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.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Al Clarke

    Great observation Neville – and a sincere Happy Birthday! I find the requirement to put in DOB when signing up to services annoying and also a potential security risk. Think about what makes up your unique ‘ID’ – your name and DOB is about it when it boils down to the basics. So, (confession time) I am afraid that I use a variety of DOBs when I am forced to provide this information and almost never the correct one unless it is an official organisation. Consequently I have several ‘birthdays’ throughout the year and receive multiple greetings and best wishes from various websites! At least I have an excuse to eat lots of cake..

    bon anniversaire – buon compleanno – alles Gute zum Geburtstag – feliz aniversário – pen-blwydd hapus – ???? – ??? ????? ???? (with thanks to Google translate)

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