Business took me away for a hotel stay last evening. As you might know, Rancho Deluxe, better known as the home office, is located in a pretty quiet suburban town. Some random deer sneezing is about as loud as it gets in terms of external noise.  Living in a city is different and last night’s stay reminded me of when we lived in Manhattan. It’s rarely quiet.

Car horn symbol

(Photo credit: net_efekt)

The sound that seems to dominate is that of horns. Car horns, truck horns, construction horns. All day and most of the night, their incessant sound can drive you nuts until you learn to ignore it. Which is, of course, the business point.

Too many brands use their marketing messages much as a driver uses a horn. Think about how you use your car’s horn.  There are the friendly little taps to let someone know you’re there and to come out to the car.  There are the intense, lean-on-that-sucker blasts to tell the moron texting that the light has changed and to get moving.   Despite its simplicity, the horn can send a lot of different messages, all of which are intrusive and attention-getting.

Marketing is like that too.  Some brands are still treating their audiences like the line of traffic in front of them.  They blast away even when it’s obvious that the horn will do no good.  How do you react when a driver does that to you?  I don’t react well.  Than again, you learn to ignore it.

Consumers have learned to ignore car horn marketing.  The harder you slam away, the less chance you have to get them to pay attention.  Using car horn tactics in channels such as social media can do way more harm than just the apathy caused by ignoring your messages.  Your inept marketing can be held up for ridicule, much like the dope that’s too busy reading his email to drive.

Horns can be lifesavers – alerting another driver you’re behind them as they back up or making sure a pedestrian is aware you’re coming, for example.  If they’re abused, however, they’re just so much noise and serve no purpose.  We need to make sure that our marketing doesn’t fall into that trap.

You with me?

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