Swearing & brand tone of voice. Does it damage your brand?

Swearing and brand tone of voice. Does swearing damage your brand?

Col Branding 3 Comments

Peter Capaldi as the very sweary Malcolm Tucker in the BBC series The Thick of It.

I want to start this blog by saying, I feel like I’m jumping on a bit of a bandwagon here in terms of this topic due to what has happened over the past week with a certain sweary blog post on LinkedIn. There have been a few blog posts generated by others because of it but I wanted to give my take, from a brand perspective.

In case you are not aware, my friend, and client, Cara Mackay from Gillies & Mackay put up a blog post last week on LinkedIn and it had some swearing in it (Read the blog here).

So what’s the big deal? Well….it kind of caused a bit of a shit storm over on the dullest social media platform known to humanity.

LinkedIn – Humour lost in a vacuum.

LinkedIn is the land of beige. The domain of the motivational graphic and the ‘Look at how awesome my business is, bow down to my money making abilities’ blowhards. I fucking hate LinkedIn, there, I’ve said it too, I’ve said the F word. Now you may be offended by that, and that is totally cool, your offense is yours to own, but don’t blame me for it. If you are offended by swearing then you can stop reading, and go find something else, there is an awful lot more you can read on the internet than this.

What happened on LinkedIn interests me a lot from a brand designers point of view, and more specifically, Tone of Voice. If you don’t know what I mean by brand Tone of Voice, then check out my blog about it and then come back here. You’ll get more out of this piece once you understand why I am writing this blog.

Okay, so now that we know what Tone of Voice (ToV) is, I will continue.

I know Cara and I know her business so for me to see Cara use swearing on her blog was not a surprise to me. It is how she genuinely expresses herself in real life. This wasn’t swearing for shock effect, this was swearing to emphasise feeling in her story. This is Cara’s brand ToV.
The most interesting thing about the blog is the comments section. Most are overwhelmingly supportive of the piece, but some people were saying it isn’t the place for expletives and it was wrong.

Brand Tone of Voice = Your Personality

How can someone’s brand ToV be wrong? That is like saying my Scottish accent is wrong and I shouldn’t be using it. The most effective brands have a ToV which is natural to them and comes from the heart, with passion and personality. Fakery and pretense in your ToV come across like bullshit smoke and mirrors, and LinkedIn is a breeding ground for it.

If you were to check out Cara on her various social media channels (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube) as well as her blog posts on her website, you’d quickly see that Cara didn’t write this blog littered with fucks because she wanted to shock, no, this was just Cara talking to you in her voice.
What she did want to do, was shake up LinkedIn a bit, and I applaud her for it, because it is time that LinkedIn joined the rest of the real human race and understand that we aren’t all corporate robots, that we have personality, and as Malcolm Tucker would say “If you don’t like it, then you can fuck, the fuck off!”

The fucking summary

This blog post is a bit of a rant from me because I feel strongly that brands should be able to express themselves in the way that is natural to them. The LinkedIn, politically correct brigade that shouted Cara down needs to take a long look at themselves and see why they are wrong to do so.

I like to think of myself as the brand guardian for Cara and her very successful shed business, and at no point have I thought she should cut the swearing.

Sure, she may turn away customers who are offended by swearing, but at the same time, she has an army, a squad of incredibly loyal customers who love her passion and energy. Her passion for life and her passion for sheds.

Gillies & Mackay Website

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’d be happy with letting all of my clients using swearing as part of their brand ToV. It may not suit their Tone of Voice and I will advise accordingly.

The LinkedIn’s of this world need more authentic people like Cara. It needs less of the thinly glossed varnish that so many LinkedIn users put over themselves to hide the cracks that may, just may, let some semblance of personality peek through.

In case you missed the link above, you can read Cara’s LinkedIn blog post here.

Stay Creative,