By Published On: April 29, 2019

I celebrated my birthday recently and was delighted to get birthday greetings from dear friends and family. In addition, my inbox filled up with a random bunch of emails from businesses and marketers “recognizing” my special day. Personalized marketing gone wild.

Personalized marketing can be a highly effective tool when used appropriately. It indicates to your recipient that you know them, understand their needs and can help solve a problem they might be facing. It’s also a good way to reward customer loyalty.

In other cases, it can be construed as a cheap marketing ploy to generate more business. Or just creepy stalking.

My birthday emails were all over the place. Some made sense – others were questionable in their intent. Messages included “Happy Birthday” wishes from….

  • My insurance agent: Wishing me a happy birthday and happy year. Thank you, Mr. Insurance Man, whom I’ve never met in person. I so appreciate hearing from you. Or not.
  • My eye clinic: Including a $25 off coupon on a purchase of eye glasses this month. Ummm…based on my taste in frames and complex prescription lenses, this is usually a $500+ purchase for me. In this case – they’re getting the ultimate gift if I purchase, not me. Happy Birthday to YOU!
  • DSW: Including a $5 off coupon on a pair of shoes this month. Again – the retailer’s gonna get way more out of this deal than I am. Do I have expensive tastes?
  • A favorite yarn store: Including 15% off a purchase this month. OK – I’m currently obsessed with knitting and I signed up for this. Although I totally appreciate this one – I hope to high heaven I don’t actually use it. I’ve got way more yarn than I can handle already. And it’s not cheap, either. (Yup – I have expensive tastes. Argh!)! But this is a good example of customer loyalty – and they know I’m a sucker.
  • A local coffee shop: Come in for a free drink this month. Thank you – I think I will. This is the only true example of a “gift”. I don’t need to do anything other than show up. Happy Birthday to ME!!

Of course, the biggest users of birthday marketing messages are restaurants. They, too, stand to benefit from your free (dessert, beverage, meal), from all the other food (and alcohol) the friends and family you bring along order.

I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday weekend in lovely NYC. And, on two consecutive nights, I witnessed very different experiences.

  • I grabbed a quick dinner before a Broadway show at a NYC chain restaurant which I’d heard good things about. Upon opening their web site on my mobile phone, I was invited to sign up for their emails to receive a free slice of cheesecake on my birthday. Even though it actually WAS my birthday, I wasn’t interested, nor would I be back in the foreseeable future. I passed. But when the servers sang “Happy Birthday” to a table a few rows over, I just inserted my own name.
  • The following night, I had dinner at a very upscale, very favorably reviewed (#10 of 10,382 restaurants on Trip Advisor) Indian restaurant. A relaxed, low-lit interior and a calming atmosphere was a complete 180-degree turn from the bright, frenetic craziness of the night before. But lo and behold, the entire wait staff came out to serenade someone halfway through my meal. Although completely unexpected and not really appreciated, I did chuckle at the mixed foreign accents trying to do justice to the song. There’s nothing on their web site to indicate this is customary, so it could have been an exception. But it was totally out of character with the rest of the experience. And, in my opinion – didn’t fit their brand.

Want to celebrate your birthday with over 100 offers this year? Here’s a site that lists an assortment of “freebies” available and the cost of entry (i.e.: links to sign up for them).  Cheers!

About the Author: Carol Wahl

Bold new branding that hits all the right notes
Credit Card Marketing Outlook 2019 – An overview of the market and trends to watch