3 Things Your Birthday & Marketing Strategy Should Have in Common

By Gregg Ames, CCO, Act-On Software

In this piece, Gregg Ames discusses the spirit of today’s marketing and why it should feature personalization, impeccable timing, and the element of surprise — just like your birthday!


What makes a great birthday? It could be the ice cream cake with your name in frosting, the wishlist-fulfilling gifts, the friends and family, and so much more. All of these factors come together to create a birthday perfectly tailored to you, with the goal of providing a day of joy and excitement.

Now, imagine if marketing teams could use technology to make their customers feel like every day was their birthday.

That might sound like overconfident marketing talk, but it speaks to the level of customization and engagement that all marketing strategies should seek. There are quite a few parallels between birthday celebrations and marketing strategies. While an SMS message may not excite someone in the same way that a new puppy would, there are some key lessons marketing teams can take from birthdays.

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Let’s dig into it:


The best birthday presents are often the thoughtful ones. It’s clear when someone didn’t put a lot of thought or effort into a gift, and the same can be said about marketing strategies. Customers can tell when a brand isn’t making an effort to personalize their experience.

Personalization is all about understanding users’ behavioral data and personal interests, and curating messaging most likely to engage them. In a connected, digital era, consumers expect brands to captivate them on a personal level. Brands need to give customers a present they actually want.

Let’s say a CEO is browsing the internet for project management software and keeps coming back to the same website, but fails to click the “contact” button to set up a sales meeting. The company selling the project management software would be wise to study the CEO’s page visits to understand the range of solutions they are looking at and in what price range. Once the company has a sense of what the executive is seeking, they could send a personalized email offering a discount on the exact software they need. This level of customization, like receiving a birthday cake with your name on it, could be the personal touch that drives consumers to purchase a product. However, if done incorrectly, like misspelling that name on the birthday cake, you’ve ruined what could have been a brand-defining moment with a potential customer.

Personalized marketing isn’t limited simply to sales tactics. In fact, this marketing technology can be tremendously beneficial from a customer retention and value provided standpoint. It helps to build a sense of trust between the brand and the customer, showing that the brand understands them, what they want, and when they want it. 

Marketing messaging tools like email or SMS can provide thoughtfully curated tangible benefits (like offers and deals) and intangible benefits (like a personalized customer experience) to existing customers. By leveraging automation in their messaging campaigns, marketers can remove any guess-work and streamline the whole process.. For example, companies can use marketing automation to send emails to customers thanking them for their business, congratulating them for a landmark, or, yes, even wishing them a happy birthday. SMS text messaging could also provide value by sending personalized messages to customers reminding them of an appointment or upcoming bill. Personalized marketing doesn’t always have to have an agenda and, just like with bespoke birthday gifts, it’s the thought that counts.

Ultimately, the spirit of marketing comes down to curating a terrific brand experience in every engagement with customers. The best marketers make the customer feel special and demonstrate that their brand actually understands and values its consumers beyond their transactions. Personalization is essential in achieving this.


Have you ever forgotten someone’s birthday and had to wish them a happy belated with your tail between your legs? Getting the timing wrong can be awkward and damaging to relationships. The same holds true for your marketing strategy.

Luckily, modern marketing automation platforms, like those that include automated messaging via email and SMS, can analyze behavioral data and preferences and send messages at the times it knows a customer or lead is most likely to interact. Some platforms can even analyze engagement data to send communications at the best times for each user. For example, if a lead usually opens their emails at 8am every Monday, marketing technology can recognize this pattern and automatically send messaging at that hour. 

When well-timed marketing strategies are sent in conjunction with personalized messages, the odds of capturing a lead’s attention are significantly higher. 

This ability to send well-timed messages is also useful for communications with existing customers, in addition to leads. For example, if a current customer likes to shop online every morning during their subway ride to work, a savvy marketing team could use automated SMS messaging to send them news about new product offerings or discounts on their favorite brands. With the tap of a screen, the customer would instantly receive a time-saving, curated experience that showcases the products they typically seek.

Like showing up to a birthday party a day early, poor timing in your marketing strategy could be catastrophic. The key is to understand a customer’s behavior and preferences enough to send messages during the optimal windows of peak engagement.

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While not everyone appreciates a surprise birthday party, most people appreciate a surprising, thoughtful gift. The same holds true for your marketing strategy; be surprising, memorable, and engaging.

In marketing, it’s easy to do the same things that have been working for years. Don’t fall victim to this lazy business practice! If you market to customers “the way you’ve always done it,” that’s about as thoughtful as a VISA gift card on a big birthday. Sure it’s easy and it gets the job done, but how will the end-user receive it? A memorable marketing experience could have huge potential for new customers, and can also drive tremendous brand recognition — and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Companies that use creative and out-of-the-box marketing tactics can use the element of surprise to capture consumer attention. For example, rewarding customers with a random “thank you” promo code for 20% off, or maybe a raffle of rare merch for all email subscribers. Modern consumers are desensitized to the digital deluge of ads they receive, and it will take a truly special marketing strategy to earn their time. Be original and be creative!

Takeaway: In many ways, the birthday experience represents the perfect personalization template for marketers. Brands should be trying to cultivate the same emotions that people feel on their birthdays at every interaction. Personalized, timely, and engaging content will make customers feel heard and valued, whether it’s their day to blow out the candles or not.

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