I already discussed this with support and it seems that it is not possible to update custom Subscriber attribute when sending to a data extension.

For example:

Subscriber attribute = "favorite color" / text data type; Data extension column = "favorite color" / text data type; Subscriber attribute won't be updated at the send time.

Are there any good alternatives to automate attribute population - I would like to have different values in different Business Units.

  • It would be possible if you use API's from salesforce in your newsletter that retrieve the dataextension value and update it into the subscriber model. I believe you should also use _messagecontext that you only use this api method when a real send process takes place. Furthermore you should include this in templates that this will apply to all the newsletter you will send (if this is what you want). – Johannes Schapdick Jun 11 '19 at 8:03
  • Would it be possible to define Business Unit specific default value for a Subscriber attribute? – jc_mc Jun 11 '19 at 8:11

Subscriber attributes can not have different values for BU, since they are 'owned' by the parent/EID account. I would suggest storing these values within the sending DE which can be leveraged by the email in the same way %%fieldname%%

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