Despite its focus on fun and frights, Halloween has not been a holiday that's yielded many surprises on the marketing front in recent years. The staleness that's settled over the season has started to lift with the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced brands to rethink their strategies with an eye on digital and mobile activations that can connect with consumers who remain on lockdown.
Marketers have this year gone deeper on immersive tech like augmented reality, geolocation and virtual avatars to try and recreate the experience of in-person festivities. These are practical, fun and forward-thinking applications of technologies that, under different circumstances, often come across as afterthoughts or gimmicks. Other brands are striking partnerships with trendy apps, including Nextdoor and TikTok, or simply dressing up decades-old ideas in newer digital digs.
A lingering question is whether a strong showing of creativity can translate to sales. Although Halloween is one of the more mask-friendly holidays, the Centers for Disease Control recommends against trick-or-treating as usual this year. Furthermore, only around half (46%) of U.S. parents surveyed by Piplsay said they were comfortable with letting their kids go out for Halloween, while 41% reported not looking forward to the occasion.
Still, there are promising early signs: Sales of chocolate and candy are up 8.6% as of Oct. 4 compared to the same period in 2019, per IRI data cited by the National Confectioners Association, building on the momentum the sweets category has experienced during the pandemic. Meanwhile, marketers are still pushing to get their brands out there — the number of candy ads with Halloween messaging is up 17% over the same period last year, according to Numerator — and smart ideas that cater to a homebound audience may resonate and inspire.
Below, Marketing Dive breaks down the most standout efforts from a spooky season like no other: