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Direct Marketing

By Nicholas Cockayne

The phrase direct marketing is thought to have been coined in 1961, although the practice itself dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. It describes marketing that communicates its advertising message directly to the potential customer, whether in the form of mail, e-mail, telephone calls, or other mediums. The main distinction between normal marketing and direct marketing is that, as the name implies, direct marketing seeks to reach potential customers directly, without employing other media to carry the advertising message. The active nature of direct marketing means that the positive results are traceable and measurable, but the negative results are not.


Direct Mail Marketing: Colloquially known as junk mail because of the frequency with which consumers receive it and the likelihood of it being thrown in the bin, or junk’, before it can put the advertising message across.

– Advantages: Potential for blanket coverage of a geographical area.
– Disadvantages: Limited impact for expenditure, often discarded unopened.

Direct E-mail Marketing: The practice of sending out unsolicited advertising e-mails to a list of email addresses.
– Advantages: Extremely cost-effective, has the potential to reach huge numbers of consumers simultaneously, less negative effects than traditional direct mail marketing.
– Disadvantages: E-mail discrimination programs may direct such e-mails to the consumers Junk Folder, lessening the chance of the advertising message being effective.

Direct Response Marketing: Differs from direct marketing in that it requires the consumer to respond’ to an advertisement made via a non-direct media; typically either by clicking a link on a website or email, or calling a telephone number seen on a television advert.
– Advantages: Passive marketing presence as long as the non-direct media advertisement is active.
– Disadvantages: Relies on the consumer to initiate contact rather than contacting them directly.


The Direct Marketing Association (DMA): The DMA (founded 1917) is the most influential group of organizations implementing and supporting the practice of direct marketing. They promote industry standards of ethical marketing, conduct research, provide education and training and generally support the practice of direct marketing.
– The response of a direct marketing campaign can be measured directly.
– Modern direct marketing methods, such as email and web promotions, are extremely cost-effective and can reach a huge number of consumers.

– The negative effects, for instance, the ill will generate by junk mail, email spam, and ‘cold calling’ telephone contact cannot measure.
– Junk mail and e-mail spam are often seen as a nuisance and destroyed before the advertising message can be delivered.
– The environmental cost of direct mail marketing must be taken into account; this also has the potential to generate a negative public image.