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One of the areas of confusion around marketing is that people see brand marketing in everyday life, and think that’s what they should be doing.

Brand marketing includes the ads you see on television for soap, breakfast cereal and shoes. Marketers are trying to get you to buy Kelloggs when you’re in the breakfast cereal aisle at the supermarket. Or to buy Nike when you’re in a sports shop to buy trainers.

Brand marketing is very, very expensive (the global advertising spend on brand marketing is about £350 billion per year). You can only really use it if you have an enormous budget, and if people are going to be seeing your products when they’re already in a shop. You can throw a lot of money down the drain trying to use this approach to get people active.

Direct marketing is different. Direct marketing is what you do when you only have a limited budget. It’s incredibly efficient. It’s all about using data and insight for effective marketing. It’s about building a direct relationship with your customer.

For example if you ever buy anything by mail order or online then the company will probably send you emails or catalogues through the post after that. And when they do, they’re hoping you’ll buy something right then, rather than when you’re in a shop.

Direct marketing is only well understood by a small percentage of people. The famous advertising man David Ogilvy talked about it as his secret weapon in the 1980s and it’s still a secret weapon today.

It was figured out in principle and written down in a book called Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins in 1923. Not changed in principle since, though the details of how you implement it have changed hugely with the advent of the Internet.

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