Making a Happy Birthday Email App With Messagepoint

February 3, 2014 Chris Miller

When you create a software solution for enterprise customers to deal with their customer communications challenges, it’s sometimes difficult to “eat-your-own dog food” as a smaller company.

After all, Prinova doesn’t send millions of print and email communications to consumers every month as our customers do.  Messagepoint’s job is to make managing variable content in and across all customer communications – print and digital – easy.  It can drive massive amounts of variation through a single template, so rather than creating one-off versions of emails or documents for each segment of your customer base, it lets you build in the logic and the content to be driven off a single template and customer data set. It allows for an incredible amount of content re-use and streamlining. In other words, it’s a pretty powerful tool.

So, when we were looking for a cool email app for Messagepoint that Prinova could use, the “Happy Birthday App” idea came about.

Getting started

We’re a company that celebrates special moments, like birthdays.   So, on those special days, about 65 times a year, our awesome receptionist Michelle creates an  email,  inserts a random birthday image and adds a line of personalized text and hits “send to all” (except on weekends).  So, we thought –  personalization, customization, and automation – those are things that Messagepoint does extremely well.  We have a candidate app!

What to customize

The first step was to consider what to customize, and we came up with five requirements:

  • The ‘Happy Birthday’ image should change regularly, at least once per month, and perhaps be gender-friendly, so we’d need 24 different versions
  • There should be a hyperlink to a “This Day in History” website to give Prinovans a sense of other great events on this day
  • It should show and talk about the birthday boy/girl’s star sign
  • It should  show and talk about the birthstone
  • The background color should vary by email, to match the color of the division (we have four: Communication Services, CCM Services, Messagepoint and Premium Support, each with their respective colors which you can find on our website).

How we tackled it:

First, we created a data or driver file containing the names,  birth dates and departments for all Prinovans, which would drive Messagepoint ‘s targeted content.

For the happy birthday image, we used dynamic images in Messagepoint to populate the correct birthday image based on gender and month of the birthday employee.  This is a single object that can be dropped into a message that will display the correct image based on the value in a recipient’s profile (in this case, birth month and gender).


Next, we used a series of multi-part messages containing zodiac signs and brief descriptions of each, along with some centrally-controlled text and paragraph styling. To get the correct message to play, we also took advantage of a timing feature to tell Messagepoint which message to play depending on the day the birthday app is run.  For example, Aquarius should only play from January 21st to February 19th.


For the zodiac component, we used a multi-part message again, but this time took advantage of dynamic images for zodiac symbols, as well as dynamic Smart Text for the descriptions. This made it easy to centrally-manage like content that’s driven off data values, in this case, the month of the individual’s birthday.  The other advantage is that instead of creating 12 unique messages, we only had to use one (a nice time saver, both for set up and for maintenance).


To swap email background colors per division, we took advantage of Messagepoint’s “Structured Touchpoint” model, which lets us create quick one-off variants of our master touchpoint and assign different background color values. Similar to dynamic images or smart text, a data value will tell Messagepoint which color to swap out when it runs its job.

Finally, to automate the entire process, we scheduled a daily process (even on weekends!) that first runs a touchpoint targeting rule to evaluate our employee data file, then proceeds to process any matches it finds on that day. Once it identifies a birthday match, it runs through the rules to compose the correct content for the individual recipient (sometimes multiple) in question and sends it on for delivery.

So, what did our inaugural birthday email look like?


When I think back on other solutions I’ve worked on, creating an app like this would have required a marketing automation tool and approximately 192 email templates (2 per month to cover zodiac variation X 24 to cover male and female-specific monthly birthday images X 4 to address different background colors representing our divisions). With Messagepoint, it was done through a single template, and 14 easy-to-manage “messages”, and it was built in a few hours.

The post Making a Happy Birthday Email App With Messagepoint appeared first on Messagepoint.

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