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A Frightfully Good Halloween Campaign

  |  October 23, 2008   |  Comments

How an e-commerce player and a candy maker are showing their online promotional prowess.

Online retailer Bluefly.com knows a thing or two about marketing. Last year, the company aligned itself with fashion reality series "Project Runway" through a clever example of product placement that has contestants utilizing items from the Bluefly Accessory Wall in every episode. The show's winner also receives an opportunity to sell his or her designs on the site.

Now, this popular e-commerce player is illustrating its promotional prowess through a Halloween-themed e-mail marketing campaign. In the first week of October, Bluefly -- along with partner "Marie Claire" magazine -- launched "Fright or Fashion," an online sweepstakes developed in conjunction with ePrize in which Internet users stand a chance of winning a $10,000 fashion makeover to "take the fright out of your wardrobe." The announcement was made through an e-mail campaign deployed to past and present Bluefly customers (the same segment that receives the company's regular newsletter and sales promotions).

To enter, customers must login to a co-branded contest microsite. Once there they can play an "Instant Win Game" in which they must click to create three matching outfits from a slot machine-style selection of both chic and ghoulish options. Players can sign up to receive a daily e-mail reminder to play, and are entitled to one play per day; try to cheat and you'll receive a "Black Cat Alert" letting you know you're out of turns but daring you to return for another go.

Post-play, users can opt to shop Bluefly.com or visit MarieClaire.com. They also receive an e-mail confirmation of their participation in the contest, and a reminder to play again the following day.

Promotions like this one are popular with online retailers, but can have particular impact when themed or seasonal in nature. Two years ago, the M&M's brand gave consumers a scare with its "50 Dark Movies" online game that had players identifying frightening movies from a series of vignettes in a custom-made painting . This year, the brand's parent company Mars is hoping to up candy sales with its $1,000,000 Mansion sweepstakes, already live at HalloweenMillion.com.

After registering at the site, players are asked to enter a UPC code from a company product to determine whether they are an instant winner. Those who don't can still participate using a one-time only online code. Once inside the mansion, users can play a series of online games that incorporate brand characters like M&M's (in skeletal and ghostly form, of course).

According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween produced about $5.07 billion in sales last year. This year, the organization expects spending to increase by about 14 percent to reach $5.77 billion overall. Typically, consumer dollars are allocated toward products that have a direct correlation to the holiday, such as costumes, candy, decorations, and greeting cards. That's no reason, though, for other businesses to consider how they can capitalize on the season -- particularly when you consider that the holiday is most popular among young adults aged 18 to 24. If this is your target audience, any Halloween-related promotion stands a great chance of making an impact.

One way to make sure it does is by launching your themed campaign early. Where online promotions are concerned, the sooner they're up, the longer brands have to benefit from viral distribution. A campaign can incorporate a media buy, or rely entirely on word-of-mouth and the support of bloggers to propel it forward. But its odds of success increase if Internet users are given plenty of time to forward to their friends pre-holiday, when the mood is right for some seasonal fun.

All things considered, Bluefly's "Fright or Fashion" contest and associated e-mail campaign is poised to be a roaring success. Consider where your own brand fits into this frightfully lucrative holiday.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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