Saturday, October 5, 2013

Since When Did My Birthday Become a Marketing Event?

I celebrated a birthday this week.  I know, because, the morning of, when I fired up Google Search, there was a birthday cake and celebratory frou-frou decorating my screen.  I thought: "Hmmm, what semi-obscure personage is Google celebrating today?  Willa Cather?  George Selden?"  I clicked and--what do you know--it said "Happy Birthday, Eric."  I was the obscure personage.

Around 10 a.m. I heard a ring on our house landline, the phone we learned long ago could only be Mitt Romney or the NRA asking for money.  It turned out to be our local car dealership singing happy birthday into the answering machine.  Another birthday greeting from our mortgage originator arrived around lunch in my email followed by one from the local sports radio station.  That afternoon in regular mail I received a birthday card from my dentist, neatly signed by all of his dental hygienists.

I know I should be flattered.  After all, they did remember.

Sometime in 2007 I was sent an invitation to a technology conference at Langley Field in Hampton, Virginia, for October 4th of that year.  It was in celebration of Sputnik's 50th anniversary.  Imagine my delight!  I was born at Langley--the birthplace of NASA--on October 4, 1957, the start of the Space Age.  I was the original Space Age Baby.  Maybe if I attended the conference, John Glenn and I would share opening remarks?  Maybe I'd receive a golden Sputnik paperweight?  Maybe a commemorative wingnut from some Mercury capsule?  Maybe they'd at least fly me down for free and throw in a nice dinner and room to boot.

I wrote to the conference organizers excitedly.  This is your Space Age Baby, baby, at your service.  Never had my birthday been such an historic occasion.

About 15 minutes later I received a return email.  It said, and I'll paraphrase slightly to cut to the chase: "Yadda, yadda, yadda. . .snooze. . .so are you coming to the conference, and can we expect your check by the 15th?"

That was a good reminder of how important my birthday really is to marketers and the service providers who enrich my life.   "Happy birthday," my dentist says in a colorful balloon card.  But what he really means is, "When can we replace those tired silver fillings with some long-lasting composite resin?"