Many of the traditions and tales of Halloween originated in Ireland and Scotland in the late 19th Century, which was carried to North America through immigrants. Local newspapers as early as 1911 reference children dressing up in the streets, visiting shops and neighbours to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their songs and guises. 

From here, marketers and journalists had a field day with the Halloween holiday. In the 1930s, The Oregon Journal printed the term “Trick or Treat” with the headline reading “ Halloween Pranks Keep Police on Hop”: 

“Other young goblins and ghosts, employing modern shakedown methods, successfully worked the ‘trick or treat’ system in all parts of the city.”

— 1934 The Oregon Journal

Since then, businesses have capitalised on the consumer’s need for costumes, candy and all kinds of fun in October. 

How marketing campaigns change during this holiday

Marketing activities will be carried out by industries most involved in this holiday in an attempt to sell as many candies, decorations, pumpkins, customers, alcoholic drinks and farm tours. However, Halloween is an excellent opportunity for unrelated industries to take part in this holiday and have some fun. 

This can be done by posting spooky social media messages, sharing photos of staff costumes, Halloween giveaways, opening the business as a candy stop for kids in the area, there are a variety of ways companies can put the Halloween spotlight on themselves.  

Example of a Halloween Giveaway
(Image Source: EasyPromo.com)
Example of the lazy yet smart co-worker costume
(Image Source: GoodHouskeeping.com)
Example of the “Punny” co-worker costumer, the breadwinner.
(Image Source: GoodHousekeeping.com)

Our Top 5 Favourite Halloween Campaigns ????

At CleverClicks, we love taking part in this holiday season and have had the occasional dress up now and then!

CleverClicks Halloween dress up

We’ve come together and found our 5 favourite Halloween campaigns to share with you. Considering 3 out of the 5 campaigns are companies that do not belong to your usual Halloween industry, it became increasingly interesting to rate these.

We looked at the following criteria: 

  1. Do they have attention-grabbing content for consumers
  2. The effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
  3. Memorableness and novelness

#1 Three’s Influencer Campaign

Three, a mobile network in the UK executed this social campaign flawlessly. The brand featured their product and explained why they think phones are good. You can find love by sitting on the couch, buy new shoes from the toilet and order pizza and have it delivered to your precise location. 

  1. Attention-grabbing content for consumers
    • This ad was extremely attention-grabbing, having CleverClickers on the edge of their seating laughing and dying to find out who the brand was behind this campaign. 
  1. Effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
    • As the brand is a mobile network, the campaign clearly featured this showing that regardless of where you are or which century you are, they will continue to serve their consumers. Additionally, the ad explains that phones are one of the greatest tools, it holds apps and opportunities that make up our lives and makes our lives easier.
  1. Memorableness and novelness
    • The idea behind this campaign was unique and witty. It definitely remains top of mind to consumers, which has the potential for word of mouth marketing and increased engagement amongst consumers. 

#2 M&M’s Millie & Max

M&Ms used social media to tell an interactive ghost story via weekly instalments throughout October leading up to Halloween. The Millie & Max: Ghost Story unfolds over seven chapters and allows viewers to choose the decision the main character should make, with the following week’s instalment being based on the most popular answer. 

  1. Attention-grabbing content for consumers
    • This interactive campaign made it fun for the viewer to participate in, keeping them on edge as to what might happen next. Young consumers who regularly check their social media profiles found this new and fun as interactive digital stories are somewhat of a trend. 
  1. Effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
    • Throughout the stories, M&M candies appeared as a plot device leading Millie to different areas, and at different points, she had to decide which trail of M&Ms to follow and which flavour to collect. We instantly knew this was an ad for M&M’s due to the clever way of including their product into their stories. 
  1. Memorableness and novelness
    • As most brands did not adopt interactive digital marketing, M&Ms were smart to jump in as an early adopter and test the ability of it to drive engagement over a period of time. This strategy makes the content more memorable and definitely increased brand awareness among users. 

#3 Universal Studios watch party

Each year Universal Studios host a Halloween watch party where they feature various movies or shows from the beginning of September to the beginning of November. This particular ad features three incredibly scary movies that exude Halloween. The brand featured ten haunted houses and rides to really thrill their consumers. 

