Authentically personal

Since Google started Google Doodles some years ago, the now-ubiquitous graffito-like illustrations appear in your Chrome browser on a near-weekly basis to replace the standard Google logo and mark the birthday of a notable public figure or event.

Today, the doodles are often tailored to a particular country or region so marking a notable date that’s relevant primarily to that country or region. See what’s doodling on Google where you are.

A doodle might also appear just for you, as I discovered today.

Today happens to be my birthday. I opened Chrome and saw a doodle, the one you see above. Curious as to whose birthday it signified, imagine my surprise when I hovered my mouse over it to see the popup text “Happy Birthday Neville!” A click on the doodle took me to my Google+ profile page.

My wife tells me Google has been doing this for a while although this is the first time I’ve seen a doodle marking my birthday. There wasn’t one last year (that I noticed anyway).

This is a nice personal touch in a world that increasingly is becoming less authentically personal. To be sure, what I saw on my screen is the result of an algorithm, a bot or some bit of technology, yet I’m optimistic that a human being at Google was in the supply chain somewhere. In any case, as the recipient of the birthday wish, it actually feels pretty personal.

Then I checked my email early this morning and saw a handful of email greetings to wish me a happy birthday today from companies and services I use. Of course each one is an automated email and most use the greeting email as an opportunity to market something at me.

“Happy birthday and have a great day, Neville! Check out the latest / our new / this special … “

While I appreciate the greeting, I’ve consigned these unmemorable emails to the digital waste bin. One, though, really did get my attention.

Hello jangles,

We at [company] would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

That’s it, just a friendly greeting. It may well be an automated email but I bet a human being wrote the text and made a conscious decision to do just that. No marketing message. And that is a company I will remember because they didn’t mix their messages.

It’s nice to see the personal touch that feels authentic.