The scariest thing about Halloween is a campaign that doesn't perform.
Anyone with young kids will tell you that being a parent changes your perspective on pretty much everything…including Halloween. After years of anticipating the ghastly holiday, you suddenly find yourself avoiding the costume aisle at Target for fear that your little one will catch a glimpse of a zombie (or equally terrifying, a "charm school dropout" complete with miniscule tartan skirt).
While you'll see plenty of gore in the stores this year, some brands are choosing a meeker route and taming down the traditional Halloween theme. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that candy brand Hershey has revised its packaging to focus more on the fall season and less on Halloween, presumably in an effort to expand its reach. And although HalloweenCostumes.com reports adults will spend $1.4 billion on costumes for themselves and $1.1 billion for their kids, nine out of 10 of the most popular choices for 2012 are fake-blood-free.
There are plenty of children and adults who embrace the scary side of Halloween, but just as many who would rather not be accosted by the flesh-eating undead at every turn. In the spirit of a slightly less spooky Halloween, here's a collection of campaigns that take a softer approach to generating witching season sales.
Projecting Halloween Fun
Home improvement retailer Lowe's is known for challenging its customers to "never stop improving," and now it has launched an email campaign that puts this mantra in the context of Halloween. With its "Fun Frights for $50," the brand shows consumers how to decorate pumpkins using flat and metallic spray paint instead of a knife.
The HTML message links to a project description on the Lowe's brand site that outlines all of the required materials and includes a shopping list complete with item numbers, pricing, and details about whether the products can be purchased online or in-store. Lowe's also uses past site visit data to gauge which store location the user is most likely to choose and highlights the location address on the page, urging the user even further down the purchasing funnel. The combination of a themed email with a site page that helps consumers bring the project to fruition suggests a meticulously designed and well-implemented seasonal campaign.
Ghosts of Pizzas Past
It's been months since Little Caesars released its "Do Not Call" campaign, but the concept couldn't be more apropos now that Halloween is upon us. The brand used TV ads, radio spots, and YouTube clips along with reverse psychology to invite consumers to explore what amounts to a very unorthodox marketing effort. Warning consumers not to call the pizza chain - and to avoid visiting ForbiddenPizzaWebsite.com, and to absolutely resist typing one's address into the text field there - might seem like a strange strategy for generating sales. Then again, there's no denying the power of human curiosity.
Inputting one's address into the microsite generates a Google map and reveals the bad news that the customer's house is now haunted. Fortunately, the culprits are adorable "Casper"-style ghosts. The only way to "unhaunt" your home is to generate a second map that includes directions to the closest Little Caesars. You'll have to make your way there immediately and order a pizza to go, of course.
Contrast this initiative with last year's uber-creepy "Take This Lollipop" Halloween Facebook app, which also employed Google Maps, and you'll find that Little Caesars' toned-down creative has a much broader appeal. Both are memorable and interactive, but Little Caesars has the added benefit of not costing the viewer a week's worth of sleep.
TruMoo Says Boo
The advance of a popular holiday always means that sites are swarming with themed content sponsorships. To promote its Halloween packaging, flavored milk brand TruMoo teamed up with women's lifestyle site SheKnows to sponsor its Halloween section. The media buy includes a page skin, banners, and an online product coupon. Ads link to information about TruMoo's month-long family-oriented "31 Days of Tricks and Treats" campaign, which includes tips and recipes that are available to consumers on both the brand's blog and its Facebook page.
This campaign does a great job of demonstrating the degree to which brands can capitalize on Halloween. There's nothing particularly seasonal about chocolate milk, yet TruMoo found a way to make it relevant to consumers by repositioning itself as a holiday treat and providing content with Halloween value. And that angel spokesman with his devil counterpart? They've never felt more at home in their costumes than they do in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
Think Halloween campaigns have to be gruesome to work? It's time to reconsider that point of view and shift your priorities. The scariest thing about Halloween is a campaign that doesn't perform.
Halloween Design image on home page via Shutterstock.
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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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