  1. Attention-grabbing for consumers
    • The campaign was effective as it showed the top three movies that were featured at the watch party but these movies were seen as “real life” in the campaign which made it spooky for CleverClicks as some of us had watched these movies so this ad really got to us. One CleverClick disagrees, he says: 

“Probably good for younger people, but I’m a veteran horror viewer. I have old trauma from movies that probably needs medical attention.” ????

– CleverClicker Smulian
  1. Effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
    • The Universal Studios logo was at the bottom right-hand corner of the ad the whole time, however, if it were not present we would have not put the two together as the movies featured were not filmed at Universal Studios. 
  1. Memorableness and novelness
    • Considering the trailers for the movies featured similarities to this ad, it can be said that the ad does ‘novelise’ the original movies well. Having three scary movies come together in one ad does have an impact on the viewer.

#4 BiteSizeHorror Candy

This particular ad was all kinds of creepy but the actual message of who the brand is or products they offer was somewhat confusing initially. This ad was actually promoting the release of the new bite-sized mars bar, but came across as a mini thriller series. 

  1. Attention-grabbing for consumers
    1. It was most certainly attention-grabbing! Watching this ad kept us hooked and kept us waiting to see what happens next. It was intriguing and screamed thriller just as Halloween should. 
  1. Effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
    1. The beginning opens with Skittles introducing bite-sized horror, yet the product was not being consumed or featured in the actual mini thriller series. As a viewer, we did get confused as to how the brand related to the ad, other than that the ad was teeth-clenching. 
  1. Memorableness and novelness
    1. Bite Sized Horror first aired at the Yankees vs Indians baseball game in 2017, and fans were not thrilled with the commercial. Being a family event, we bet that kids did not eat skittles for a while!

“Are they trying to tell you that’s what happens if you EAT THAT CANDY? ‘Cuz I’ll quit right now,”

ESPN’s Stephania Bell

#5 Burger King Trolls McDonalds – with Clowns

These two brands have been going at it for a while now, but the way this ad is portrayed might seem a bit cliche. Burger King was offering the first 500 guests dressed as clowns a free whopper sandwich at select Burger King restaurants. It would be unpleasant if you were a Burger King employee afraid of clowns.

  1. Attention-grabbing for consumers
    • It was attention-grabbing, yet came across more an ad campaign for the movie IT at the beginning with all the thousand clowns following a young man. 
  1. Effectiveness of portraying the brand/product 
    • The brand was eventually revealed and it was amusing when the clown demanded a whopper.
  1. Memorableness and novelness
    • Clowns might be slightly overused although it is a trademark in the world of horror. Burger King was clever to use this to compare with McD’s. We hope they find alternate ways of comparing themselves to their rivals this year.

Ideas Ideas Ideas

Creating Halloween social campaigns are not just for industry-related businesses, anyone can do it as long as it is effective. Here are a couple of ideas CleverClickers managed to come up with for not-so-scary industries:

  • LASIK company
    1. By using the power of social media, LASIK companies can make use of Halloween themed surgical masks for their patients to enjoy and post on social media. Additionally, the brand can take photos with their clients and post it on their social media. This shows that these LASIK businesses are not all serious but do enjoy having a bit of fun and a laugh now and then. 
  1. Property Agents
    • Virtual tours have become really popular due to the pandemic, therefore property agents can capitalize on the trend by doing a virtual tour of a house, but with a twist. Virtual haunted house tours can be amazing interactive social media campaigns. Nothing too drastic but with a scare now and then. Additionally on Halloween day agents can take this campaign from the online to offline by doing it for actual clients! That is one way to sell a house and leave a lasting impression. 

Importance of marketing during Halloween 

Beginning your festival holiday marketing as early as Halloween, can set your business up for the rest of the season.

To steal a quote from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Although holiday marketing too early may be annoying to customers, regardless of your company, product and/or services, these campaigns will be imprinted in your consumers minds. Planting the seed early will keep your business front-of-mind and build trust and brand engagement.

Lastly, it is all about the back-up plan. As marketing strategies do not always go as planned,  advertising as early as October can allow marketers and advertisers to see what works and what doesn’t. If the first strategy was golden, the contingency strategy can be implemented to see if it reaches different types of customers.

As a final point, the holiday season can be a time of potential and great growth for businesses large or small. With the right digital marketing strategy, businesses can go from bust to boom or vice versa, but starting to market early is the key to remain competitive.

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