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Halloween Marketing: The Good, the Bad, and the Boring

Pumpkin Spice, Monsters, and Marketing. Oh my!

The changing seasons influence more in our lives than the simple fact of needing to wear a coat or shorts. Each season does bring changing weather, but also a change in the foods we eat, the activities we enjoy, and the items we purchase. A customer wouldn’t purchase a snowsuit to wear on a blazing July day, same as a customer wouldn’t buy a swimsuit to wear sledding in January. And we can’t forget the flood of pumpkin flavored products companies release this time of year: pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice cereal, pumpkin spice bagels, pumpkin spice flavored alcohol, pumpkin spice Oreos, Pumpkin Spice gum, pumpkin spice M&M’s; the list could go on for days.

Much like the consumers, marketers change the messaging of a campaign to fit what the consumer is shopping for. When consumers turn on the TV today, the commercials are full of mock scary movies and confused monsters to reflect the Halloween mindset of most shoppers at this point in the season. (1)

Some companies tailor current marketing campaigns to fit the Halloween season. Snickers spookified its “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign with a “Horseless Headsman” commercial, turning the scary headless character into a rather funny and confused large head with unrealistically little limbs. The commercial, first aired in 2012, still plays on TV and internet ads today. (2)

Other companies, like Geico, have created a new marketing campaign for Halloween. The company ditched its “Did you know” campaign for a more fitting Halloween theme: Dumb Horror Movie. The commercial spoofs every horror movie character’s poor choice of hiding places, usually ending up in his or her demise. The dark humor of the commercial comes after the four unfortunate characters decide to hide behind the chainsaws, rather than get in the running car. You can almost read the supposed madman’s mind, because you were thinking the same thing:  “Are they really that stupid?” (3)

Beware the Bad Ideas

While most Halloween campaigns play up the spooky, sweet, or spellbinding aspects of the season, it is important to make sure the message of the campaign is a playful one. As a marketing specialist, keeping up with current events is important to avoid any distasteful content.

 Fox found this out the hard way. For the release of its ghoulish show Sleepy Hollow season one on DVD, Fox decided to celebrate with the hashtag #HeadlessDay, and a picture of a headless figure holding an axe with the caption “Does this axe make my head look small?”. Yes, it may be relevant to the show because of the Headless Horseman, but the timing could not have been worse. On that same day, the news broke of another journalist beheading by ISIS. According to Fox, the #HeadlessDay campaign came out before the horrible news broke, but with a previous beheading by ISIS just a few weeks’ earlier and continued threats of more, it still begs the question: who thought this was okay? (4)

Besides the poorly thought out campaigns, there are the downright boring ones. Customers can tell the difference between a campaign that is witty and one that is sales-driven, and the 2013 Verizon Star Wars commercial isn’t fooling anyone. The commercial shows a family relying on technology for trick-or-treating, because apparently going door to door for candy now requires a GPS. The obvious product marketing is almost as bad as a Transformers movie, and the attempted humor falls flat. Overall, the commercial is easily forgettable.

Halloween is one of the most creative times of the year with costumes and decorations, and marketing should be no exception. Customers want to be entertained; it shouldn’t have to be the Super Bowl season to create a memorable campaign.

Article 1: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2344598/seasonal-marketing-strategies

Article 2: http://www.framestore.com/work/snickers-horseless-headsman

Article 3: http://ihorror.com/geico-halloween-commercial-lampoons-dumb-horror-movie-characters/

Article 4: http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/5-companies-whose-ad-campaigns-just-backfired-horrifically/

Article 5: http://www.campaignindia.in/Article/362618,halloween-ad-roundup-go-funny-go-scary-or-go-home.aspx