Marketing speedbumps: barriers or “drempels”?

Sometimes, ambulance if we slow down, everyone wins

Speed, volume, efficiency. In marketing circles, we often talk about those things like they’re always Good Things (amen). But is that true? In the rush to push brands and “convert” prospects into sales, some also act like it’s good to act like drag-racing teenage douchebags barreling through established social communities… We Beg to Differ
Creative Commons Attribution: Photo by Flickr user twak.

I hate speed bumps

Right now there’s a big debate happening in my neighbourhood in Ottawa. The city is currently installing “traffic calming measures” like curb bump-outs, extra signs, and speed bumps.  Why? Because there’s a main road nearby that is always clogged at rush hour.  And the most impatient commuters use our quiet streets as a high-speed bypass to get home a tiny bit faster.

Now, as a driver, I hate speed bumps. And I’ll bet most drivers on the planet would agree: they’re a pain when you’re trying to get somewhere.

But as a parent of three kids under seven years old,  I suddenly see the other side of speed bumps. My kids walk and bike on those streets – and they play near them. And over the past few years, we’ve had more than our share of close calls with ignorant drivers swerving around corners and squealing tires (often eating their lunch and texting their girlfriends at the same time).

But funny thing: when I snap and yell “SLOW DOWN!” or shake my fist at the worst offenders, feel like the social douchebag. Like I’m the one being impolite or breaking a rule.

Online, I feel the same way when I report a spammer, or yell at  the worst telemarketers who won’t shut up when I tell them I’m not interested AND IT’S DINNER TIME!!! See, there? I’m getting worked up again – being the bad guy. The jerk. The impolite one.

But I love drempels

Dutch man attempting to carry his wife over the drempel. Photo by Flickr user Demlin

If you’ve ever bicycled or driven in the Netherlands – the land where my parents were born – you probably recognize the sign in the photo above. Those signs are everywhere in the Dutch countryside, warning drivers to “Let Op” (let up) on their speed because there is a “Drempel” ahead.

A “drempel” can be loosely translated as “speedbump” but it’s actually more than that:

  • It’s a sophisticated system of speedbumps. In their crowded little country, the Dutch embraced the idea of “traffic calming” in the 1970s, and they’ve been at it much longer than we have. And have come up with a bunch of creative ways of keeping streets slow and safe. They invented the  Woonerf (living street) and have a whole taxonomy of different drempels for different purposes.
  • It’s a doorstep. The word “drempel” in Dutch also means “doorstep” or “threshold”. So a groom will carry his new bride over the drempel when they are starting a new life together.

So to me, a “drempel” is a word that does two things at once. It says “Slow down! Your priorities are different from the people that live here – and they were here first.” But it is also an opening – a threshold. Or in marketing terms, a moment of opportunity.

So slow down marketers. 

By slowing down you show respect for the locals.  Look around a bit more. Roll down your windows. Wave and smile, and maybe even stop to talk.

Learn to see the “drempels” as an opportunity. A chance to deepen your connections and adapt to the character of that particular road. A chance to improve the neighbourhood rather than just a user of it.

What do you think? Any good examples of drempels in your life online?


One thought on “Marketing speedbumps: barriers or “drempels”?”

  1. Ok, but there’s nothing quite as evocative as the British term, “Sleeping Policeman” to describe these. Certainly not official, but might get some attention.

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