Samantha Gordon

Halloween attracts all marketers like an unwatched bowl of candy draws in trick-or-treaters. A well-crafted holiday marketing campaign, timed just right, can leave a lasting impact well after the spooky day has come and gone. Targeted Halloween marketing campaigns afford you the opportunity to try on different content costumes and present your brand in a light you might not otherwise get the chance to.

We at Brafton have a special love for Halloween that extends beyond our annual costume contests and pumpkin carving competitions. There are so many amazing and memorable campaigns, so we asked our employees to weigh in on some of their favorite Halloween campaigns and what makes them stand out.

Nostalgia and tradition haunt you for years to come

M&Ms: Marketing Writer Eric Wendt said this was the first thing that popped into his head when asked about Halloween marketing. The reason?

It probably has to do with the fact that the guy gives the living M&Ms little packets of their chocolate brethren to eat as treats,” Eric explained. “In a very subtle way, this is a commercial about cannibalism.”

The two-pronged approach of setting the characters in a trick-or-treating scene with a residual “horror” factor resonates strongly with anyone who has Halloween on the brain. The commercial has been airing for a few years now, and remains a Halloween staple.

McDonald’s: Candy is probably one of the easiest things to market for this holiday, and McDonald’s, with no sweets to pass out, found a different way to target the trick-or-treat audience.

Since 1986, the fast food giant has been handing out plastic pumpkin buckets to its young customers that double as candy-catchers when it’s time to go door to door. Jason Segarra, Senior Production Manager, used these buckets all the time as a kid, so seeing them again every year puts him (and countless other millennials) into a childlike mindset. It’s hard not to crave a McNugget Happy Meal after re-watching this classic commercial, which both appeals to kids and serves as a reminder that the buckets are back.

Holiday promotions scare up new and return customers

Pokemon Go: The trick to keeping an app like Pokemon Go alive past the initial burst of activity is to incentivize users to return. Project Manager Eric Rubino thought Niantic cleverly capitalized on Halloween to renew interest in the interactive app Pokemon Go. With exclusive Pokemon and other prizes, as well as Halloween events and a photo-based social marketing campaign, the app is edging back into the limelight.

The app exploded in popularity when it was released in July, but activity dropped significantly just a month later, according to data from Bloomberg. Offering special access to giveaways and bonuses within the app from Oct. 26 through Nov. 1, the holiday marketing idea is a great way to put the game back on its users’ radar.

Grand Theft Auto: RockStar Games had a similar idea – offering a limited-time opportunity for online GTA players to reap special items. The “Grand Theft Auto Online: Halloween Surprise” event lasts through Nov. 16, and it’s finders-keepers in this spooky special. Whatever you can find remains in your inventory after the promotion ends.

The limited chance to get online and find the vehicles, masks and other Halloween-themed items will drive players online, and they’ll likely keep playing to fully enjoy their new inventory.

2 local zoos have eerily similar local Halloween marketing ideas

Roger Williams Park Zoo: Social Media Strategist Walton Clark has been haunted by visions of pumpkins all month. Through well-placed billboards, Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Park Zoo
encouraged visitors to come by for a seasonal treat. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular offers a nighttime zoo experience to entire visitors, and the zoo’s marketers used National Pumpkin Day on Oct. 26 to promote the event on social too.

Walton thought the opportunity to build relationships with local communities through a fun, festive cultural event was especially clever and appropriate for the brand’s audience.

Franklin Park Zoo: This past summer, I toured this Boston zoo for the first time. With childlike wonder, I spent my time imagining what the animals get up to at night. As though they could read my thoughts, the zoo sent me an intriguing email marketing campaign last month advertising the Midnight Zoo.

Franklin Park Zoo created a “haunted habitat” filled with mythical and inventive creatures meant to fright and delight. While it wasn’t the chance to see the animals after dark I hoped for, the Halloween-themed exhibit still piqued my interest and stayed in my mind for weeks to come. 

Dressing up an entire campaign in a holistic Halloween costume

It might seem like Halloween is meant for B2C marketing, but you don’t have to sell a product to capitalize on a thematic holiday marketing campaign.

The U.S. Department of Energy observes National Energy Action Month every October, and uses Halloween to its advantage. The DOE developed a slew of holiday marketing assets, from an animated video to an interactive Halloween candy energy calculator to a pumpkin carving social campaign and even a Ghostbusters-themed podcast. Everything centers around the hybridized hashtag “#Energyween” to create a unique avenue to reach the target audience and encourage people to conserve energy.

These are just a few of the different approaches to successful holiday marketing, but they really drive home the idea that you can find countless ways to target your audience. Whether you want to capitalize on a timely event or craft a unique strategy, the right angle can lead to lasting results.

Happy Halloween from the Brafton crew.