If you’re unfamiliar, “slang” is an abbreviation that stands for “slanguage”, which is a portmanteau of the words “slang” and “language”. A slang word is a shortened version of a longer phrase, and the purpose of slang is to make communication simpler and more efficient. Let’s take a look at how slang is used in advertising, and why it can be such a powerful tool.
The Appeal Of Using Slang
It’s well-established that the younger generation is more likely to be influenced by slang, so it’s important for advertisers to keep up with the times and speak to their audience. After all, if they aren’t speaking in a way that their audience understands, they’re losing out on potential customers. There are many benefits to using slang in your advertising copy, some of which we’ll go over in this section. But first, let’s talk about what makes slang so appealing to potential customers.
One of the appeals of slang is that it allows for simpler communication. If you’re unfamiliar, “jargon” is a portmanteau of the words “jargon” and “argot”. A jargon word or phrase is a shortened version of a longer phrase, and it’s usually used in place of an everyday phrase because the words or phraseology used within it are exclusive to a certain group. In other words, jargon makes communication between people more streamlined because there are fewer words or phrases that they need to learn. So if you’re doing business with a customer whose first language isn’t English, you’re going to want to keep things as simple as possible because you don’t want to risk getting your words mixed up or misunderstood. Mixing words and phrases from different languages doesn’t always go well, and aside from the difficulty of understanding what’s being said, you also run the risk of the words and phrases not matching up correctly. For example, you could say “please follow me” in English, but because the language differs, the customer may read this as “put your dick in my butt” in Spanish. Simply put, communicating using slang saves both time and money, and it’s definitely a tool that any business or brand should utilize.
Another benefit of slang is that it makes your writing more modern. Like with jargon, slang is helpful because it makes the language more dynamic, which can make your writing more appealing to a modern audience. Let’s take a look at how slang can be used to good effect in an advertisement. Most traditional advertising, especially advertisements aimed at a more mature audience, will often use words and phrases such as “lubricants”, “sexual aid”, or “condoms” because they think this will be most appealing to their target audience. However, studies have shown that this can backfire and actually turn off potential customers instead. When using slang, you’re not stuck to old phrases and instead can choose your words and phrases based on what is relevant and appropriate for the audience you’re targeting. So, in the case of advertising for lubricants, you can opt for “personal lubricant” or “vibrating sex toy” instead of “lubricants”. It’s always best to choose your words and phrases based on what is relevant and appropriate for the situation, not the other way around. Using slang is not a bad choice if you want to target a more modern audience, but it’s important to recognize when you should opt for more conventional phrasing.
Another benefit of using slang is that it makes your writing more authentic. Authentic means “coming from the same place or area”, and when you use slang, you are in fact using words and phrases that you and your audience would normally use. This will help your writing to sound more natural and therefore more appealing to your audience. When you use authentic language, you show that you’re trying to write in a way that is relevant to your audience, which will make your writing seem more mature and therefore more appealing. For example, if you’re advertising a restaurant, you can opt for “foodie” or “gastronome” instead of “food store”, “fast food restaurant”, or “McDonald’s”. When used in the right context, slang can help your writing to sound more natural and therefore more appealing.
Using slang is also appropriate in certain situations where your writing is not directly related to your product or service, but in other cases, it can be a mistake. For example, let’s say that you’re selling industrial supplies and you want to target manufacturing companies. In this case, it would be best to avoid using slang as much as possible because terms such as “fuck”, “shit”, and “tits” can be considered offensive in the workplace.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have advertisements that are very stereotypical and rely heavily on slang. Let’s take a quick look at some of these.
If you’re unfamiliar, a stereotype is an “unnatural or incorrect assumption about a particular group of people”. Essentially, it’s an oversimplification that can be used to pigeonhole a group of people, often resulting in discrimination against them. Stereotypes are extremely harmful and even racist, and it’s important to recognize them when they arise so that you can put a stop to them. Using stereotypes in your writing can lead to discrimination and even harassment against your intended audience, so it’s essential to do your research and ensure that you’re not inadvertently promoting stereotypes by using them in your writing.
Many brands and businesses believe that using slang helps them target a younger audience, and in some cases this may be true. However, if you’re choosing to use slang simply because you think that is what your audience wants to hear, you may be making a mistake. You should not underestimate the power of an older audience to not appreciate your attempts at humor and instead find it insulting. Additionally, when used in the right context, slang can certainly lighten up the mood of your writing and allow for a more enjoyable read; however, this is not always the case, as the previous section discussed. Using slang as a writing tool can certainly be effective, but you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls and decide when this is and when it isn’t the right choice for your writing.
As discussed, there are many advantages to using slang in your copy, but it’s also imperative that you are mindful of its pitfalls. Keep this in mind as you continue to grow as a copywriter and decide when and where slang is an effective choice for your writing.