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A Look at Halloween Marketing

As Halloween approaches, celebrations in many places are looking a bit different this year. Some states have put restrictions in place as Covid cases rise but brands are working creatively to safely keep celebrations, and sales, alive and well.  As the National Confectioners Association’s senior vice president of public affairs told CNBC, “People are going to have to get creative this year, but that doesn’t mean that they have to sit this year out.”

The good news is that the candy industry itself has been going strong in 2020. MediaPost noted that almost 50% of Halloween candy is actually intended for purchasers themselves who may view the holiday as justification for having treats at home regardless of trick-or-treaters. People may also just be focusing on the “treat” aspect of Halloween to help find some normalcy in a year that is anything but. Candy sales overall are up 13% from 2019, and 17% in grocery stores. As consumer trends shift in response to Covid-19, many brands are staying the course, but more are finding unique new ways to message Halloween in a unique year.

The brands that are pushing ahead with standard marketing are mostly avoiding the notion that Halloween is any different this year. Ferrero’s Butterfinger, for example, has stayed the course with a multichannel ad campaign around investigating the whereabouts of missing Butterfinger bars. These spots mention Halloween in general, but don’t highlight the challenges of celebrating in 2020. Dunkin’ has released a spicy ghost-pepper donut and partnered with specialty retailer, Spirit Halloween, to make hilarious licensed “cup” and “donut” costumes.

A number of candy brands have been especially conscientious and creative: Hershey worked with the Harvard Global Health Institute to create a map that details COVID-19 risk level by county to help people figure out where they can safely trick or treat as they celebrate Halloween. They’ve also increased their digital spend significantly over last year. Reese’s has designed a trick-or-treat robot door, that will roam neighborhoods dispensing treats. A campaign from Hostess offers resources to help families create trick or treat fun at home.

Retail sectors central to Halloween festivities are responding with refreshed tactics to drive sales. Most industries have had to pivot, change, and adapt their marketing in 2020 and as Halloween approaches, many brands have been remarkably clever and deft with their advertising.