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I had my birthday in July.

Along with an extra creaking of the knees, the usual cards and presents from friends and family, and the traditional phone call from my Mum to sing me happy birthday, I had a few interesting brand conversations to mark the passing of another year. Some left me feeling warm and fuzzy, while others left me feeling a little…cold.

First there was an unexpected birthday message from MoneySuperMarket.

Their subject line gave nothing away…

But once I opened the email I got a little ‘Happy birthday from everyone at MoneySuperMarket’, awwww thanks guys, followed swiftly by some unrelated generic product pushes… hmmmm.

It’s always nice when someone recognises your birthday. However, this just felt shoe-horned in. They probably thought they were being helpful with some summer related content. But if I’m going to get a birthday message, I want to feel special. Some generic money saving tips didn’t hit the mark.

I’m not sure when birthday emails became a ‘thing’ but brands certainly do love sending them. Perhaps with good reason if these figures from campaignmonitor are anything to go by:

  • Birthday emails have a 481% higher transaction rate than promotional emails
  • Birthday emails generate 342% higher revenue per email than promotional emails
  • Birthday emails have 179% higher unique click rates than promotional emails

With numbers like these it’s no wonder brands are including birthday emails in their CRM toolkit. But just sending a birthday email because you have someone’s birth date – without considering what relationship that person has with your brand – could end up turning them off, rather than turning them on.

Take this next email for example.

Well, it certainly had the intrigue factor. However, from the sender list I knew this was from a Portuguese airline I had flown with once, 4 years ago. Sigh.

On the surface it makes perfect sense. A nice birthday offer: 500 bonus miles when I next book a trip with them. But as I mentioned I flew with them once. 4 years ago. And haven’t opened any of their regular emails since. “Why not unsubscribe?” I hear you cry. And, yes, I should probably have done that. But equally if they’d looked at my email engagement and booking history then surely they would have seen that offering me miles to add to a dormant account may not be enough.

A nice gesture, but if they’d been more overt about the fact I hadn’t booked for a while, or provided some trip or destination inspiration to give me an extra reason to book then that would have made their communication work a lot harder. Also, there wasn’t any reference to COVID or travel restrictions or what they were doing in the case of flights having to be cancelled etc.

My next birthday conversation started simply and got straight to the point.

A very straightforward use of personalisation but it worked and got me to open the email.

Inside, American Golf wanted to treat me, which was nice of them. £10 off isn’t bad, especially as I would only have to spend £10 or more to get it.

It isn’t the most visually engaging email, but it gave clear directions on how to redeem my gift. The only downside being that I would have to ‘cut & paste’ the code from the email if I wanted to make an online purchase. Not the most streamlined of digital journeys.

Having discussed some birthday conversations that didn’t hit the mark, I wanted to share one that did. It was from Nike, and it stared like this

Happy Birthday Month! That’s got my attention. As did the 25% off – especially as we all know Nike goods come at a bit of a premium.

So, a good start.

Once I open the email I was hit with a lovely, if slightly mind-bending, GIF.

The messaging was simple, but it made me feel ‘part of something’, as well as making me feel ‘special & valued’. Not bad for two short paragraphs of copy. It also, unlike the American Golf example, made the process of getting my discount feel very easy indeed.

So, obviously I went straight to the website and decked myself out in new Nike apparel, right?

Wrong.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to ponder on things. And while pondering, real life got in the way (specifically a 20-month daughter) and this email, and its tempting discount, got bumped down the to-do list.

Fear not. Nike had my back. Twice.

The sent me two reminder emails, a week apart letting me know my birthday month treat was still available.

Plus, they again made it feel very easy for me to get my gift. There was also a small but effective touch in the message letting me know my offer had been extended (even though it was the same expiry date as my first email) making me feel like I still had time, if I acted quickly.

So, I did. Nike got their man – and his cash.

A quick recap of why this birthday conversation made me feel warm and fuzzy about the brand.

It made me feel special

  • I deserve a birthday month, not just a day
  • They recognised me as a member of their community

It felt rewarding

  • 25% of anything I bought, encouraging me to spend big to maximise my gift

It was engaging

  • From the use of emojis in the subject line to the fun GIF in the header, the email put a smile on my face

They didn’t give up on me

  • They recognise people have lots of things on in life, it’s not just about their emails, so they gave me a second and third nudge
  • According to Experian this tactic is well worth the effort, with reminder emails on average delivering an increase of around 20% in open rate, click to delivered, average order value and revenue per email.

They made it easy

  • No need to remember or cut and paste my gift code. Just log-in to your Nike account and the discount will be applied at checkout

If you’re wondering what’s winging its way to me from Nike, I picked up some new running gear including some fancy, ultra-cushioned running shoes…well, me and my creaking knees aren’t getting any younger.