How to Use Slang to Boost Your Brand

Brands nowadays are trying to boost brand loyalty and engagement by being our “sassy pals” on social media. But filling our news feeds with “pancakes on fleek” or “these chicken strips tho” doesn’t always resonate with consumers. Sometimes a brand’s slang can come across as thirsty.

When brands try too hard, consumers view them as desperate, even annoying. In 2015, when too many brands jumped on the “bae wagon,” irked consumers retaliated with Brands Saying Bae.

Hamburger Helper Tweet

So why do some brands soar with slang while others sink? They use slang sparingly and strategically to boost their brand.

They Incorporate Slang into Their Social Media

Slang helps consumers relate to brands on a more personal level by giving the brand’s message a more conversational tone. This style of branding is well-suited for social media, which tends to be more informal and dominated by Millennials.

Successful brands tailor their slang to their target audience. For instance, McDonald’s “Breakfast All Day” campaign features people tweeting Millennial slang. Here, McDonald’s goes for the highly coveted Millennial market. And McDonald’s knocks it out of the park.

But on the flip side, McDonald’s heavy use of slang can be off-putting to some Millennials. Companies are now realizing too much slang (and emojis, too) can backfire. Brands must walk a fine line between being hip and “the aunt who’s trying too hard to be cool.”

More importantly, brands must keep in mind that what works for social media doesn’t always translate well to other mediums (e.g. print).

Slang tip: Tailor your slang to your audience.

They Refrain from Most Print Ads

Tweets and Instagram posts with slang resonate more with Millennials (social media’s primary audience) because they get the references. After all, who do you think came up with #yolo? Unless slang appears in a publication geared toward Millennials (e.g. US Weekly, InTouch, etc.), advertisers steer clear of newspapers and some magazines. They know that audience (Baby Boomers and older) won’t having a clue what they’re reading. No offense, Boomers.

Perhaps, Denny’s Ghostface Skillet may have worked better as a tweet, but now we’ll never know…


Slang tip: Avoid slang in print ads.

They Pepper Their PPC With Slang

Brands use slang as a source for new keywords for their pay per click campaigns. But proceed with caution. Depending on the slang you use, it can affect your keyword optimization.

Let’s say you decide to use bae in your PPC ad. But first, you conduct some keyword research. Here’s what you’re up against when you search bae.

Keyword Bae

Depending on your needs and budget, you may need to employ exact or broad match, long-tail, or even negative keywords. And if your slang term is location-based, you may also need to use geotargeting, too.

Slang can be great for your PPC so long as you optimize to your advantage.

Slang tip: Use slang as an untapped source for keywords.

They Know Slang Has a Shelf-Life

Using slang is risky because no one knows how long a term will be popular (ahem #yolo). Truthfully most slang words have a limited shelf-life. Once lingo is heard constantly, it’s no longer unique and loses its allure.

Daria Slang Tweet
Source: @dariatbh

As you may recall, before bae, there was boo. In the early 2000s, boo was everywhere: on accessories and television, and in songs. But with time, boo became a distant memory. Try using boo now, and you’ll probably get the side-eye.

If slang works for your targeted audience, be sure to hit while the iron is hot. Otherwise, refrain from using stale terms that will only date you (e.g. LOL).

Slang tip: Slang has a shelf-life, use it before it expires.