At first glance this email that I received this morning appears relatively benign. In fact, it appears downright cheery. A group of my friends and family had just collectively wished me a happy birthday! Not only that, that nameless horde took the time to format the font, making it slightly larger, and centering the text in my inbox. Simple. Clean. Effective.

The only problem? I hated it. Upon reception, I furrowed my eyebrows in frustration, sighed, rolled my eyes, and then forwarded the email to several friends who would understand my annoyance. No one was surprised.

Allow me to break it down. Let me start with the text of the email and we’ll work into the email header from there.

There is a general assumption made in this email that I still attend said “Church” and still have friends and family at that Church. In fact, it is assumed that I have SOOO many friends and family there that they would all get together (at 7am even!) and co-write that email and send it to me.

The brutal reality, however, is that I have not been to that particular Church in SEVEN YEARS! I left there after my wife and I were kindly asked not to participate in a ministry for college-aged kids (we were college-aged) and asked to go to the young marrieds group instead. However, for a college-aged married couple, the young marrieds (who were on average 30 – gasp) were not so young and there was a cultural disconnect. This is a deeper hole than I will go into now (buy me a beer someday if you must know), but ultimately we moved on to a different church where senior-level staff was less concerned about shoving people into assumed pigeon-holes.

So, lo, imagine my surprise when I received a birthday email reminding me of all the great family and friends that I still had at said “Church.” They still loved me! Or did they? I looked closer. Wait a minute! There’s no way that someone or some group of people actually sent that. No signed name, it came from info@, and was sent out at 7am. I interned at that church. No one even thinks about sending an email that early.

So how’d this happen? Somewhere, some place, some person had found my old information, threw me into a database, added my name to a birthday campaign and out pops an email wishing me, Brandon Willey, a happy birthday. With the exception of a few people who still attend that Church and are friends with me on Facebook, there’s a very solid chance that not one person at that Church knows or cares that its my birthday today.

Nevertheless, that email came spewing out of whatever campaign manager software they paid way too much money for and was sent to me. The perfect marketing tool. Mission accomplished. That is, of course, the ultimate goal of automated email marketing right? Let the robots do the work. It takes too much time, too much attention, too much care to actual know your clients, consituents, or congregation.

F that. Get to know who you do business with. Get to know the people you work with. Get to know the people you church with. And if you don’t have the time? That’s fine. But please, for your own sake, DON’T send out fake, hypocritical, bogus automated emails.

The last thing I am going to do is go running back into their superficially loving arms. In fact, I’ll run the other way. Their well-crafted, well-timed birthday wish caused the opposite of their intended effect.

That, my friends and family, is why automated emails suck.