Do your Birthday Emails (or lack of) Send the Right Message?

I recently had a birthday!

I’m not saying it to solicit gifts and good wishes (though I wouldn’t turn them away), but to remind you that birthdays provide an excellent opportunity to engage with your subscribers. And if you don’t collect data on your customers’ birthdays, use the ‘birthday’ of their big purchase or joining anniversary like Mango Bikes did.

Before the big day

I am never quite on-the-ball enough to sign up to the lists of the major chains who are well known for sending birthday freebie emails. But I did get a few nice messages and reminders in my digital spaces anyhow, some more surprising than others.

Boots sent an email on the first day of my birthday month offering double points for the whole month. For all information they have (and all the shopping I do with them), though, they could’ve added some additional personalisation other than my name. Maybe suggest some age-appropriate treats to spoil myself with? The subject line “This birthday is the best one…” made me expect a lot more personalisation inside, like any reference at all to “which” birthday it is, or something that was going to make it especially great.


On a totally arbitrary scale, let’s give that one 4 out of 6 stars for feel-good digital marketing.

And… that’s all I got, pre-birthday.

On the big day

If Google know it’s your birthday, they amend the Google Doodle for you to show cakes and candles. It was a nice thing to open my browser to. It’s a small gesture, but since I’ll use Google at multiple points during the day, it makes it a pleasant surprise and didn’t feel at all intrusive or forced. 6 out of 6.

I also got a birthday greeting from my financial planner. Also nice, but it did feel a bit strange and unexpected. It included a big birthday image and a link to a page about “this day in history.” It mostly made me feel guilty for not contributing perhaps quite as much as I should’ve in savings over the past year. They do send a weekly newsletter, but I don’t get any other very personal emails from them throughout the rest of the year. I imagine if my dentist (who also has my birth date, but not much reason to use it) had sent a greeting, I’d feel similarly guilty for not flossing daily. 3 out of 6.

Last in the birthday emails for me was IKEA Family. Their subject line offered a £5 treat to be redeemed with an in-store purchase for 4 weeks following my birthday. It’s a pretty simple offer, but the creative was tops! Instead of just the date, they incorporated the year, using an image of their catalog’s cover for 1980 and stating it was a big year for them as well. I have no idea what they do on the birthdays of subscribers born before 1951, but I felt like they used the data they hold on me in a simple, creative way, that made me feel good while also reinforcing their brand. Top marks – 6 out of 6!

Not having a birthday email sends a message too…

Most notably for me though, were the organisations who definitely have my birthday data and did nothing about it.

My gym, which sends all sorts of emails through the rest of the year designed to make me feel inspired, did nothing.

I have annual passes to a theme park and heritage property, both of which could’ve encouraged me to celebrate with them during my special day/month (and spend money there while doing it, natch) sent nothing.

And, most glaringly, my life insurance company, which sends me all sorts of other feel-good content, and have perhaps the most vested interest (outside of my family) in me continuing to have birthdays, was silent.

Do you collect your customers’ date of birth data? Can (or should) you use it? Worth thinking about during your next trip around the sun.

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