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  • Writer's pictureMansee Mohta

All brands Boo'd up!

Updated: Jan 26

In numerous countries, Halloween signifies a celebration of the eerie, involving costumes, treats, and spooky elements. Beyond fun and pranks, it's a prime time for brands to engage with customers during the October and early November period, including celebrations like the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). As global spending for Halloween rises before the holiday, brands have ample chances to join in the revelry and chills.


Halloween presents a significant marketing opportunity for brands, as it's a widely celebrated global holiday. In 2022, about one-third of customers worldwide planned to spend between $51 and $100 on costumes. In 2023, U.S. consumers are projected to spend an average of $108 on Halloween items, while the U.K. is expected to reach nearly £800 million in retail expenditure. This holiday extends beyond costumes and treats, encompassing decorations, parties, and entertainment, providing brands with various avenues for connecting with consumers through Halloween-themed ads.


The most popular categories for Halloween purchases in the U.S. in 2023 are anticipated to be costumes (including those for children and pets), decorations, and candy. Pumpkin carving is also prevalent, with nearly 149 million people in the U.S. intending to carve jack-o’-lanterns in 2022. According to a Statista survey, common Halloween activities include handing out candy, decorating homes, wearing costumes, carving pumpkins, hosting parties, and dressing up pets. Brands selling products related to these categories, such as costumes, candy, or party supplies, should consider incorporating Halloween-themed ads into their marketing strategies.


Case Study


McDonald's

With incredibly familiar products and one of the most renowned logos globally, there's an abundance of creative opportunities at your disposal. McDonald's capitalizes on this advantage, consistently emerging victorious.


Iconic Boo Buckets return in 2023

It's spooky season and that means it's time to think about how the kids will carry around all their candy loot. Well, candy storage and nostalgia are both attainable goals this year for the price of a Happy Meal. McDonald's is returning this year with the iconic Boo Buckets that some may remember from their youth in the 80s and 90s.


Open Late Campaign in 2019

McDonald's introduces a cleverly crafted print advertisement that seamlessly fuses the essence of Halloween with the 'Open Late' culture. This innovative campaign, named 'Open Late Halloween,' was unveiled in Costa Rica, showcasing McDonald's as the destination for night-time "monsters" seeking late-night cravings. The professional campaign, consisting of three media assets, was specifically designed for McDonald's within the food industry.


Ad Campaigns

In the midst of Halloween's spirited celebrations, major companies often unleash their creative prowess to partake in the spooky festivities, albeit not always striking the perfect chord. However, McDonald's has set a stellar example with their ingeniously crafted Halloween ads, resonating with a fun and festive theme.


Renowned for their robust ad campaigns, be it in print or digital format, McDonald's lineup of Halloween-themed posters stands out, captivating audiences and embodying the true essence of the season. Particularly, the resurfaced chip fang poster has garnered significant attention and admiration across the internet. It's a commendable feat, overshadowing McDonald's less effective road safety print ad.


Created by the advertising company DDB, these print ads initially appear as typical McDonald's advertisements, but upon closer inspection, a subtle spooky face emerges, adding an eerie touch to align with the Halloween theme. DDB's ad designs cleverly incorporate McDonald's iconic colors, maintaining the brand's identity while infusing an unsettling feel to suit the festive occasion.


However, as much as these ads have been well-received, alternative campaigns like the innovative McDelivery posters or the abstract McDonald's ads designed by TBWA have their own charm. While many Redditors have applauded these posters, some have offered mixed reviews, with opinions varying on interpretations, from fangs to references from popular shows like "The Handmaid's Tale."


Heinz – “Tomato Blood”


Heinz is introducing a limited-edition "Tomato Blood" ketchup, elevating Halloween celebrations. Retaining the beloved taste, this ketchup dons a chilling label to suit the Halloween season. The campaign was designed to offer a complete Halloween experience, including the first-ever pop-up HEINZ Halloween Store, starting October 21 at Santa Monica Place in Los Angeles. At the store, visitors can purchase HEINZ Halloween merchandise and get creative with their costumes using the ketchup at interactive "drip stations" where visitors can create costumes using the faux blood. Also, a Halloween Heinz Blood costume kit was available for online purchase. To enhance consumer engagement, the campaign involves a social media element, encouraging users to share photos of their ketchup-themed Halloween costumes. In a bid to drive engagement, the brand launched a TikTok hashtag challenge, urging their audience to craft Halloween-themed videos highlighting the tomato blood ketchup using #HeinzHalloween and #Sweepstakes. The campaign proved to be a resounding success, amassing an impressive 5 billion views on the platform!


Heinz's "Tomato Blood" Ketchup is set to haunt grocery stores across the nation and online throughout October. The ketchup, made from only the finest tomatoes, adds a creepy touch to the table. Ashleigh Gibson, Brand Director at HEINZ, expressed excitement, stating that Heinz has always helped people create memorable Halloween experiences. He emphasized the versatility of using Heinz ketchup for spooky costume transformations. This Halloween promises to inspire delightfully spooky appearances using Heinz Tomato Blood Ketchup.


