I just had a birthday—not just any birthday either, it was the first one since I started at Appboy, the leading global lifecycle engagement platform. Working here has made me way more tuned-in to the way brands talk to me, so I decided to take a look at all the messages (push notifications, emails, in-app messages, and the like) that I received in connection with the big day.
We talk a lot about cultural tentpoles—those big events that brands can use to to capture their users’ attention and build stronger relationships. Birthdays are kind of similar, except on a very individual scale. A micro-tentpole, if you will. They’re a great opportunity to send your users some highly-personalized messaging, as well as some surprise and delight!
So let’s take a look at who I heard from, where they talked to me, and how I think they did. (For the purpose of this post, I’ve anonymized the companies, but rest assured these are all real experiences).
The first email I got was on March 1st from an entertainment company (my birthday was the 31st, so I often get messages as much as a month early since I’m technically in brands’ March segment). They sent a message with a promo code for 25% items in their shop. Nice enough! But overall, I was most impressed with the cross-platform promotion. The email’s hero image prompted me to follow one of their most famous characters on Instagram, and the body included links to three separate websites they run—one with fun quizzes and articles, the second a parent-targeted site with recipes and cake decorating tips, plus the brand’s video content platform. I give this one 2.5/5 cupcakes.
Although this company has an app, I don’t have it on my phone, so the only avenues they have to reach me are email and direct mail. That said, they put out a pretty solid drip. I got a direct mailer with a $5 coupon at my apartment early in March, followed by a series of related emails. The first came March 2nd, letting me know I had the discount during my birthday month. The email made it easy for me to immediately start shopping by shoe size—it even included a barcode to present to the cashier if I chose to shop in-store (plus, the linked website even told me where my closest store to shop was!).
The drip continued throughout the month, often using celebratory emojis in the subject lines. I received one mid-month reminding me about my coupon, and another when I had 6 days left to redeem.
Overall, this was a good email drip—the timing was great, the messaging was fun, and the email was super shopper-friendly. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at checking my personal email (especially with my email app automatically separating out promotional emails from other messages) so I missed my $5 off deadline. My tip for this company? Utilize in-browser messaging to cross-promote their app! If I had downloaded the app, they could have sent me a series of push notifications when they realized I wasn’t opening the emails. This one gets a 4/5.
This company knows a lot about me. I have their app, I definitely have push and location enabled, they know my birthday, and I’m an overall active user with fairly regular mobile ordering and payment habits. That’s a lot to work with.
But if I hadn’t happened to stop in one of their stores last weekend, and happened to remember on my own that I was eligible for a free birthday drink, I would have missed out. And frankly, that’s a miss for both of us. I don’t get my free drink, and the brand doesn’t inspire that “well, I spend too much on coffee, but I do it anyway because they’re nice to me” reaction.
Now, that’s not to say they didn’t do anything at all. When I opened the app in-store, there was a beautiful in-app message there to greet me and remind me of the offer. They also sent me an email on March 30th wishing me a happy birthday, and informing me of my free food or drink item. Plus, the fact that the deal only lasts a 3-day period, in this case March 30–April1, meant there was definitely some urgency that would get me into the store around my birthday for a free item (a positive brand experience and association, for sure)… if I had seen the email.
The fix? Go all out with your multichannel messaging! A personalized, multichannel approach can go a long way. If this brand had sent me a push notification on my actual birthday with a simple “Happy Birthday, Kelsey! Don’t forget you have a free food or drink item on us until 4/1,” it could have made all the difference. Not to mention, with the amount of information they have on me and my ordering habits, they could have taken personalization to the next level like, “Happy Birthday, Kelsey—today’s egg & cheese sandwich is on us! Want to place an order for our 39th & 8th location?”
I give them 3 out of 5 birthday cupcakes. They had all the tools, information, and permissions a brand could want, but didn’t utilize them to their full potential.
Ah, the holy grail of cross-channel messaging. This company does it right. Not only did this brand send me a birthday email drip, they also sent me push notifications during my birthday month. The emails included fun party emojis in the subject lines, were well-timed, and were accompanied by push notifications. Because this company gives their reward program members a special gift during their birthday month each year, it’s important to inform users of the gift options (which they illustrated in the email) and to get them in-store!
By now you know I’m not the best at checking my promotional emails, so the push notifications I got during work in March were definitely the reason I went out of my way to go to the store and get my gift. Once in-store, I didn’t even have to ask for my birthday gift (a surprisingly nerve-wracking task for an ISFJ like myself). Once I gave the cashier my account email, she told me happy birthday with a smile and told me all about my options for my gift. Oh, and did I mention that I also ended up restocking on all my staples, spending a solid $200 while I was there? Sounds like a win for both me and this brand alike.
This one is a 5/5 and an example other brands should look to, in this writer’s opinion.
Overall, I think it’s great that these brands used the information they have on birthdays to send celebratory messages. In fact, I received a few emails not mentioned here that improved my perception of the brand just because the sentiment was nice (kudos to all you copywriters out there). But when brands are able to leverage customer information, multichannel messaging tools, and a little surprise and delight to celebrate with a user, it’s bound to leave a positive impression—and strengthen the relationship between an individual and a brand.