Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world.
What is more terrifying — a creepy clown, taking an elevator ride with zombies or an Iron Maiden Angry Bird? Read on to find out as brands put a Halloween spin on tried-and-true marketing tactics by ramping up the scare factor to varying degrees.
Burger King brings out the (very creepy) clowns in Halloween dig at McDonald's
The rundown: On Halloween night, select Burger King restaurant locations in the U.S. will give a free Whopper to customers who come in dressed as a clown from 7 p.m. to close, the company announced in a news release. The stunt was partially inspired by Google Trends data that show clowns are the third most sought-after Halloween costume idea this year.
However, the promotion — hitting Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, Austin and Salt Lake City — will be limited to the first 500 guests only. To drum up hype for the effort, Burger King released a 90-second spot on YouTube showing a man having some creepy, circus-themed encounters on a night bike ride. The chain is also encouraging fans to share their freaky getups with the hashtag #ScaryClownNight on social media, tagging the official @BurgerKing account.
"We don't usually talk about clowns," Alex Macedo, Burger King's North American president, said in a statement. "But for this Halloween, come dressed as a clown to eat like a king."
The results: Who says great marketing needs to be subtle? Burger King's clearly having a fun time clowning McDonald's with a push that puts a spooky spin on the rival's long-time brand mascot Ronald (the photo file shared in the news release even has a 'Ronald' tag in its URL).
This isn't the first Halloween where BK's turned up the heat on its competition. Last year, it covered a restaurant in Queens, New York, with a massive sheet as the "ghost" of McDonald's, with a sign that read "Booooooo! Just kidding, we still flame grill our burgers. Happy Halloween." The 2017 dig is even more on-trend, coming on the heels of the massively popular horror film "It," which is centered around a familiar looking clown that terrorizes children in small-town Maine.
Plenty of people are sure to be putting on their best white makeup and rubber noses this season, per the Google Trends findings, meaning Burger King might actually drive some serious foot traffic on Oct. 31. It can also spin some timely user-generated content out of the #ScaryClownNight hashtag on social media. It's not the only brand to take this approach to the holiday: Dunkin' Donuts is running its own costume contest via Instagram.
Fanta's scary elevator ride takes experiential marketing up a level
The rundown: Mall and amusement park visitors in the U.K. can take a scary four-minute elevator ride courtesy of Coca-Cola brand Fanta that leverages virtual reality, sound, lifelike rumbling and whooshes of air to create a 4-D experience simulating the scary things that happen on the way to a Halloween party after the elevator seemingly breaks down and stops at different floors. Those unable to visit the Westfield mall or Thorpe Park for "Fanta: The 13th Floor" can go online to experience a 360-degree video, which can be found on YouTube and the Fanta website. Online video and paid social are also being used to drive awareness.
Fanta worked with MediaCom and Create Productions to develop the immersive Halloween mall experience while creative agency Kode Media and TrojanVR developed the 360-degree elements. The campaign is scheduled to run in Thorpe Park until Nov. 1 and Westfield shopping center until Oct. 28.
The results: From LG's dishwasher-themed water park to Pringles' pop-up Stack Shack, the stakes are getting higher for experiential marketing as a number of big brands have jumped onboard this year, making it tougher for marketers to break through and drive excitement. Fanta makes a strong attempt at taking experiential marketing to the next level by integrating horror and cutting-edge technology. In fact, the 4-D experience is the first time Coca-Cola has used an experiential campaign of this size to drive engagement, according to the press release.
With the horror genre having a banner year thanks to its popularity with younger consumers, Fanta is likely to deliver on its goal of generating buzz and excitement among 16-to-19-year olds during Halloween. The use of VR and 360-degree video, as well as Hollywood-style storytelling, could succeed at updating the brand for a new generation.
Iron Maiden's Eddie the Head shreds into Angry Birds
The rundown: The Angry Birds empire is no stranger to partnerships that seem ill-fitting at first glance, with previous deals with carmaker Citroën, Ziploc and a British soccer team. Now, it's partnering with heavy metal legends Iron Maiden for a Halloween-themed mobile game in what might be the franchise's spookiest deal yet.
Set on "heavy metal oasis" Bird Island, the Angry Birds Evolution game features a special character inspired by Iron Maiden's mascot, Eddie the Head, who players can recruit and level up through four different evolutions, per a news release by game developer Rovio Entertainment. Each level represents a different album of the band's 42-year history: "Killers," "Powerslave," "Somewhere in Time" and "The Book of Souls."
Players on iOS and Android can play as the Eddie the Bird special character in the two weeks leading up to Halloween, and true enthusiasts might even sport their fandom in limited-edition merchandise from the Iron Maiden-Angry Birds crossover.
The results: Miika Tams, the product lead for Angry Birds Evolution, said his team is "filled with massive Iron Maiden fans" and that Eddie was a natural fit, but it's unlikely that too many of the game's main audience — kids and teens — are loyal Maiden "Troopers" as well.
Though younger players might miss the connection between the metal legends and birds protecting their eggs from enemy pigs, Angry Birds is still one of the most popular gaming franchises since its release in 2009. It's expanded to more than a dozen games, a 2016 major motion picture and theme parks in Finland, China, Malaysia and the U.K.
Overall, the tribute to Iron Maiden is an interesting strategy to ramp up the spook factor ahead of Halloween, because apparently nothing says "rock 'n roll" quite like a mobile game.