Boo! Unexpected Dos and Don’ts for Halloween Marketing

This time of year, theatrics really do the trick.  Here’s some solid suggestions on keeping your customers entertained.

Susie Almaneih Halloween MarketingIt’s a fine line between an archetype: Frankenstein, Dracula, Nos Feratu, and cliché: Ghost, Witch, Jack-o-lantern.  Halloween is a day unlike any other day.  It invites the average ho-hum guy to reveal the Technicolor rainbow side of his personality.  It inspires creativity, uncertainty, mystery, and fright. Why wouldn’t you get in on that opportunity to show the silly, outrageous, witty side of your brand?

Of course, there have been some massive belly flops in the pool of Halloween marketing ideas too, some of which provide a teachable moment in how to get the right kind of attention from your target this time of year.  The following list offers dos and don’ts with examples of success and, well, monster failure.

DO think subgenre.  Zombies are all the rage these days, but cross-pollinate the zombies with say, beekeepers or librarians, or whatever demographic might fall under your brand identity, and you give your audience something to laugh at, and strangely relate to. REI did a really zany campaign where its team created a Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Video.  They presented all the information as fact and gave the company a chance to highlight some of their emergency and outdoor equipment.

DON’T rely on clichés.  Monsters and Werewolves are old hat and predictable, but unusual and creative Halloween concepts get attention because they are unexpected.  Your audience is primed for the absurd right now.  Think about things that are scary in real life: Honey Boo Boo or the DMV.  Popular culture provides loads of fodder for tongue-in-cheek and play on words.

Don’t miss a photo op.  If you do organize a company-wide theme, take it out in public.  Take your entire team bowling in Abraham Lincoln costumes.  Pair your disguises with hit songs and film yourselves singing Karaoke.  Have a very serious business meeting where everyone at the conference table is dressed like a baby.  The more deadpan, the better.

DO get obscure.  This is the one time of year that people want to be creeped out.  Apocrypha?  Great.  The Occult?  Tell me more!  Work in the séance and the Ouija Board.  Go back to the advent of Halloween in Ireland where the end of the harvest and the beginning of the cold meant evil spirits lurked everywhere.  Look up old Halloween ads and work them into some clever memes about your product.

DON’T go overboard with the shock value.  Take a lessonfrom the great Albert Hitchcock, the master of suspense.  He realized that the audience got so much more freaked out if he just made the suggestion of gore or violence and let the imagination do the rest.  FOX made the mistake of running ads for Sleepy Hollow with an image of a headless horseman and the caption: “Does this axe make my head look small?” Unfortunately, another ISIS beheading in the press turned this ad into a very insensitive joke.

DON’T miss the chance to weave in sales, promotions, and contests. You can work a practical joke into a giveaway because a good belly laugh is a great hook.

It’s easy to throw an online contest into your theme, getting your visitors to participate in a way that keeps them coming back to your page.  This could be a mystery story, or an online treasure hunt where you reveal a new clue everyday.  Vine is a great medium for this where you post a new 20-second segment everyday.

DO form a partnership with another business.  Another clever way to rope in customers is to blend your campaign with another brand, again, in an unexpected way.  For example, if you are brick and mortar, consider partnering with a non-profit like your local SPCA.  Nothing sells like animals in costumes, but even if you are not a retailer, video, infographics, posters, or funny memes can boost your traffic if you are linking up with a good cause.

Think outside the coffin for your Halloween blast to give your target audience the sense that your company knows how to get in the spirit.  A good rule of thumb is just to keep your sentiment positive, inclusive, and timely.  This is the one time of the year that people actually like a little mystery, a jolt, or just a good joke, so use that to your brand’s advantage.