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  • Matt Phillips

When Being Inappropriate is Appropriate



It’s time to get inappropriate. Well, not exactly. If you’ve been a part of Team Brand Nation for a while now, you’ve undoubtedly heard us talk about developing a brand personality. If you want to reach customers and be relatable, being stuffy and uber-professional all the time might not be the best approach. Instead, we recommend being funny, down-to-earth, and, at times, inappropriate.


Before we dive into exactly what situations merit an inappropriate tone or joke, a caveat should be made: it is never okay to disparage someone’s character, be racist, or insult another person in a mean-spirited way. When we say inappropriate, we just mean good, old fashioned joking around.


Now, let’s jump into some scenarios where being inappropriate is actually appropriate for your brand!

#1 – Innuendos

Innuendo is a classic example of taking an inappropriate tone without (technically) being directly inappropriate. We’ve all seen the billboard that screams “YOUR WIFE IS HOT.” At first glance, this is a shocking sight and our defenses immediately go up. We wonder, “what could that possibly mean?”


Upon closer inspection, the billboard is usually for an air conditioning repair company. The actual message of the ad is that, if your air conditioning is broken, your wife is probably upset about the temperature of the house and you should fix your air conditioner! But, obviously, our immediate reaction is to the fact that a random billboard appears to be calling our spouse attractive. It works! Innuendo can be a fun, simple way to get your message across with a little bit of shock value.

#2 – Double Entendre

A double entendre is a word or phrase that has two separate meanings, one of which is typically inappropriate or crass. This is similar to innuendo, which we’ve already covered, the difference being the fact that the double entendre has two real meanings, while an innuendo only has one real meaning under the surface.


A great example of a double entendre being utilized in advertising would be something like a billboard for a criminal defense attorney that declares, “I’ll get you off.” Obviously, this is not an advertisement for anything sexual, but that’s exactly where your mind goes! This can be a great way to grab attention and get people to do a double take when they see an ad. Grabbing attention is always a good thing!

#3 – Potty Humor

Our third style of inappropriate humor is…a little childish. Potty humor is something that is frowned upon by most mature adults, but the reality is that it really does appeal to every person’s inner 6-year-old. Most people still laugh at poop jokes.


Because we all have this level of immaturity within us, it can be beneficial for your brand to use potty humor in your marketing. Some examples of this type of humor in advertising are Poopouri (it’s literally in the name) or those Charmin toilet paper ads with bathroom jokes in them. It seems silly, but it works. Let your inner child come out and make a poop joke now and then.

#4 – Shock Value

Shock value is probably the best way to draw attention to your advertising, and it’s an element that has been incorporated in many of the methods of inappropriate humor that we’ve already discussed. However, it’s possible to utilize shock value alone without pairing it with another form of humor. A lot of times this is done through imagery.


One example of shock value in advertising that we came across was an ad showing a piece of skimpy lingerie prominently. Underneath the photo of the lingerie was text that read, “chance of using on vacation: 1 in 46.” Then, under that text was a photo of a box of Imodium with the caption “chance of using on vacation: 1 in 3,” and a big block of text at the bottom that said “pack wisely.” The lingerie immediately catches your eye and draws you in, and then concise messaging and a clever tagline drives the point home.


Using shock value to grab attention will always work, and we think it can help you improve your

#5 – Be a Savage

The last few years have seen a massive trend take hold of corporate social media accounts: being a savage. Wendy’s started this trend several years ago when they began trolling commentors who had negative things to say about their restaurants, and it has caught on like wildfire. Now, like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s never okay to insult someone personally, demean their character in any way, or say things that are actually hurtful online.


However, playfully insulting someone for trashing your company can be a fun way to establish a personality for your brand (a personality that everyone with a sense of humor will be drawn to). So, as long as you’re the kind of business that can afford not to take itself too seriously (don’t do this if you operate a funeral home), try being a bit of a savage on social media. People will like it.

Obviously, these are just some suggestions for ways you can spice up your advertising and turn some heads! Please, use caution in implementing these methods; we don’t want you to get in trouble for going too far. Be smart, have fun, and don’t take yourself so seriously. Your customers will appreciate seeing you be a human. Peace✌️ #TeamBrandNation

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