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From Terrifying to Creative: Unconventional Halloween Marketing Campaigns That Worked

The spooky season is here, and brands get a bit "wilder" with their Halloween marketing campaigns.

While "Christmas lovers" could want to advance the holiday season, the calendar is unmistakable, and until October 31, many cities around the world get decorated with spooky skeletons, vampires, zombies, and customs; they get as creative as they can every year.

Joining the party, many brands also want to shock their audience with something less out of the boundaries, more rebellious or terrifying, and create "scary marketing campaigns" that people love.

Celebrating this spooky eve, we will discuss some of the most creative Halloween marketing campaigns and see how they worked so we can get inspired to create ours.

Did you see that Codedesign is orange and black? We are already on Halloween, so let's celebrate looking at these great Halloween campaigns.

UNICEF: "Add some meaning to your Halloweening."

We started with UNICEF, a pretty dark brand, don't you think? Because helping children in need is something that really scandalizes the most conservative.

Jokes aside, we liked to start this article with this campaign since it shows us that, no matter how "good" you consider your brand, if you know how to fit into the environment, you can continue being you within this scary time.

Adding a little context, UNICEF has had the orange box campaign since 1950 for kids on Halloween to collect donations when they go trick-or-treating.

Now, we see how UNICEF has adapted to the digital age, and now these boxes are QR codes with which people, throughout October, can scan and donate for all children.

This campaign also demonstrates how UNICEF adapts to the digital habits of new generations, AKA millennials and Gen Z, young people who have proven to be more empathetic to social causes and will be open to donating online since it is what they are most comfortable with. 

In this way, UNICEF makes a campaign adapted to its brand values, without wanting to go out of its limits or be "edgy," and thus invites people to give meaning to their Halloween by helping those who need it most.

Source: YouTube.

Burger King: Stranger Menu

Mixing your brand with pop culture that's a guaranteed hit.

Halloween has too much pop culture at its mercy, ranging from all horror movies to highly recognized series like Stranger Things.

Combining the two is no wonder that it would do well. However, when you announce seasonal or unlimited products for this campaign, people can go crazy to try something that will no longer be available throughout the year. This, gentlemen, is the power of FOMO having its effect.

It's like when autumn arrives, millions of coffee lovers dash to drink their Pumpkin Late to post photos on networks. It's the time, and take advantage of it.

If you add to this a highly recognized horror brand, you are sure that its fans, who are not few, will want to jump to the party too and see how all these inspired combos taste.

This campaign shows us that when we want to do a Halloween campaign, we should go all in and take advantage of all the creativity holidays like this give us. The burger brand adapted its new combo to the characters and monsters of the series, and as soon as people notice them, they can't help but want to buy them. Burger King launched the campaign in 2022 in countries like the UK, the US, and Brazil.

Source: YouTube.

M&Ms Worldwide: Ghosted

As chocolate candies, M&M knows that Halloween is when their sweets will be in high demand, so they cannot miss the chance to campaign for these times.

The good thing about M&M is that it is an almost children's brand; although adults love it, they never take their campaigns seriously. Instead, they make fun of them, which almost always turns out well.

This brand's ads seek to be iconic and funny, achieving this with their "Ghosted" campaign.

What could chocolate characters be afraid of on Halloween, well, being eaten? And what happened to one of them? Well, take a look.

Source: YouTube.

Airbnb: A Night in the Catacombs

This campaign took a step further when discussing creepy and scary stuff. It was so spooky yet creative that it went viral while also causing some controversies.

So, Airbnb is the go-to platform for travelers all around the world. Here, you can find comfortable apartments for the night, but you can also sleep in a catacomb. Yes, the Catacombs, with thousands of corpses. Wow, this got dark.

Entering in context, Airbnb spent renting aris catacombs as part of their “Night in the Catacombs” competition. So, instead of sleeping in a comfortable hotel in the city of love, the winners could sleep in one of the oldest cemeteries in the town. Sounds terrific, right? Well, perhaps, to sweeten the afterlife experience a little, the brand offered other not-so-disturbing activities like a free dinner and concert, followed by a session with a storyteller that would tell nightmare-inducing tales right before bedtime.

The opportunity was so scary. Still, many wanted to compete to be the first people to wake up in the Catacombs.

