Birthday Email Programs: An Opportunity to Connect

Posted by Bonnie Malone 

As my colleague, Julia, discussed on Tuesday, mobile viewership is on the rise and the way your emails render is becoming increasingly important.  Why?  Because the subscriber experience is changing, and if your email program doesn’t evolve, even your most relevant and targeted campaigns, like a birthday email, will fail to engage.  So, how can you use birthdays to stand out in the inbox and forge a deeper connection with your subscribers?  Let’s take a look at a few examples for some inspiration:

Red Lobster

Subject Line: Bonnie, Enjoy a Birthday Gift from Red Lobster


Subject Line: Here is your birthday gift from Longhorn!

Many people go out to dinner to celebrate a birthday, so both Red Lobster and Longhorn are smart to offer a “birthday gift” to email subscribers, as an incentive to celebrate at their respective restaurants.  However, on this occasion, Longhorn’s approach is far more compelling.  Using warm, friendly language and a freebie dessert (a true “gift”), the message is personalized and endearing – using emotions to connect with subscribers and compel an action.  Red Lobster, on the other hand, provides a $5 off coupon (just $1 more than their usual monthly coupons) as a “great benefit” of their email program, which fails to stand out to subscribers as something special.

Key takeaway: Keep the focus on the subscriber.  Use verbiage that is genuine and warm, and offer a free gift to give the subscriber a reason to celebrate with you.


Subject Line: Your birthday gift is here!

Bare Escentuals

Subject Line: Happy Birthday! 15% Off Online and in Boutiques

Birthdays are a time when all the focus is on you – so most women want to be sure they are looking and feeling their best.  Sephora and Bare Escentuals both know this – and use the annual occasion to encourage subscribers to treat themselves to a new beauty product.  Both companies are smart to provide an offer that is valid for the subscriber’s entire birthday month, and allow for redemption in store or online.  However, Sephora takes the birthday outreach a step further by including a special “Happy Birthday” video that features top beauty brand names sending their best wishes.

Key takeaway: Make it fun!  Use a video, social media, or quirky content to make your subscribers smile on their big day.  And, be sure to give a birthday offer that has flexibility to be redeemed in multiple channels and over ample enough time for subscribers to take action.


Subject Line: Less than 3 weeks until your Birthday!

Subject Line: Happy Birthday from Blue Nile + A Gift For You

Timing can sometimes be everything.   Blue Nile has a unique and useful approach that uses timing to their benefit.  3 weeks prior to their birthday, subscribers receive an email celebrating the soon-to-arrive big day, and encouraging them to create a Wish List to help their spouse, friends, and family select the perfect gift.  Then, on their actual birthday, subscribers receive a coupon (valid for a month) for $10 off their $50 order.  Why is this approach so different?  Because Blue Nile uses the first email to get subscribers browsing on their site and finding items they like as they create a Wish List.  The Wish List can be extremely useful to subscribers and provides a tangible benefit (especially those wives whose husband’s lack gift-selection abilities).  Then, the second email provides a compelling reason to go back and buy those Wish List items that weren’t received from others.

Key Takeaway: Be thoughtful in the timing of your approach.  Use site functionality to engage with subscribers in a way that is beneficial to them, while it primes a purchase (which benefits you!).

Give us your thoughts.  Which of these strategies is most useful to you?  How will these points of inspiration help evolve your birthday email approach?

Author Image

About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

Author Archive