Burger King – “Scary Clown Night”


Each year, Burger King launches distinctive Halloween marketing campaigns that spotlight a specific food lineup, enticing customers to dine in their stores. As a result, it's widely recognized for its themed promotions during the Halloween season. Let's delve deep into some of their historic innovative campaigns:


Escape the Clown

To coincide with the release of the horror movie 'It Chapter Two,' Burger King Germany launched a geo-targeted 'Escape the Clown' campaign. This witty move utilized an Augmented Reality (AR) feature to parody McDonald’s clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. Customers were encouraged to 'escape the diner' within a countdown for a chance to grab a Burger King Whopper for a nominal price of one cent. This campaign not only delighted consumers with an attractive offer but also significantly increased Burger King's fan base.


Never Trust a Clown

Seizing an opportunity presented by the horror film 'It' in 2017, Burger King hijacked the movie's theme to create its longest advertisement. By modifying McDonald’s iconic clown statue outside their stores and incorporating the message "Never trust a clown," Burger King cleverly transformed the narrative, captivating audience attention and sparking conversation. The campaign also cleverly twisted McDonald's renowned tagline "I'm lovin' it" to Burger King's interpretation, "Burger King lovin' 'IT'".


Scary Clown Night

Embracing the Halloween spirit, Burger King introduced a promotion where customers dressed as clowns on October 31st could redeem a free Whopper. Accompanied by the slogan "Come as a clown, eat like a king," this spine-tingling promotion proved to be a massive success for Burger King, drawing attention and driving footfall to their chain.


Birthdays Should Be Happy

Burger King took a targeted approach by acknowledging that some children fear clowns. They posted pictures of kids feeling uneasy when held by a clown, emphasizing the tagline "Birthdays should be happy." This campaign cleverly played into the inherent fear associated with clowns, capturing attention and effectively promoting Burger King's unique perspective.

These campaigns showcase Burger King's innovative and often humorous approach to engaging with consumers, utilizing clever references to pop culture and their competitor's imagery to create impactful marketing moments.


Come As a Clown and Eat Like a King

In 2017, Burger King embraced Halloween by hosting a significant event known as the "Night of Terrifying Clowns." This unique campaign invited individuals dressed as clowns to receive free Whoppers, showcasing Burger King's fearlessness towards the clown theme. The initiative became a massive global phenomenon, drawing participants from more than 35 countries, all gathering under the slogan "Come as a clown and eat like a king."




This year- "The Call'

Burger King, released a chilling campaign titled 'The Call,' signaling the arrival of two seasonal menu items: the Ghost Pepper Whopper and Ghost Pepper Chicken Fries. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, recognized for his work on 'American Horror Story,' the 60-second horror short leverages classic horror elements to entice consumers to try these fiery offerings. The eerie film revolves around a woman haunted by mysterious calls hinting, "It's back; it's coming for you." Ultimately, after succumbing to the relentless torment, she indulges in the Ghost Pepper Whopper and Ghost Pepper Chicken Fries, leaving her seemingly possessed and seeking the next victim. This theme may resonate with horror enthusiasts familiar with movies like 'The Ring' and 'One Missed Call'. Zahra Nurani, Burger King North America's VP of marketing communications, expressed enthusiasm for the campaign, aiming to enhance the Halloween season's excitement and engage fans with playful enjoyment.


Snickers – “The Horseless Headsman”


Snickers continues its enduring 'You're not you when you're hungry' campaign with a new Halloween-themed advertisement featuring the Horseless Headsman, a hungry and rather ineffectual version of the Headless Horseman. Directed by Craig Gillespie, known for his work in the film "Fright Night," the commercial introduces this hapless character, failing to scare a group of trick-or-treaters.


This new ad aims to steer online traffic towards the Snickers Facebook page, where the Horseless Headsman will take charge, sharing a series of comical and bewildered updates throughout the Halloween season. Produced by BBDO New York, this commercial is part of the "you're not you when you're hungry" video series that commenced in October 2012. The involvement of Craig Gillespie adds a spooky touch to this Snickers campaign, perfectly aligning with the Halloween spirit. Snickers has long been a staple during Halloween, and this ad campaign has provided an entertaining delight for viewers.


Why it stands out:

Humor in advertisements tends to be more memorable, and the humor in this particular ad continues to bring laughter even after nine years.

The "Horseless Headsman" extended his presence onto the Snickers Facebook page, sharing a sequence of humorous posts. This distinct character from the ad campaign created its own persona, showcasing the strength of the campaign's impact.

While the treatment was fresh, the use of the slogan "you're not you when you're hungry" was a consistent theme for Snickers, emphasizing the brand's coherence and longevity.


Nike – “Halloween Dunk Lows”


Nike unveiled a surprise with their "Dunk Low" shoes. Appearing ordinary by day, these sneakers revealed a spooky pattern when in the dark, adding an element of surprise and intrigue to their design. Nike frequently introduces limited edition SB Dunks, often through collaborations with artists, designers, or brands, resulting in higher resale values due to their rare nature and distinctive designs. Certain SB Dunk Low releases generate substantial attention and enthusiasm within sneakerhead and streetwear communities, causing demand to surpass supply, thereby raising prices in the resale market. The sneaker resale market, notably platforms like StockX and GOAT, significantly impacts price surges as resellers acquire limited-release sneakers to sell at premium rates.


Highlights of the campaign-

  • Subtle imagery shows glow in dark feature.

  • Minimum ad spend; brand loyalty and organic efforts fueled the excitement.


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