The Charisma of Colour


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A research report from GI Direct has revealed that despite a major upturn in the usage of variable colour, response rates from direct mail utilising variable colour remain consistent.

The research was conducted amongst the UK top 1000 company marketers, who reported average response uplift from the use of variable colour to be 32.6%. Research back in 2004 amongst a similar audience reported a 33.4% uplift from the use of variable colour in direct mail. Statistically speaking, there is no significant difference between the 2004 and the 2006 response uplift figures. Yet over this period, the use of variable colour in direct mail has risen by a third, from just over 30% (31.8%) to almost 40% (39.1%)

In other words, this research reveals that variable colour direct mail response rates have held steady despite the significant increase in its usage. These findings are good news for marketing professionals, both in-house and agency, who can have the confidence to invest heavily in highly segmented, personalised colour campaigns with the confidence that response rates are holding up.

Patrick Headley, Sales Director, GI Direct, comments: “In psychological terms, these findings are interesting, firstly regarding the extent to which consumers appreciate effective personalisation and relevance, and secondly as a reminder that impact can be preserved when using discrete media such as direct mail. The fact that increased usage of variable colour in DM has not suppressed response rates implies that we are all much more receptive to targeted communications. Moreover, this would appear to be an appreciation that is not relative – in that the more personalised communications we get, the more delighted we are – at least in the current state of play of DM”

Mr Headley concludes: “It would be naïve to think that personalised marketing will not reach a point where it is so universal that response rates may fall somewhat. However, it would appear that, at present, we are very far from that point, and that consumers are simply enjoying the more relevant and tailored marketing offers they are receiving.”


Marketers from the UK’s top 1000 companies were interviewed during January 2007. Fieldwork was carried out by independent researchers Marketing UK ( Respondents were asked about their experience of response rate uplift where they had introduced variable colour into their direct mail campaigns, compared with campaigns not using variable colour. This was then qualified by their views on the experience of peer organisations. The resulting statistics were then compared with previous research on the subject to generate trend data.

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