Halloween is fun. It's scary. It's sweet. Halloween is all-around an incredible American experience. Like every other holiday, it's also a chance for brands to flex their creativity with Halloween marketing campaigns. This holiday is especially fun for me, because I enjoy seeing how companies push the boundaries of what makes good "marketing."
These companies serve us new unforgettable advertisements every single year. They're highly entertaining, but they're ALSO perfect learning experiences for your own marketing. With each example, I'll give a quick point on what I believe made them successful or unsuccessful, and what you can take away from the campaign.
Without further ado, here are 7 Halloween marketing campaigns that I, at least, will never forget.
7 Unforgettable Halloween Marketing Campaigns (+ Tips!) 🎃
1. Pizza Hut giving heart attacks in more ways than one
Who doesn't love a good Halloween scare prank (as long as you're not on the receiving end, of course)? Pizza Hut gives us a buffet of jump scares in this 2015 promotion.
Tip #1: Enjoying videos of jump scares and pranks is a common thread among many audiences. Identifying a common human pastime, hobby, or habit and THEN applying some branding can make your marketing more palatable for a wide variety of people.
2. WD-40's creaky doors
Yes, this DOES entirely defeat the purpose of WD-40's most popular application. It's memorable because it's ironic. Check it out:
Tip #2: Think about what your product or service is designed to do. Now flip the script - what's the OPPOSITE of that, and how can you use it to your advantage? Here's an example of an article I wrote for a client that uses irony to promote what they do: 5 Expert Tips for Designing the Worst Roll Formed Part Ever.
3. Svedka's First World Horrors series
Even before you press play, you know exactly who Svedka is targeting with this Halloween marketing campaign: tech-savvy millennials. E.g., me. They do a fantastic job of creating an emotional connection from nothing - in just 20 seconds, I felt like this brand understood the trivial struggles facing today's average American. I feel this connection even though I understand the marketing strategy behind it. Check it out:
Tip #3: Knowing your audience's business pain point is good. Knowing their personal pain points is even better. Whether B2C or B2B, buyers tend to choose vendors that seem to Get It - whatever "it" is.
4. Pokémon Go's resurrection
Remember Pokémon Go? It's still a thing. And its marketers are still working very hard to keep it fun and relevant. For this year's Halloween marketing campaign, they're rolling out a special event that you're definitely not going to care about unless you love Pokémon.
Long story short: there's a competition, new Pokémon, and a surprise event on Halloween. And let me tell you, Pokémon fans are over the moon about this stuff.
Tip #4: I talked about appealing to a wide audience in tip #1. It's also good to speak to your own highly targeted audience in a language only they will understand. Make your customers feel like they're part of an exclusive group by producing content and offerings that are highly geared toward their needs alone.
5. M&M's Dark Movies challenge
This is a classic. I will never not talk about this piece of marketing/graphic design genius. I know it's from 2006. Just let me have this.
What's so great about it? It's a challenge to its viewers. It's highly shareable viral content. It's moody and aesthetic. It appeals to nostalgia and sense of belonging by referencing 50 well-known movies. It makes you interact with the brand over a long enough time span to find 50 different movie references in one poster.
The combination of visuals, length of time spent staring at the image, and competitive call to action make it a hugely successful piece of content marketing. Click on the image below for a larger version.
Tip #5: Don't underestimate the power of viral content. Even if the content doesn't relate to your product directly, having it published and shared under your name is an easy way to increase brand awareness and get eyes on your website and social profiles.
6. Bacardi & Kenzo's haunted house in Brooklyn
I absolutely LOVE when marketers go for a full interactive brand experience. This is one of the best ways to cement your name with your target audience.
In 2016, Bacardi partnered with Kenzo Digital to set up an entire haunted house in Brooklyn. Only 4-500 people got the full experience, but the project generated a buzz. It clearly aimed to promote Bacardi's image of a respectable mid-shelf alcohol.
- Short guest list
- High-profile celebrity interest
- Artistic/higher purpose of the project
Here it is described by IBTimes:
Named "Nocturnal Awakening," the installation featured various innovative technologies, visual and auditory effects meant to delve deep into the psyche of each visitor, and upend their notions of physical space, to create an unimaginable and emotionally vibrant evening.
While it's difficult to find video footage of the project, there are plenty of stunning images that convey the atmosphere of the haunted house:
Tip #6: Take advantage of partnerships & connections both offline and online. You are not an island, especially in the age of social media, where networking reach is exponentially expandable. Go to traditional networking events and trade shows, but also connect with people online. These connections are useful for you, your future partners, AND your customers.
7. Chance the (W)rapper
Candy, Halloween, AND puns? I'm in. Watch the world-famous rapper take a break to promote one of America's favorite Halloween candies in this pun-derful commercial.
Tip #7: Make your mark on the world, but don't take yourself too seriously. Modern marketing is quickly moving away from the strict professionalism in favor of genuine human connections and more casual interactions. You and your company can produce awesome goods and services while still appealing to the person behind the purchase order.
Takeaways from these 7 Halloween marketing campaigns:
- Find a human thread you can pull on to create a buzz
- Use irony to make people stop, think, and interact with your content
- Learn your audiences's work AND personal challenges
- Create content just for your customers, prospects, and evangelists
- Harness viral content to raise brand awareness
- Make connections online and offline and use those connections
- Be relatable