Once again, we see here how an online platform for hospitality services didn't shy away from the possibility of running a campaign for a "terrifying" campaign and instead really went all the way forward by offering a unique experience in a pretty terrifying location. Of course, the campaign was not without controversy, as some citizens believed that a monument to death would be "vandalized." This ultimately shows that to do something creative, sometimes brands have to take risks, and although people get upset about it, you also have to see what kind of publicity that can bring for your brand.

Source: YouTube.

LG USA: So Real It’s Scary

This one may be a bit old school, but its impact was such that by today's October 2023, the video has over 53 million views.

Testing products the old way is usually quite monotonous and boring. Let's go to the topic of televisions, which today already work in a way quite similar to a computer. We will always see that advertising spots tell us about image quality, megapixels, Internet access, and blah blah blah.

In essence, that is what brands like LG sell, but buyers do not usually connect with the features as much; they like to connect more emotionally.

That is why the holidays are a golden opportunity for brands, since thanks to their emotional nature, brands can take advantage of doing something more striking that remains forever recorded in the minds of consumers.

In this way, LG found a way to prove that the image quality of its screens is almost like reality, and for that, they did not delve into talking about their technology but instead put it to the test. The brand created a hidden camera prank format in which it recorded the reaction of workers in an elevator. The floor is pure LG screens, and when assembled, they show an image of how the floor falls apart. The reactions are pure gold, which makes it more likely that people will want to see it again to laugh at the reactions.

As we see, LG did not need to go beyond its brand by placing monsters or vampires. You can represent fear in many ways, such as the fear of heights or falling into a void.

Source: YouTube.

Skittles – ‘Giant Talking Spider’

It's incredible how humor permeates well with terror. Brands are not looking to scare their audience. Although some may go a little to that limit if we talk about brands for children and family consumption, they will seek to be spooky, but they add a funny touch so that no one gets hurt.

Skittles fabulously applies this strategy in their commercial, which initially features a rather scary spider, but apparently, the spider is very friendly.

In this way, we can understand that when carrying out "horror" campaigns, the goal should not be so much to create a lousy shock for people. Of course, there is an audience that quite likes horror, but if you are like several of the previous brands we have shown, you can see that there are other more commercial and "friendly" ways to present a horror commercial.

Source: YouTube.

Final Thoughts

When brands take the risk to join a spooky party like Halloween, the results can be excellent, and we get advertisement gems like the ones in this article.

Don't be afraid of Halloween, as we have seen, and we even verified in this article, that there are ways to run a perfect Halloween campaign without breaking the limits of terror. As always, it all depends on who your audience is and whether you can test how much or not you can play with them at these times. Plain marketing bores, while some fun, make it unforgettable.

Contact Codedesign to help you find digital marketing solutions that make you stand out from the competition and lead to guaranteed success.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions 

How do Halloween marketing campaigns benefit brands?

Halloween marketing campaigns offer brands a unique opportunity to engage with their audience in a more relaxed, playful, and creative context. This seasonal moment allows companies to showcase their products or services in a fun and thematic way, often leading to increased visibility and customer engagement. For instance, brands can tap into the festive spirit by incorporating Halloween-themed visuals, storytelling, and promotions, which can enhance brand recall and affinity. Additionally, these campaigns often encourage social media sharing and participation, amplifying the brand's reach. A well-executed Halloween campaign can also drive seasonal sales, attract new customers, and strengthen loyalty among existing ones.

Can you give examples of successful Halloween marketing campaigns?

Successful Halloween marketing campaigns often stand out for their creativity, engagement, and alignment with the brand's identity. For example, Codedesign's clients have seen significant engagement through tailored Halloween content that resonates with their audience's interests and behaviors. One notable campaign is Skittles' "Halloween in the Rainbow" campaign, which cleverly used horror elements to promote their product in a humorous and memorable way. Another example is Target's interactive "Halloween House" digital experience, which allowed users to explore a virtual haunted house filled with products and decorations available for purchase. These campaigns effectively leveraged the Halloween theme to enhance brand visibility and consumer interaction.

How did UNICEF incorporate Halloween into their fundraising efforts?

