Whether you prefer Fat Bastard (wine) or Skinny Bitch (apparel), intentionally shocking brand names are nothing new. Particularly for brands under the lifestyle umbrella (beverage, apparel, beauty, personal electronics), choosing a possibly—or even obviously—offensive name is a way to grab attention and make a mark.
Up until recently (as we learned in last week’s post), the US Patent and Trademark Office’s rejected trademarks it found offensive.
But as Catchword has noted before, “negative” brand names often work very well. If your brand position is edgy or iconoclastic, a name that pushes buttons may be exactly what you need. Urban Decay makeup, Poison perfume, Spanx shapewear, Bed Head hair products all have names that fit their offerings, target market, and brand personality. These names are a bit naughty, but no one would call them scandalous or immoral (well, maybe Spanx if you’re super conservative).
What goes too far depends completely on time and place. Offensiveness is societally determined in a know-it-when-I-see-it way. Virgin was considered an edgy name when the company was founded, but few in the US or Europe would bat an eye now. French Connection (known for its infamous FCUK logo of the 90s) raised many eyebrows at the time. (It eventually stepped back from the abbreviation as its Riot Grrrl customers grew up. The company has since relaunched the FCUK line as a capsule collection with Urban Outfitters. A little nostalgia shopping for GenXers?)
The Supreme Court’s ruling against the restriction of offensive trademarks opens the door even farther for outrageous brand names, so I think we can expect to see marks awarded to the vulgarest of the vulgar in coming years.
But “Enough theory,” you say. “Where are the raunchy names?” I’m glad you asked. Here is an assortment, in no particular order, of the vulgar, offensive, oversexed, profane, scatological, or just plain tasteless.
(Of course, how I define those categories reflects my status as a white, college-educated GenX woman, but I think most folks will agree that Happy Ending is a raunchy name for a beer whose label features a geisha and a tissue box and boasts an “explosive finish.”)
Fuct – We can thank this fashion line for the SCOTUS decision.
Schiit Audio – The company completely cops to the fact that the brand is trying to sound slightly German tech but mostly the place to find “really good Schitt.” This is a totally on-brand use of a possibly profane name.
Piss Off – Underwear for women that wicks away pee dribble. I actually love this name, the brand’s attitude, and that there is a product for pregnant women and the gazillion other women post-childbirth who need a little help in this area.
Jeffree Star Pussy Whipped lipstick, NARS Deep Throat blush, G-Spot Stick, BleachBlack Jizz nail polish, French Tickler eyeshadow – I wonder whether adult women buy these products. Like the beer names below, they seem incredibly juvenile to me.
There are so many vulgar beauty names that one brand cheekily dubbed itself Pretty Vulgar (a winning combination of sophisticated irony and edgy fempowerment).
Ranker even has a list of offensive beauty names. Add more! Vote for your favorites!
Skinny Bitch apparel, Raging Bitch beer, Bitch Australian grenache, and a million other bitch things I see online – Clearly this word is no longer considered profane by the mainstream. I get the argument that using the word this way is taking over and redefining a term originally meant to be insulting (in the way that queer was redefined by the LGBT community), but personally I just can’t find the use of bitch empowering.
Black Lagers Matter (from Reckless Brewing, appropriately enough), Thong Remover Belgian Tripel, Big Cock Bock, Mt. U Cream Ale, Gandhi-Bot, Polygamy Porter (“Why have just one?”) – Craft beer ties cosmetics for the most offensive—and incredibly sophomoric—names. But customers and brewing organizations have pushed back, and many of these brands are now merely online memories.
Dirty Dicks’s Crab House – The restaurant chain’s tagline says it all.
Hooters – I honestly find it hard to believe that this chain is still around after 36 years. There’s one in a neighboring town, and I cringe every time I drive by.
Are you considering a scandalous, possibly offensive, or edgy name for your company or product? Catchword can help you figure out whether it should be a brand name, or a banned name. Just drop us a line.