Birthday Email Deals & Steals: Encouraging Recipients to Shop

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Since my birthday was yesterday (my 30th, if you must ask—a big year!) I’ve been receiving tons of birthday messages, deals and offers in my inbox recently. With my birthday so close to Christmas, my big day is easily drowned out by all the holiday noise. While I’m sure birthday campaigns are the last thing on your mind this time of year, now’s a good a time as any to take a look at how some senders celebrate subscribers’ birthdays.


Subject line: “Justine, Happy Birthday!”
The offer: Double A+ rewards credits on my next flight

My greeting from AirTran included a live-text personalized banner wishing me a happy birthday. I actually received this email in two different accounts (I guess I’ve signed up for their rewards twice?) In the 2nd email, my name had an extra “u” (Juustine) in both the subject line and body of the email. Personalization is cool, until it breaks or the subscriber messed up while entering their info.

Also, offers that involve pricey purchases (such as air travel) aren’t usually spur-of-the-moment decisions. For birthday offers like this one, the narrow window for booking and travel dates means that I probably won’t take advantage, unless I already happened to have a trip planned. In which case, now would be an excellent time to buy!


Subject line: “Happy Birthday Justine”
The offer: A free bottle of prosecco

We’ve previously written about PizzaExpress and their creative images-off optimization techniques. This email really pushed the envelope, using the trademark PizzaExpress colored-cell image blocking technique AND two animated GIFs. I especially love how the bubbles in the animation are represented by blocks of beige in the images-off view:

As a geeky email marketer, this was by far my favorite birthday email, even if I can’t take advantage of my free bottle of prosecco. Maybe next year I’ll make a point to be in London for my birthday! 🙂


Subject line: “A birthday present for you + FREE Shipping Every Day”
The offer: $15 off a single purchase

The intentional misspelling of birthday (to “BRTHDAY”) puts an emphasis on the brand sending the offer—a cute touch. There’s no minimum purchase on the offer (one that I’ll probably take advantage of!), although I don’t think the rewards points are any different than the normal scheme. I do wish retailers with store cards had the capability to link rewards offers and discounts to users’ cards—this way I can still use it, even if I never saw the email or forgot to bring it with me. Imagine learning that you have a discount or reward available when you present your card at the register—fun!


Subject line: “Happy Birthday, Saver”

While there’s no offer from my online bank, they do include link to a YouTube video in their message. Since I received this email to my Gmail account, Google detected the link and offered to let me view the video at the bottom of the message—a nice touch, although I might have missed it if the email was a little longer. While I usually appreciate ING’s quirky sense of humor, I thought the video fell a little flat. I’m sure it was meant to be inspiring or uplifting, but the first minute or so just left me feeling a little depressed, not exactly how I’d like to feel on my birthday!


Subject line: “Happy Birthday!”
The offer: Free one-day DVD rental

A simple email with a simple, yet relevant, offer! I especially like the preheader, “We got you a present!” which is a nice follow-up to the subject line. I only wish the text was a little larger.


Subject line: “Happy Birthday from TrueBlue!”
The offer: $50 off any JetBlue Getaways vacation package

Valid for 12 months from receipt of the email, this is truly an offer I might be able to use! The personalized banner and quirky play on the well-known song are also nice touches that reflect the JetBlue brand.


Subject line: “Happy (early) birthday!” — (on Dec. 5th, 13 days before my birthday)
Subject line: “Happy Birthday!” — (on the actual day)
The offer: A free “mini lip duo” with my next purchase during my birthday month

The creative on both emails was almost exactly the same: just the headline and copy was tweaked a little bit. I was a little disappointed to miss out on this offer, since I had taken advantage of a $20 off reward just a few days earlier. Sephora was the only retailer (so far) to send me advance notice of my gift, and to remind me to go use it. I also love that I have the option of using my gift online or in-store.


Subject line: “Happy Birthday from MapMyRun!”
The offer: $10 off a $50 MapMyFitness Marketplace purchase

This was the only email I received that had some notable rendering issues. The biggest offender: the logo image at the top was broken! It also looks like there might be some issues with the paragraph spacing in the email: all the text seems a little scrunched together. Birthday offer emails are likely among the “set it and forget it” variety, which means things like broken links and rendering issues can pop up from time to time. Be sure to re-evaluate your triggered messaging a few times a year to be sure everything is still working (and rendering) as it should!

Despite these issues, the big orange button would stand out on a mobile device (MapMyRun is an app company, after all) and the hand-drawn character adds a cute touch.


Subject line: “Happy Birthday”
The offer: A box of chocolate-covered strawberries

Yum! Since I’m more likely to visit the Melting Pot for special occasion (like my birthday), this is a great offer and again, one I’m more likely to use due to the pretty wide redemption window. I would have liked to see some more live text used in this email, however. All of the text in the body of the email was captured as part of the image, meaning it showed up completely blank when images were disabled.


Subject line: “Happy Birthday!”

This message contained a link to a violinist playing a short song. The landing page utilizes Flash to play the song accompanied by a birthday-themed animation. IU also links to a mobile-friendly option with an embedded MP3 instead of the Flash video. Since Flash isn’t available on iOS, MP3 is an good alternative. While this is a well-intentioned execution on IU’s part, the mobile link is small and hard to tap on a smartphone screen. An ideal solution would involve setting up the landing page to detect iOS views and automatically re-direct users to a non-Flash version.


  • HARPOON BREWERY: “Birthday Wishes from Your Friends at Harpoon Brewery.” No special offers from my favorite brewery (darn!), but the copy had a personal touch, saying, “…we raise our glass in honor of you…”
  • MASSAGE ENVY: “Happier, healthier birthday!” Again, no special offers, but the email did tell me that I have 9 unused massage credits available, and reminded me of the benefits of massage.
  • DELTA: “For Your Birthday: Extra Savings.” This email contained a discount of $100 off on vacations of $599–$4,999 and $250 off on vacations of $5,000 or more between November 30, 2012, and January 31, 2013—a solid two-month window around my birthday.
  • My eye doctor and dentist’s office: “Happy Birthday Justine.” Since they already have my birthday for insurance purposes, so this is a nice way to utilize data-on-hand. It’s worth noting that both offices happen to use DemandForce, which I’ve seen many small businesses use to confirm appointments and send birthday messages via email.
  • A local yoga studio: “Invoke wishes you a happy birthday!” The yoga studio sent out a plain-text email from the studio owner with an offer to take a free yoga class within a week of my birthday.
  • My favorite running speciality store: “Happy Birthday from BlueMile” with an offer for $10 off my purchase of $50 or more


It’s kind of a bummer that I received so many limited-time offers around my birthday. Again, since it’s so close to the holidays, it’s hard to justify spending more money (even with discounts!). I’m most likely to use offers that I received toward the beginning of the month, especially if they’re valid all month long. Especially for something like a free yoga class, where schedules might be limited this week (or I might be visiting or hosting family), having a little more time to take advantage of my birthday treat would be ideal.


Another thing I definitely noticed was how similar all the subject lines were. Then again, how many ways are there to say, “Happy Birthday”? I wonder if keeping it short and sweet works for birthday emails, or if more creative variations might work better? Personally, I found the subject lines that mentioned a freebie or offer to be the most enticing!


What kind of birthday offers or messages do you send your subscribers? Do they drive revenue, build brand awareness, or just become another forgotten transactional email?