UNICEF ingeniously incorporated Halloween into their fundraising efforts with the "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" campaign. This initiative encouraged children to collect donations in addition to or instead of candy while they went trick-or-treating. By engaging kids in a fun, socially responsible activity, UNICEF not only raised awareness about global child welfare issues but also fostered a sense of empathy and community service from a young age. This campaign successfully turned a traditional holiday activity into a meaningful opportunity to support children worldwide, demonstrating the power of integrating charitable causes with seasonal events.

What role does pop culture play in Halloween marketing?

Pop culture plays a significant role in Halloween marketing by providing a rich source of inspiration for brands to create timely, relevant, and engaging content. Leveraging popular trends, movies, TV shows, and celebrities can help brands resonate with their audience's current interests and preferences. For instance, incorporating characters from a hit horror movie or a beloved television series into a campaign can capture attention and foster a deeper connection with consumers. This approach not only capitalizes on the existing popularity of pop culture phenomena but also enhances the campaign's shareability on social media, expanding its reach and impact.

How can brands use fear and humor in Halloween campaigns?

Brands can effectively use a mix of fear and humor in their Halloween campaigns to engage audiences in a memorable way. Fear, used creatively, can captivate and evoke strong emotional reactions, making the campaign more impactful. Meanwhile, humor adds a light-hearted touch that can make the content more accessible and enjoyable, encouraging sharing and interaction. For example, a brand might create a spoof of a classic horror movie featuring their product as a central element, striking a balance between spooky and amusing. This approach not only entertains the audience but also creates a positive association with the brand, enhancing recall and affinity.

What are some creative ways brands have celebrated Halloween?

Brands have celebrated Halloween in numerous creative ways, often stepping outside the traditional advertising formats to engage with their audience. For example, some brands have launched limited-edition Halloween-themed products, adding a festive twist to their offerings. Others have hosted interactive online events or virtual haunted houses, providing a unique digital experience that aligns with the Halloween spirit. Additionally, creative social media challenges or contests encourage user-generated content, increasing engagement and visibility. These innovative approaches allow brands to connect with their audience on a deeper level, making the Halloween season a memorable part of their marketing calendar.

How did a fast-food chain utilize a popular TV show in their Halloween marketing?

A fast-food chain brilliantly utilized a popular TV show in their Halloween marketing by launching a campaign that featured a limited-time menu inspired by the show's themes and characters. For example, Burger King's "Stranger Things" campaign transformed select stores into the series' iconic "Upside Down," offering a special menu and ambiance that fans could enjoy. This clever integration not only attracted the show's fans but also generated significant media coverage and social media buzz, enhancing the brand's visibility and appeal among a broader audience.

What unique experience did Airbnb offer for Halloween?

Airbnb offered a unique experience for Halloween by providing overnight stays in famously haunted locations or places with a spooky history. One memorable instance was the opportunity to spend the night in the catacombs beneath Paris, surrounded by the remains of millions of people. This one-of-a-kind experience appealed to adventure seekers and those fascinated by the macabre, generating widespread interest and media coverage. Airbnb's approach showcased how brands could use Halloween to offer distinctive, memorable experiences that strongly resonate with their audience's desires for excitement and novelty.

How can brands ensure their Halloween campaigns are memorable but not overly terrifying?

Brands can ensure their Halloween campaigns are memorable but not overly terrifying by striking a balance between fun and fear. It's essential to understand the brand's audience and their tolerance for spooky content. Incorporating elements of mystery, suspense, or the supernatural can evoke the Halloween spirit without resorting to intense horror or gore. Employing humor, whimsical characters, or light-hearted narratives can also soften the impact, making the campaign more enjoyable for a wider audience. Personalization and interactive elements can further engage consumers, creating a memorable experience that positively reflects the brand without causing discomfort or fear.

What considerations should brands have when planning a Halloween marketing campaign?

When planning a Halloween marketing campaign, brands should consider their target audience's preferences and sensitivities to ensure the content resonates and engages without offending. It's crucial to align the campaign with the brand's identity and values, maintaining consistency across messages and visuals. Timing is also essential; starting too early or too late can diminish the impact. Moreover, brands should be mindful of cultural differences and respect diverse perspectives on Halloween celebrations. Incorporating creativity, interactivity, and personalization can enhance the campaign's effectiveness, making it stand out in a crowded market. Lastly, measuring the campaign's performance and gathering feedback can provide valuable insights for future initiatives.

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