far. Both are memorable but neither spot can claim a positive brand impact or business result from the profanity.
Effective? Not so easy to determine.
In my opinion, the net-net is negative and the bleeped f-bombs were not necessary. With that warning about the nature of these brand videos … Let the viewer beware and wary.
Note: Dollar-A-Day-Shave received $1 million in series A funding from VCs including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz. Many credit the video’s 3 million and climbing views for the attention it garnered and impression it made. It works in spite of the profanity; not as a result of it.
Warning:This parody of foul-mouthed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is more offensive than the Dollar Shave Club video:
Note: Very memorable, and perhaps successful, as evidenced by the entire Little Gordon series the company has deployed. However, there is such a thing as bad publicity … and I believe the shock approach and forced tag-line “If you want to work in an industry with character, search for jobs at caterer.com” do more harm than good.
Vulgar rarely works. Of course, there are a few exceptions: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Chris Rock and dare I say … Darn Yankees.
What do you think?
Larry is president of Latergy, a video services boutique that provides multimedia content strategy, production, distribution and measurement services to professional communicators. Prior to Latergy, Thomas pioneered online video marketing and PR as co-founder and president of PR Newswire’s MultiVu and COO of Medialink Worldwide, a NASDAQ company that was sold to a VC-backed competitor. He lives in NJ with his wife, Sherry Lynn, and their plethora of pups. Contact him at lthomas@Latergy.com.