Customer Portfolios' Blog

How Brands Can Use Email to Capitalize on Birthdays

Yesterday was my birthday and in addition to receiving one Facebook notification after another, I received plenty of birthday love from some of my favorite brands. In the world of website registration, it has become a common practice by brands to ask general demographic information. More savvy brands take it one step further and ask for your birthdate. Why? It gives brands another point of engagement and opportunity to build a connection with you. However, even though some brands utilized the “birthday email” as a way of engagement and tried to illicit me, the consumer, to take action some were more successful than others. Below are two examples on both ends of the spectrum.

The Good…

Rent The Runway

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I am going to be candid; I love Rent The Runway. As someone whose summer is comprised of weddings on weddings on weddings, Rent The Runaway has allowed me (and millions of others) to rent dresses for four or eight day periods which means I don’t have to buy a new dress for each wedding, nor do I have to repeat outfits for each wedding. Two problems solved with one brand. Not only do they have a great brand UVP, but they are doing great at the birthday game, too.

As part of its PRO Membership ($29.99 a year), you get a $50 credit towards a birthday rental (so, what you’re saying is the membership pays for itself? Yes.). A month prior to my birthday, I was sent a birthday code to use towards my rental. Perfect timing since it gave me enough time to secure a dress of my choosing. What is more is that I was able to use the birthday code whenever I wanted. I then received an email two weeks prior to my birthday, reminding me to use my offer. The reminder was helpful but not intrusive – exactly the type of email you want to receive from a brand.

Although this is not the traditional birthday discount, by incorporating it into a larger membership program, Rent The Runway is able to encourage renters to become members and build a long-term relationship with the brand. These Harvard MBA founders are onto some pretty sophisticated brand engagement….

The Bad...


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Velo-City is a local spinning studio that I found myself spinning at during harsh winter months, when it was impossible to run outside. Like the other brands, they used the subject line to wish me a happy birthday and intuition led me to believe that there would be some sort of offer in the email. However, had I not been a savvy marketer, I may have just thought that the brand was wishing me a happy birthday and deleted the email without opening it. The email was short and sweet and provided an offer code to be redeemed on their website as a birthday treat.

Promo codes are great and all but here are some top-line thoughts on how Velo-City could make their birthday emails even better. Call out that there is a “present” or “birthday treat” in the email to encourage email opens and then entice people to click through once they open the email. The limited copy left much to be desired. Moreover, allude to the discount in the offer (note: I did the math and it was 40% off a single ride) and did nothing to drive customer engagement.

In summary... when brands go beyond asking consumers for the standard demographic information it gives them an opportunity to engage on a more personal level. However, the most successful engagement isn't done in a standalone email, rather it is baked into a large engagement strategy that focuses on customer retention and growth.

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