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Brief Published: 14 Sep 2020

Brands Revamp Halloween Tactics for Covid-19 Constraints


While trick-or-treating will be constrained, consumers are still seizing the Halloween spirit: 74% of US millennial mothers and young parents say the holiday is more important than ever this year (NCA, 2020). Smart brands are already responding with innovative strategies (and bigger digital marketing spends) – from in-app and drive-thru experiences, to a search-data-tailored ad campaign.

  • In-App Trick-or-Treating: Global food giant Mars Wrigley is digitising Halloween rituals with its Halloween-dedicated Treat Town app and website. Starting on October 1, consumers can decorate a virtual door and create spooky avatars and then invite neighbours and friends to join, enabling in-app trick-or-treating. Participants can buy candy credits in the app (redeemable from retailers) and give them out when friends visit virtually.

  • Covid-Flexing Ad Campaign: A Google partnership will equip chocolate-maker Hershey’s to tailor digital ads around weekly local search activity. Where data reveals residents plan to stay in for Halloween, imagery will depict families eating candy in backyard or living-room settings. In areas apt to celebrate as normal, ads will depict more traditional scenes. Hershey’s, which relies on Halloween for 10% of its $8bn annual sales, plans to boost spend on digital marketing for Halloween by 160% versus 2019.

  • Car-Based Activations: Halloween is a prime opportunity for immersive experiences, like last year’s horror-themed bars from alcohol brands (see Dissecting Halloween 2019). Replacing these for socially distanced times are creatively conceived drive-thrus. Disney-owned cable channel Freeform, which shows spooky films throughout October, is sponsoring free movie-themed, weekend-long ‘immersive experiences’ at Halloween Road in LA.

    Also in LA, Netflix is hosting Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience, in partnership with British immersive film and TV experience specialists Secret Cinema, from October until February 2021. Tickets (from $59 per car) are selling fast, while the event’s Instagram account has amassed 27k followers since mid-August.

Our full Halloween 2020 retail trends and tactics report publishes on October 27.

For insights into why Christmas (retailing) is also coming earlier this year, see Steers for a Holiday Like No Other, publishing on September 17.