Have A Birthday Campaign? Don’t Make This Mistake!

Imagine this: It’s your birthday. You check your email and

Imagine this: It’s your birthday. You check your email and see a message from your bank. “Happy Birthday from Capital One 360!” says the subject line.

Lots of businesses send out birthday greeting to their customers, often with coupons or free offers. Hey, maybe the bank is giving my savings account some extra interest!

Of course, that’s not what banks do for birthdays. And while I appreciated the thought from Capital One, their birthday email got a couple of things wrong. If you’re thinking of launching a birthday campaign, learn from this big brand’s mistakes.

First, One Thing They Got Right

Here’s the whole email:

The one thing I like about it and have to give them props for? Their cheerful tone. It’s cute and light without deviating from their brand. And it’s appropriate for a birthday wish.

Now, onto the not-so-good things.

Fail #1 – The Video

I’m a marketing nerd (you kind of have to be to blog about email marketing as your full-time job!). So I got kind of excited to see Capital One integrating video with their birthday wish. I was curious to see what they’d do.

I clicked the link and pressed “play.” I hadn’t read the YouTube description yet. And an inspirational message about the importance of happiness unfurled across the screen, stop-motion style.
Okay, this is kind of cool. When do we get to the birthday part? Wait, we don’t? Then I read the description:

“This short video stems from our list of Savers Resolutions, where the number one resolution is: We will spend more time with the people in our lives who matter most – and spend less money on things that really don’t matter at all.”

It wasn’t a birthday video at all! It’s just something they recycled from a previous campaign.

Now, I’m all for repurposing content. But this is the wrong way to do it. At least edit the YouTube description with a “Happy Birthday” wish. Or upload a new version of the same video with “We wish you happiness on your birthday,” tacked on as the last frame. Give it something to make it relevant to my day!

Fail #2 – So Impersonal

The second fail is probably worse than the first – the sign-off. “Enjoy many more, Saver.”

“Saver?” Really? May I direct your attention to my first name in the opening? Clearly they know who I am.

This email would have been much better off with a personalized closing. “Enjoy your day, Rebekah.” There. Was that so hard?

You’re wishing me a happy birthday and my name isn’t “Saver.”

What’s The Lesson?

Personal communication goes a long way in making your customers feel valued, especially in a birthday greeting.

There was nothing personal about this email, aside from the fact that my date of birth is in their system. It’s not always just the thought that counts. A little personalization – and a quick and simple tweak to their video – would have saved this email.

What about you? Have you received a half-hearted birthday greeting from a company? Are you guilty of maybe sending something like this yourself? What did you learn from the experience?


  1. David

    5/2/2013 10:25 am

    Yes I agree there is a TON they could do SO much better !
    At that same time I have bank accounts with about 3 different banks (one of them being Capital One), and I think they are the only bank that sent me a happy birthday email that made me smile : )

    I am not the only one, you can read the 353 comments on the video, with some saying things like:
    “This is actually? the most meaningful thing ive heard leading up to my 30 th bday… and its from capital one..lol

    So yea they are doing so much wrong and I sure hope that they read this post (I bet they will : ) and give me a better bday email this year ! : )

  2. Greg

    5/2/2013 3:09 pm


    Seeing that this month is my birth month, I have been getting variety of the birthday pitches to get me to open the e-mail.

    As funny as the story seems, I don’t think companies realize that some customers (like me) think, if you screwed this up so bad, why would I want to to do business with you?

  3. Putra Muzhafar

    5/2/2013 4:04 pm

    Great information. Learnt something new today! Anyways, Haapppyyy Birthhdaaay Rebekah! 😀

  4. Yo

    5/2/2013 10:10 pm


    Very good posting! Learn a lot!
    Is there anyhow in Aweber that we can send the e-mail ON THE DATE of birthday of our list member?
    If yes, how?
    If not, when can we have that option? 🙂

    Happy birthday to you too, Rebekah! 😀

  5. Mahmood Bashash

    5/5/2013 12:50 pm

    Perfect lessons. I really liked the idea of re-purposing the content with a purpose 🙂

  6. Rev Daniel T Partiss

    5/5/2013 4:58 pm

    Wonderful Article…

    this world is getting way too mechanical and impersonal. Even in an automated system just adding a little familiarity and and a dash of personality can change a dysfunctional approach to a warm handshake..


  7. Mary

    5/31/2013 10:54 pm

    I think this is a privacy issue: They’re sending the person’s birthday, along with the email address, name and customer number and bank via email. Are they nuts?! Granted, there is no year, but it gave anyone who intercepts this message plenty of information to figure out the rest. I think it’s crazy to do this.

  8. Pat

    9/18/2013 8:21 am

    I got a Birthday email from a restaurant that was so cheap it was insulting. Their opening gushed about my birthday and then their ‘gift’ was $5 off of TWO adult entrees with a coupon link for me to print it myself. I emailed them informing them that our last family birthday party at their establishment, that has a scarlet crustacean on the sign; with appetizers, beverages, entrees and desserts was hundreds of dollars. I received an auto response that day then another several days later from “customer care” saying they would share my email with their marketing department for review. That was weeks ago.

    We went to one of their competitors who gave me $25.95 off of our combined meals when our server got the okay from her manager by showing my drivers license to verify my birth date.

    Guess who gets my loyalty? And guess who I will avoid in the future? Rhetorical question.

  9. Martin

    11/8/2013 7:00 am

    Great post Rebekah.

    I find it astonishing how badly companies treat people via email.

    From experience it seems all they want to do is sell you things and not build a relationship. You have given me an idea or two, so thank you.

    Thanks for this. Made me smile.