Today is my birthday. I turn 21 today. And while it doesn’t seem like a different day to you, to me, everything is different. Today even started differently with a happy birthday call from my parents. I opened cards that my friends sent me while staring at the fresh flowers that arrived at my dorm yesterday evening. (If you pause to think about it, birthdays are big business, a hallmark card is about $4! The flowers I got are likely another $40, not including the shipping.) I groaned thinking about having to walk across the street in the pouring down rain to class. Another reminder that today is no different from any other day. I am defiantly not the only to have ‘suffered’ from something like crappy weather on their birthday. Checking my phone I saw that I had two new emails, one from Starbucks and one from Sprinkles. I decided to head to Starbucks after my first class and enjoy a pumpkin spice latte on the house. The baristas wished me happy birthday. I felt special, I bought a pumpkin muffin to go with my free latte.
If you look online, there are entire websites curated for the specific purpose of birthday freebies. Are these freebies effective? Even if you were not a huge fan of Starbucks would you go and get a drink? Probably yes. If for some reason you were not a fan of cupcakes would you go get a free one from Sprinkles? Also, likely yes. Then the next logical step would be to take a picture and show everyone on Facebook/Twitter the free stuff you got for your birthday. How much positive publicity does a company get for these freebies? Once I share that, I got a free pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks for my birthday others will ask how they can get freebies too. Starbucks get my friends’ valuable information, including email, common purchases and locations, data that used to cost the company millions of dollars in market research, and we get a five-dollar latte free once a year.
So while the average consumer may take these ‘freebies’ as a gift, we know better. Birthday freebies are a great way to get free positive press for a company along with contributing to a feeling of community; it also brings customers into stores where they may buy something to go along with the birthday freebie. Despite knowing the marketing schemes behind these discounts, I think we are all going to go get a free cupcake from Sprinkles when our birthdays come around.