Trick or Treat? 3 Lessons From Halloween

Halloween is around the corner. America’s ritual that encourages kids to dress up and take candy from strangers actually has a few marketing principals we should all keep in mind.

Making Others Happy Is Good for Business

On Halloween, people who wouldn’t give one penny to a homeless man have seemingly no problem buying hundreds of dollars of candy to give out to children for free. The joy on these kids’ faces makes it all worthwhile. But what about the rest of the year?

On a purely customer-facing level, I hope that this “joy” is a goal that you have for your customers every time they interact with your brand. Go through every use case and see how your customers interact with you on a daily basis. Do these interactions bring them joy? Are they mundane? How can you improve not only the user experience, but the “attitude” these processes have. Even a tax calculator could be elevated from boring to joyful if the user experience is fulfilling and smart. As businesses, we should strive to make every interaction surprisingly joyful and fulfilling.

On a non-customer facing level, remember that there is a world of need out there. If you have no problem spending hundreds of dollars on candy for kids who also had three meals that day, your company should have no problem spending money throughout the year on kids who didn’t have one meal that day. Putting joy on these kids’ faces is a great way to remind your employees and customers that there is a bigger world out there, and your company is doing its part to make it a better place.

New Ideas Can Be Scary

Every year, people try to come up with a new idea for a Halloween costume that will surprise and scare people. Old ideas aren’t scary. I doubt many kids are scared by someone dressed as a ghost with a sheet over them and two eye holes punched out. But at the end of the night, you will remember the guy who did something you never saw before, and you won’t remember the countless witches, Frankenstein monsters, and vampires.

New ideas can be scary and can be met with resistance. But without them we’d never innovate or move forward. Plus, what is a scary idea today will be de rigueur tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to bring these new ideas into the boardroom, even though middle management might be scared of them initially. Have the ideas that will be remembered, instead of rehashing old ideas that are no longer interesting.

Long-Term Planning Won’t Hurt Your Stomach

After a night of collecting candy, most kids go home, empty all the candy on the floor, and start binging. In the morning they feel sick. Smart kids save their candy and eat it in portions throughout the next week or two. They never feel sick, enjoy the candy longer, and have a much deeper connection to Halloween because for them the holiday lasted two weeks instead of one night.

Lead generation is the same way. You can easily get an extra 10,000 leads by raffling off a free car in exchange for contact information. Or you could offer huge discounts and free shipping and get more people through the door than you would have had usually. But, these people are interested in the free car or free shipping. They aren’t necessarily interested in your products or brand.

While sometimes our end-of-quarter numbers need a quick boost, building up loyalty over the long-term is generally a better approach. The customers that join your company because of its products, services, customer service, and brand are those who won’t leave so quickly when a new company offers a raffle for a free car. These folks see through that kind of empty marketing.

Like the kids, you can either plan a marketing blitz that will attract a lot of customers at once in a way that probably has nothing to do with your brand, or you can build a more loyal following steadily. In an ideal world, you could do both, and achieve both long- and short-term goals. But obviously we want fiercely loyal customers, not ones who cost us more margin due to their ulterior motives for joining your company.

Happy Halloween!

Until next time…

Related reading