Corporate Birthday Greetings


Today is my birthday, as Rob pointed out in a comment a few days back (thanks to “social networking” sites that I've shared that info with).

My point isn't to solicit a bunch of “happy birthday” greetings (but I'll accept them). What I have appreciated today are birthday cards, emails, and Facebook messages from friends, co-workers, and family (and yes, from Rob). It means a lot when someone remembers your birthday (or is prompted by a web page)… but the point is that the greetings are sincere and personal. Warm fuzzies all around.

I opened my email this morning and must have found at least a dozen “Happy Birthday” messages from companies or websites I have previously signed up for. You know what, I could care less that “Pepsi” is wishing me a happy birthday. I don't even drink Pepsi. I could care less about their greeting, I'm no more likely to buy their product because of their email. That smells like the “waste of overproduction,” making corporate birthday greetings that don't mean anything to me. At least it doesn't cost anything to receive email, other than a few seconds to delete the messages. Maybe Pepsi was trying to give me a free 12 pack of Diet Mountain Dew and I missed it.

Now, I may get accused of birthday “humbuggery.” No, I'm not upset about having a birthday, far from it. The automated corporate emails got me thinking about the thought process behind those. They have your birthday, so the marketing department thinks it's a good idea to spam the “consumers*” (warm fuzzies and/or $$$ will result) and the IT department says it's easy (I assume). A little automated script, a database, and there you go. But did anyone ask “SHOULD we email our customers (or potential customers)? Will the customers care?”

Because to me, cheap corporate automated nothings don't mean anything. No warm fuzzies there. Emails and greetings from real people, not from marketing departments, are what matter.

* On another note, I really hate being called a “consumer” and the message behind that — but we'll save that topic for another post.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Happy Birthday Mark, again!

    You know, my wife signs up for every automated corporate doodad out there. She’s on more mailing lists than I can name and she’s always complaining about how many unread emails she had and spending our quiet time together (in front of the TV, admittedly) deleting said emails.
    It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I explain to her what a waste it is, she hasn’t changed the behavior.
    Me? If I get an automated email, even from a company that I like, I unsubscribe almost immediately!
    I’ve probably missed several cheap airline fares to places I don’t want to go on weekends that I’m not available, and probably a few 5% coupons on products I don’t want to buy. But for some reason, I think my life is better for it.


  2. Speaking of overproduction, I was going to email you about this….

    In the “nice problems to have” category, I bought a “Vizio” brand LCD TV for my bedroom. The TV’s logo lights up in white light when the TV is on, which seems unnecessary. Even more unnecessary is that it glows faint orange when the TV is “off.”

    1) It’s consuming power unnecessarily

    2) It shines faintly in my dark bedroom, which is a bit of an annoyance

    Did Vizio value the marketing benefit of a glowing logo over their customer needs? Marketing said “we need to do this” and product development said “OK, it’s easy and cheap to do that.”

    As you put it, did anyone ask SHOULD we have a glowing logo??

    Oh, and happy belated birthday!


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