Risqué Writing for Businesses: Don’t Be Afraid to #@ing Say It

ralph_soapHey, wild thing. I see you decided to join me down here below the rough language in my headline. Looking to slum it? Must be. You’re still reading. Obviously you’re not here to buy anything. Paying customers don’t like any sort of wild talk, right?

That’s a bunch of bull-fill-in-the-blank.

True, few businesses can get away with using “bad words” in their marketing efforts—those that peddle adult toys, for example. But having worked as a writer for 20 years now, I believe that the vast area between “bad words” and banker-speak is way underused in marketing, particularly on websites. Who decided that every business website needs to sound like it was written by a dude sporting an ascot, or a friendly farmer with his thumbs hooked through his bib overalls?

Last week, I had the opportunity to rewrite a little web copy for a head-shop. I checked out other pages on the company’s existing site and knew right away that they needed a voice makeover. This was no time to sound like a Midwestern realtor hosting an open house. A head shop doesn’t cater to the conventional, and its website copy shouldn’t either. Something a little more Marlboro Man, a little more Jeff Spicoli, was in order. I didn’t use any foul language—that’s almost never advisable—but I did get a little colorful. Early feedback was that the resulting copy was blanking awesome. (When it comes to head-shop copywriting, the best response isn’t bravo, hurrah, or well-said. It’s blanking awesome.)

I’m not encouraging anyone to be profane—far from it—but some brands are wilder than others, and need to reflect that on their websites for brand consistency. There’s plenty of room to play on that neglected playground between “bad words” and banker-speak. Don’t be afraid to lift up your shirt just a little. Restraint is not a staple of all good business copywriting. Neither is formality. Talk the talk of your customers, not the language of your loan officer.

How do you know if your brand is one of those brands that should be farther out on this playground? Well, take a look at your target market, or even better, let us take a look at it with you. If your clients like to color outside the lines, you should too. Be the untamed funball you were meant to be. I’m talking to you, owner of the nightclub. And you, owner of the motor speedway. And you, owner of the laser tag center. An ascot doesn’t suit you. Stop wearing those darn overalls. Be as #@ing unbridled as your customers wish you would be.

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