Be the Brand Who Lives for Birthdays

Birthdays are usually a reason to celebrate. If you smartly harness your customers' celebration to your marketing carriage, you can really increase your retention rate. Here are some examples of companies who do it right

Lauren Dowdle
October 03 2017

It’s your big day! Enjoy this gift on us! Celebrate with a special freebie!

We’ve all gotten messages like these a week or two before our birthdays, and I must say, I’m definitely a fan. Really, I’m just a sucker for anything free, but it means a little more when it comes as a birthday gift.

And it’s not that difficult for marketers to keep track of their customers’ special days. Anytime they sign up for something — whether it’s for your newsletter, an online account or subscription, — they are probably already including their birthdays as part of the submission form.

Then all it takes is an automated email or text to deliver their gift. Not only does that allow you to send personalized messages, but it also helps engage and retain customers. Just check out these birthday email stats on how they compare to promotional emails:

  • 481% higher transaction rates
  • 342% higher revenue per email
  • 179% higher unique click rates

So if you’re not already sending out some sort of birthday offer, you and your customers are missing out on the perks. See what other companies are doing to surprise and wow their customers.

No Strings Attached

A favorite birthday option — especially for the food industry — is to give customers a free item on their big day. Baskin-Robbins will give you free ice cream, Buffalo Wild Wings has free wings, Firehouse Subs offers a free sub, IHOP serves up a free meal and Krispy Kreme gives you a donut.

Here are some more companies that give their customers a free item on their birthday: Cracker Barrel, Zaxby’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Sonic, Ruby Tuesday, Steak ‘n Shake, Starbucks, Rita’s Italian Ice and Redbox.

You can require the customer to bring in a printed coupon or show the email on their phone to earn the reward. If you want to crackdown on coupon use, you can also ask to see their license to prove their birthday — but I’ve yet to actually have that happen.

Half-Off Deal

A step down from a no-strings-attached freebie is giving customers a buy-one-get-one-free deal for their birthday. You’re still giving them something for free, but you’re also getting a little something back in return.

This option is especially useful if you’re giving away something a little more substantial (i.e. more than a small ice cream cone or a cookie).

Some BOGO examples include an entree at Zoes Kitchen, Blizzard at Dairy Queen, burger at Fuddruckers, creation at Cold Stone Creamery and milkshake with a purchase at Arby’s.

Enjoy a Discount

There are also some brands that offer customers a certain percentage or amount off of their purchases — either as a one-time thing or throughout their birthday month.

American Eagle Outfitter gives 15 percent off the month of a customer’s birthday, and Benihana offers a $30 gift certificate. CVS provides $3 in their ExtraBucks, DSW and Jason’s Deli have a $5 gift card, J.Crew Factory offers up 20 percent off and free shipping, Nike has $20 off an order of $100 or more and Kimpton Hotels gives 20 percent off their rate — plus a special birthday surprise. (It’s almost worth booking just to find out the surprise.)

Just make sure the discount is enough to catch the customer’s attention and make them excited to use your product or service. Simply giving extra rewards points or something you do throughout the year might not cut it.

Outside of the (Gift) Box

Do you ever wish you could celebrate your birthday year-round — or at least for more than just one day? Some marketers are getting creative to entice customers with some unique birthday deals throughout the year.

Take Edible Arrangements, for example. I received an email from them this week with the subject line, “Happy Birthday!” I’ve still got a good three months until my birthday, so I figured they had the wrong information. Even so, I clicked on the email.

Instead of a mistake, I found a clever marketing message offering free delivery for “the most popular birthday month of the year.” There aren’t any big holidays in September (when this deal was offered), so it was the perfect way to engage customers and boost sales during what I’m guessing is a slower month for the company.

Plus, they also offer a free birthday gift to their customers, so having the free delivery was just an added bonus before your actual celebration time.

Pie Five Pizza also gives its rewards members something a little different: a free pizza on their half birthday. They’re offering their customers something free at a time when other brands probably aren’t. And for those who actually celebrate their half birthdays, it gives them a little validation.

It can be easy for messages to get lost in all of the birthday freebies, so finding a way to stand out from the rest is a huge bonus.

Not Everyone Celebrates Birthdays — But They Should

There are some big names missing from the list of companies that give clients something special on their birthdays. Brands like Apple, Walmart, Netflix, Amazon and Southwest aren’t offering up anything to help their customers celebrate — and in my opinion, that’s a shame.

I don’t see any downsides to surprising customers on their birthdays with some sort of gift or discount. They feel special you remembered them, and you get them to engage and (hopefully) give them a reason to shop with you more. Sounds like a real win-win for both sides.

Each company does it differently, but you can offer the deal the entire month of their birthday, during a two-week window or just the day of: It’s up to you.

Just be sure to offer them something that shows you value them and want them to have a special day. That will also help you build customer loyalty, even after their big day has come and gone.

So, get out the balloons, light the candles and show your customers how much they mean to you!

Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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