And Friday is for F. The near-profanity trend continues—see Booking.com’s “Look at the Booking View!”; Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” and “Big Gas Savings”; Jell-O’s #FML (Fun My Life); Effen vodka—with more advertisers boarding the (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Eff Train.
Here’s Peet’s Coffee and Tea with Do You Give a Cup?, “the Internet’s first social sampling experiment.”
If you’re keeping score, that’s two single-cup coffee promotions in one week.
Given Peet’s Berkeley origins and normally high-minded, even reverential brand voice, I expected “social” here to mean “socially conscious”: I thought I’d be voting on microloans for women farmers in Ghana or clean water in Bangladesh. But no: the “vote” was yea or nay on zombies. Really, Peet’s? On the other hand, I suppose that when you start punning on “give a fuck,” you’ve left the Cult of Caffeine far behind.*
Then there’s this catchy, tuneful commercial for Fresh & Easy, a grocery-store chain that specializes in underserved (i.e., low-income) neighborhoods. (“You deserve wholesome food that doesn’t cost your whole paycheck,” says the F&E website, taking a little dig at Whole [Paycheck] Foods.)
“It’s about time/ Life was this F’n Easy.”
I’m guessing they tried “fresh and E” and decided it didn’t scan properly. (Hat tip: Infinitely Jeff.)
Rounding out the F trifecta is an announcement this week of CVNDSH, a new brand from British cycling star Mark Cavendish, known professionally by his surname only. He’s also known for his potty mouth, which is reflected in the tagline.
“NEW SITE COMING FST AS FCK.”
Yep, it’s another all-consonants brand name, in this case for bicycles and (maybe, someday) other products. “Removing the vowels from the identity is like removing parts of the bike—streamlining it as much as possible but making sure it still works,” said Sam Hodgson, creative director for the UK agency that did the brand design. “We wanted to create something that looked really pure.”
By the way, “FST AS FCK” may be for Eurozone eyes only: when I checked out CVNDSH.com, the line was the G-rated “New site coming soon.”
(Hat tip: Nombra Naming.)
If you’re looking to point an accusatory finger, index or otherwise, here’s a likely culprit.
French Connection UK’s first use of “FCUK” in advertising, 1997.
From the French Connection website:
FCUK is a short, sharp name to stand for French Connection United Kingdom and was being used on faxes between our offices in the UK and Hong Kong (FCHK) before being introduced across the company as a highly recognisable name and acronym to stand alongside the French Connection logo.
Image via Nick Kellet’s blog.
The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, attempted to stop the US trademark registration of FCUK. The group was particularly exercised over a line of branded fragrances with names like FCUK HIM and FCUK HER.
(Not in the F troop but still funny – and boundary-pushing for 1997 – is this “Mr. Dumbass” spot for A&W root beer. Hat tip: Ben Trawick-Smith.)
* Here’s what I mean about Cult of Caffeine: Some years ago I did a series of writing projects for Peet’s that required my presence at company headquarters. I thought my hosts would be eager to offer me a cup of House Blend, if not something fancier, but none was forthcoming. When I asked whether coffee was available—the meeting was long; it was mid-afternoon; I was fading—I saw pained looks all around. Sighing heavily and clearly inconvenienced, one of my clients removed himself to the Coffee Shrine and slowly, very slowly made one cup of French-press coffee just for me. It’s not the Peet’s Way to keep coffee sitting around, I was told: every cup is made fresh.
Look, I can ride the Eff Train (nice, BTW!) with the best of them - I began my legal career in New York, after all, and idolize Julia Louis-Dreyfus's masterful explosions of profanity in "Veep." But all of these uses you've identified are just way too self-consciously edgy for me - smugly hinting at the true profanity because they CAN, not necessarily because it's the best ad campaign. (And I'VE apparently said this before too: http://blog.jessicastonelevy.com/search.aspx?q=effen&sc=tcon&dt=a&al=)
Posted by: Jessica | June 28, 2013 at 08:37 AM
Jessica: "A fine line between stupid and clever," indeed.
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | June 28, 2013 at 08:42 AM
Have you heard of the German beer called Fucking Hell? Here's a link: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/controversial-brand-name-german-firm-wins-right-to-make-beer-called-fucking-hell-a-686305.html
Posted by: Pat in Toulouse | June 28, 2013 at 08:43 AM
Pat: Yes, I've heard of it. It doesn't quite fit this category, because (a) Fucking is the real name of a real town in Austria, and (b) in English, this isn't near-profanity, it's actual profanity. But I agree that the same Beavis-and-Buttheadish impulse drives all these names. And once the smirking subsides, what does the brand do for an encore?
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | June 28, 2013 at 08:48 AM