As summer fades, like clockwork you can expect pumpkin-flavored everything, superhero masks, and scarily good Halloween marketing. Each year the big brands roll out ghoulish campaigns to trick competition and treat customers. In true horror-movie style, let’s examine ten ads that killed it and pick off — one by one — the spooky techniques your small business can add to its arsenal.
So Real It’s Scary, 2012
LG turned the traditionally dull product-demo video into a punny Halloween prank. After claiming that images on the LG IPS TV screen are lifelike, technicians installed a grid of screens on the bottom of an elevator — terrifying unsuspecting riders as the floor appeared to fall out beneath their feet.
Learn from LG’s smarts by combining an event or product launch with a seasonal pun that leaves customers cackling.
Halloween is a killer time for shareable videos. Spoofing classic scary movies like Psycho and Carrie, Tide created a series of six-second Vines (RIP) featuring the iconic orange bottle with the tagline, “Stains Better Be Scared.”
The homage paid to iconic Halloween flicks ensured the campaign’s warm reception. Tide’s tasteful, lighthearted use of cultural references — even spooky ones — offers a pattern to follow with spoofs and parodies.
British grocery chain Tesco nailed it with a video — which nabbed more than 1 million views in less than five days — showing shoppers encountering spooky supermarket tricks. Tesco followed up with tutorials showing customers how they can spook their neighborhoods with gags in the video.
Halloween, maybe more than any holiday, is about DIY: follow Tesco’s lead and promote your brand with themed tutorials and projects.
Last year, Chipotle dared its fans to contemplate “Cheapotle,” an alternate reality. The campaign reinforced the chain’s commitment to fresh ingredients. Bringing the message home, Chipotle offered a $3 Halloween “boorito” to anyone who came in costume with a prop as unnecessary as spooky artificial additives.
Can you help your customers envision a world where your product or service doesn’t exist? Halloween is the perfect backdrop for a campaign that suggests just what a frightening prospect that would be.
Target helped Trick-or-Treaters zero in on the hottest candy haunts with Treatster, a social media app that let users upvote houses and stores passing out the best treats. This branded Halloween tool kept Target in customer minds all eve long. What tools can you pass out to assist Trick-or-Treaters on their night of mayhem?
Zombie Survival Gear, 2013
REI has you covered in case of Zombie apocalypse with a cheeky infographic outlining outdoor products needed to escape the undead. Brands don’t need a video for a catchy campaign, just decent design and a seasonally themed idea that highlights a product.
Dress like Flo, 2015
Everyone knows Flo, Progressive’s peppy spokeswoman. Now you can dress like her, thanks to Progressive’s guide to a Flo Halloween costume, complete with tutorial videos and templates.
Follow Progressive’s lead and engage customers with quirky costume tutorials, ideally ones connected to your brand or industry.
Furry Little Monsters, 2014
Halloween doesn’t have to be scary. Chobani capitalized on the holiday’s cute side with an adorable ad featuring dogs dressed up in monster costumes.
Maybe your target market doesn’t go for the blood and gore. So ask yourself, how can you bring in the cute? For feel-good social media shareables, dress up small and/or fluffy creatures: puppies, babies, teddy bears, etc.
Housing Scare Report, 2015
Digital realtor Trulia has been unafraid to embrace Halloween with its fun (and oddly useful) Housing Scare Report infographic, showcasing stats on homebuyer fears. And they took that idea one step further with a haunted open house.
What problem does your company solve, or what do your customers worry about? Write up an infographic or blog post, slap the word “scary” on it, and you have a simple and clickable Halloween shareable.
Spooky Car Wash Prank, 2014
Ford took a simple recipe: monster costumes, dim lights, a car wash, and unsuspecting test drivers to create a viral prank that’s since been viewed 1.8 million times.
Halloween campaigns don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to make an impact. The holiday lends itself to hand-held cameras, easily available scare sound tracks, and cheap costumes.
Sara Atwood is a freelance writer and business magazine editor passionate about startups, business trends, great stories, and chocolate ice cream.