Do Birthday Acknowledgements Build Brand Relationships?

Asking a customer for birth date information is a very intimate question, and one that I tell clients to consider carefully before including on any registration form.

If you have a legitimate reason for collection (identification, age requirement, etc.), then no one thinks twice about providing it—and accurately. But many brands only collect for analysis purposes—which means they’ll often get useless, incorrect data—while others note that they have a special birthday program, and for those consumers who like freebies, they provide that data point willingly.

When I celebrated my birthday in early December, I received all sorts of interesting emails and direct mail wishes and offers from a variety of brands. So which ones left me feeling warm, fuzzy and loved, thereby achieving their objective of deepening my relationship with them, and which ones left me in the cold?

Here’s my assessment:

  • 5 Stars to Chico’s: In the week before my birthday, I received a birthday card in the mail with a coupon for X percent off on my next purchase. However, when I got to the store, I failed to bring the coupon with me. Not an issue for Chico’s! Their database showed I had the birthday discount available and the clerk applied it to my purchase. Love that.
  • 4 Stars to Sharebuilder: I’ve been a loyal Sharebuilder customer since their inception, over 12 or 15 years ago. The weekend before my special day, I got an email acknowledging my birthday and an offer for a free “buy” trade on my account. All I had to do was click on the link provided and enter a promo code. Easy… which mimics their brand essence.
  • 3 Stars to Starbucks: As a Gold Account holder, Starbucks used to send me postcards after every 15 lattes for a free drink (which I loved). About a month before my special day, they sent me an email that my freebies would now to credited to my card automatically (fabulous!). However, about 2 weeks before my birthday, I got a birthday email telling me I’d get a freebie. When I got to Starbucks, however, it turns out I had to TELL the barista that it was my birthday, otherwise it’s not automatically tied to my card. Bizarre.
  • 2 Stars to ING: On my birthday I got a Happy Birthday message and a link to a video… which wasn’t really about birthdays, but more about being happy. I love ING, but judging from all the comments left from previous birthday viewers, they thought it was as strange as I did.
  • 1 Star to Wells Fargo: For a few ATM visits in early December, I got a “Happy Birthday” message on the ATM screen. No “extra” credit to my savings account. No waiver on an overdraft. No nothing. Gee, thanks.

Of course there’s always one party pooper. In this case, it’s the “Hey It’s Free” guy who assembled all his birthday freebies and posted them for everyone to see on his website. Guess who’s feeling not so special after all?

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  • charlesgaudet

    Great post Carolyn! Curious, what are a few creative ways companies have captured your birthday information?

  • Dawn

    I have a birthday in early December, too, and even though the weather is not ideal, my favorite birthday freebie is from Baskin Robbins, which sends me a coupon for a free ice cream cone. No strings. Simple, Easy, Inexpensive. Fun.

  • Judy Colbert

    What I dislike is a company sending a "freebie" that relies on buying something else. Oh, a free burger if I buy a drink and fries.
    That is not free and it irks (polite word) me. It does not endear me. I think I trash all free with purchase coupons even when not related to my birthday.
    Also, two for the price of one is not the same thing as half-price. I live alone and in small quarters. I don’t have room for two of whatever you’re selling.
    Grumble. End of rant.

  • Bruce Brankle

    Everybody likes to be remembered on their birthday! So how do you capture that data, while still being sensitive to your customers’ need for privacy is the most important part. Second is making a lasting positive result from you follow through.