The Anatomy Of A Good Birthday Email

My birthday has come and gone yet again, time for my yearly assessment of the birthday wishes I receive from the brands I engage with. A birthday message is one of the simplest and most personal email communications a brand can send to its subscribers. And I will be honest: Every year I am underwhelmed at the email fanfare around my birthday. It could just be the “only child” in me, I suppose, but when it comes to driving lifecycle communications for your customers, saying “Happy Birthday” should be a no-brainer.

The brands that do send birthday wishes often provide an offer or discount for making a purchase in the month of your birthday; some go so far as telling you to buy yourself a birthday treat. But the best of these emails have some elements of both a thoughtful birthday wish and a conversion moment (albeit a softer sell). Some may even evoke an emotional response.

I’ve seen some notable ones in my years as an email specialist. Once I saw a response from a recipient that thanked the brand for remembering her birthday when her husband forgot. Another truly touching response thanked the brand for the thoughtful birthday wish, as it was the first year she had celebrated in decades without her husband (who had recently passed away).



Let’s take a look at my personal favorite this year and why I liked it so much. It’s from Southwest Airlines: a simple, focused birthday wish, featuring an animated gif of different scenes that keep changing the vision of what I am "wishing for," creating movement and interest. The copy alludes to purchase by encouraging travel to the “destination you are wishing for this year.” It also features a chance to enter a sweepstakes and win 25,000 points to get to your vacation faster than you ever thought possible.

The experience gets even better when you answer a series of questions about the type of destination you would like to visit, and then it presents you with an ideal location (based on where Southwest flies, of course).

Getting the email is an engaging experience that grabs your attention and creates a halo effect around the brand.  The email ultimately motivated me to browse a number of destinations on the airline's website as I started planning my next vacation. I haven’t made the purchase yet, but I certainly will very soon!

The big takeaways here are to start sending birthday messages if you aren’t doing so now; and, second, make sure you have the anatomy right. That means finding the right balance of sincerity (without being cheesy), offer and monetization opportunity (without the hard sell), ultimately creating a unique and engaging experience for the special birthday girl or boy.

2 comments about "The Anatomy Of A Good Birthday Email".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 11, 2014 at 5:19 a.m.

    Never understood why email marketers get so hung up on birthday emails, which require completely different copy from your normal marketing and can only be used on 0.3% of days. It's as if perfectly sane brands decided to emulate TGIF by singing "Happy Birthday" to customers, something they would never dream of doing in their stores.

  2. Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon, June 11, 2014 at 7:04 a.m.

    Pete, I appreciate the sentiment, but on the flip side it is an easy way to show appreciation to your customer, recognize them as an individual and demonstrates value. They also work. Many brands I have worked with over the years get amazing feedback from customers because of their birthday programs and when done right, can be real revenue generators for them.

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