Birthday Bargains or “Bargoons”


Birthday Free Stuff

Photo credit: JwvanEck via / CC BY-NC

It has been a long time coming, but here — at last — is the free stuff on your birthday blog.

I have mentioned in the past my own family’s habit, when I was younger, of going each birthday to Baskin-Robbins for a free scoop of ice cream. Rainbow sherbet for me please! Although now it’s in stiff competition with gold medal ribbon. We would get a postcard in the mail rewarding us as members of the BR birthday club.

I have signed my son up for the online equivalent, but it is not quite a childhood tradition in his mind yet.

He is also part of a Toys R Us membership club that has Geoffrey the Giraffe sending him a bday gift certificate for some nominal amount each year. Since it is only $2 or so, he is unaware of this corporation’s good wishes. I do not want to let him loose in the store and have to make up the difference. I did so once, and he ended up with roller skates. Yes, I can be a sucker.

Nevertheless, part of enjoying the day you are born is taking advantage of marketing ploys to congratulate you on your good fortune in being born.

Here are some of the offerings I found in an online search (though membership in the loyalty club is often the price you must pay since nothing is truly free):

  • Ice cream. Along with 31 flavors, you can also enjoy a scoop at Ben and Jerry’s or Coldstone Creamery.
  • Chai. Or for those who like coffee, you can get a caffeine kick that way too at Starbucks with a free drink on your birthday.
  • Hardware. Yep, loyalty club members get a $5 birthday certificate.
  • Shoes. DSW sends its club members a $5 gift certificate.
  • Appetizers. Restaurants such as Chili’s or Lone Star Steakhouse send you a certificate for a free appetizer.
  • Breakfast. Einstein’s will give club members a free bagel. Denny’s lets birthday celebrants chow down on a free original grand slam of pancakes, eggs, and bacon.

It’s all in the name of marketing, of course. But, it’s your birthday — enjoy! Although I will also remind you, as much as I love a “bargoon,” that your birthday is a good day to treat yourself too.


Birthday Balloon Binge

ballonsTwitter has announced its going to help its users celebrate their birthdays. You can now share your birthday on your profile and twitter will provide the virtual balloons.

I was excited at first. Then I read Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy on saying, “Twitter will do anything to twist a few more pennies from its advertisers, including using information about our birthday and who celebrates it.”

This is one more way to make a birthday a horizontal event (ahem…horizontal marketing event)! GRR.

Yet, I’m still excited about the virtual balloons.

I love balloons. I’ve said I want those instead of flowers at my funeral. But there are some negatives to consider. First, there’s the impact on the helium market (learn why there is a shortage). Then there’s the environmental litter and the danger to animals to worry about (check out the cleverly titled to learn more about the reality of letting go of balloons).


Photo credit: frankieleon / Foter / CC BY

Since I can’t bring myself to call for a ban on balloons entirely, I’m going to endorse responsible balloon usage. If you use balloons:

  • Use your own hot air. Or check out buzz feed’s cool salt and cola method!
  • Don’t let them go — pop them afterwards and put them in the trash.

If you’re entirely anti-balloon, consider these interesting observations about some advantages of working with balloons.

Your birthday as a “horizontal event”

Many cards imply a birthday is a good time to get horizontal with a significant other, but I recently learned that in marketing terms a birthday is an official “horizontal event.”

According to ZenithOptimedia’s Richard Shotton, a boost in sales can be vertical (linked to events happening at a set time and affecting a large group of consumers, such as Halloween) or horizontal (tied to annual events that happen at different times for each customer, such as birthdays).

The company examined the impact of birthdays on spending by interviewing 1,000 people about buying for themselves and the occasions that prompted the purchase.

The interviewees were far more likely to purchases clothes, watches and jewelry around their birthdays — for themselves. “Happy Birthday to Me!” Right?

Some 60% of survey respondents also specified the gifts they’d like to receive from others. The bigger question, the survey did not discuss, is whether the husbands listened…

Marketers are also learning to send birthday campaigns over email to ramp up revenues, and to use the Facebook birthday information to target advertisements to users, Shotton noted.

He concluded saying that birthdays can mean happy returns for companies that invest in appropriate marketing. I believe him. I remember every birthday going to Baskin-Robbins with my family to enjoy my free scoop of rainbow sherbet. Today I’m happier with my Panera birthday pastry or Starbucks free chai.

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Tell me, what’s the best birthday marketing ploy you’ve experienced?