Branding is essential to growing your business so it’s important to take the time to carefully craft a reputable, respectable image for your company.
Or you could just say screw it and be yourself.
I know, I sound like I’m being facetious, but it actually works for some businesses to not take themselves or their marketing efforts too seriously.
People Notice Offensive Words Like “Whore”
Admit it, you’re reading this article because the title is offensive. It’s okay. I read t-shirts for the same reason.
This morning at the gym, with my view limited to the back of the t-shirt of the guy in front of me, I couldn’t help but read it. It was a t-shirt for a cab company which normally would never get a second look from anybody, but this one stood out. It said “Take your whore home faster with Owen’s Ace Transportation.” I chuckled and decided that I had to know—was this a real company or a spoof? The shirt included a phone number, so I was pretty sure it was legit. I asked the guy wearing it if it was his company and he said, “No, it’s a cab company down the shore. They give them to anyone who takes a cab.”
So what kind of cab company puts the word “whore” on the back of their t-shirts? Apparently the kind that has an owner who got arrested for drug charges. But that’s not really the point. The point is that their completely tasteless t-shirt slogan not only got my attention, but got me talking about Ace Transportation. And who knows, maybe the next time I’m down the shore gambling and picking up prostitutes, I’ll give them a call. (Okay NOW I’m being facetious)
Obviously rude and offensive t-shirts aren’t exactly a new thing (just look at T-Shirt Hell) but they aren’t generally associated with a specific brand or company. I wasn’t so shocked to see the word whore on a t-shirt, but I was surprised that it was t-shirt for a cab company. Generally a cab company would want to portray an image of reliability and professionalism, but not Owen, and I give him props for that.
And if you think I’m nuts for actually praising Owen of Ace Transportation for essentially being a sleazeball, there are 2 things you should realize:
- His business serves the Jersey Shore area (so he’s got the right audience for rude marketing).
- He’s not the only one doing this kind of thing.
Offensive Advertising Gets People Talking
Recently Groupon got some attention for a controversial commercial they ran during the Superbowl. At first it sounded like a PSA for Saving Tibet and ended with a crass comment about deals on Tibetan food.
Here’s an excerpt from the commercial:
“The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry.. and since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we’re each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago.”
The commercial received a mixed response—some people loved it, some people hated it, but everyone was talking about it. It got tons of coverage from blogs and news outlets and inspired all sorts of comments and tweets, both good and bad.
While the Groupon commercial got plenty of buzz, that’s not to say that any press is good press. But with foresight on their side, Groupon also created some goodwill for their company by supporting The Tibet Fund. They minimized the damage to their brand by countering their obnoxious comments with genuine charity work.
Rude as a Gimmick
So not only is it okay to be rude, crass or even offensive… sometimes it gives you a real edge, especially when you’re the only one in your industry doing it.
Imagine this scenario at a restaurant:
- A customer asks for soda.
- The waiter replies, “No, you’re just getting water.”
- The customer laughs.
- Five minutes later the waiter brings out water.
- The customer asks if they will actually get soda or if it was a joke.
- The waiter cuts them off and calls them a pain in the ass.
- Eventually the waiter brings them soda… when he gets around to it.
Normally that scenario would end with a chat with the manager and a comped meal, but not at Dick’s Last Resort. Dick’s is a restaurant chain that isn’t known for its fast and friendly service, but for deliberately rude service. The wait staff makes rude comments and gives you a hard time and customers not only tolerate it, but it’s the whole reason they go to Dick’s.
Go Ahead, Be a Jerk!
Sometimes marketing is about risks. Whether you’re launching a new social media marketing campaign or creating an eflyer, you’re taking a risk simply because there’s no way to know if your ideas will work. Keep that in mind the next time you jokingly have a marketing idea that seems less than polite because it may end up being your best idea and well worth the risk. Just make sure you run it by a few people before you do something like compare eating meat to being a nazi.