For an industry that purports to be focused on individuals, rather than amorphous groups bound together by common factors, it’s important for marketers not to lose sight of the fact that direct marketing means far more than tinting the bottom line a healthier shade of black. There is a very human picture framed by the report’s statistics.

It shows how consumers interact with retail brands and where the power lies in the relationship. Consumers do not court the attentions of prospective brands – it is the brands that play suitor. The sheer amount of money and effort spent on direct marketing by brands is really what the numbers tell us most clearly. The fact that direct marketing is used in practically every sector also tells us that consumers like to be spoken to directly as individuals. They might share many similarities with their neighbours, but they certainly don’t want to be mistaken for them.

The shifting spend on different direct channels tell us about the changing habits of how people are now consuming media. For the first time, marketing expenditure on email and digital has reached parity with direct mail. This doesn’t sound the death knell for mail – it shows that consumers are opening themselves up to a greater range of media.

Above all, the volume of sales generated by direct marketing indicates that this is one source of information consumers rely on to help them make purchasing decisions. Consumers always need new products to enrich or better their lives in some way. Imagine if that consumer hadn’t received the email or mail pack – would the sale have been made otherwise? Direct marketing is a highly accountable medium, so we know if it’s been successful in creating a sale or not.

When reading the study, don’t forget that there is far more to the value of direct marketing than cold, hard cash. Companies benefit from the sales, but it’s people who benefit from the purchases. (To view the full findings, visit/

Chris Combemale, executive director, Direct Marketing Association