Millennial Marketing: The Vulgarity Gap

Nothing dates a Boomer so fast as to wince at expletives and vulgar humor. Yet a quick look at Adult Swim, Family Guy, and quickly show that Millennials are perfectly comfortable with language and humor that makes my generation blush. Vulgarity is no doubt part of the attraction.

I recently began following an interesting young woman on Twitter. She thanked me for the follow, but sent me several @ replies trying to warn me off.

@carol_phillips i’m not so sure you’re going 2 like my tweets. they r pretty raw. 🙂 u seem like u tweeting 4 professional reasons.

@carol_phillips no offense, but most ppl of ur generation usually don’t like hearing raw thoughts/emotions/language.

@carol_phillips if u click on my id & look @ past tweets, u will get an idea of why i issued the warning. 🙂

She’s right of course, generally people my age don’t like to hear rough uncensored thoughts.

Which brings me to, My New Haircut. The success of this non-professionally shot YouTube video further illustrates the generational divide. Twenty-two million views puts My New Haircut among the all time YouTube greats. Rated “Really Fuckin’ Funny”, it has spawned numerous spoofs and a top spot on College Humor. While not in the same league as Evolution of Dance (116MM views), or Laughing Baby (79MM views), it does rank up there with Miss Teen South Carolina 2007‘s 43 minutes of fame (34 million views). (Note: For those who are interested, ReadWriteTalk does a good job of explaining the complexity of ranking YouTube videos as many of the top ones are professionally produced).

For those of you over 30, here is some background. MyNewHaircut is a video filmed by Brett Tietjen and his friend Mike Allen in New Jersey. Tietjen has a master’s degree in film production from New York Institute of Technology and his own production company called L2X Productions. Both Tietjen and Allen star in the video, which features a well-known stereotype in Long Island bars, the ‘guido’, a tanned, buff, spiked hair guy with more bravado than brains who is singlemindedly focused on going to techno bars and ‘winning with the ladies’ (Hint: not the way he describes it in the film).

The film, reportedly shot, edited and aired all in one day, has spawned many spoofs ranging from an Asian version (Rated “Reary Reary Funny”) to a senior citizen version to a Jewish version (Rated “Kosher”) by University senior, Eric Niederman.

Needless to say, the film’s popularity has launched Tietjen’s career. Jagermeister sponsored a tour called, “The Skanks and Broskis Tour,” which has gone all over the country appearing at local bars and clubs. There is a script for a movie version and a reality TV show, all of which will no doubt be wildly successful for the young film-makers, their production partners and brand sponsors.

Which brings me back to my original observation: what Gen Y finds “Really Fuckin’ Funny”, other generations generally do not. Even Niederman, the marketing major who created Jewish spoof, says, “My family doesn’t like my comedy, but thought the video was hilarious. They showed it to my grandparents which was awkward because I cursed a lot in it.”

Given the vulgarity divide, I think it’s fair to say that My New Haircut and other properties like it, is unlikely to cross over to an older audience. For over 30 Millennial marketers, that means we need to put our own sensibilities aside.