Amy Macaulay
Are brands maximising the opportunity around Halloween?
6 mins

I love this time of year. Full of magic, excitement and wonderful traditions, it’s an especially thrilling time for children and families with Halloween parties, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing and dressing up for a night of trick or treating on the cards.

It’s also a major marketing opportunity for brands in the licensing space. Last year, according to ContactPigeon, expenditure was estimated at $10.6 billion in the US and £687 million in the UK, so it’s fair to say that last year’s spooky season was a roaring success for the retail sector.

So what are we seeing from brands this year? It’s the big brands that are dominating the Halloween licensing space so far – the likes of LEGO, Mattel, Disney and Blackmilk – all of which have cottoned on to using the event as a marketing opportunity.

LEGO is creating some spooktacular in-store experiences where fans can go on a spooky scavenger hunt in the hope of taking home a ghost build. It is also hosting an in-store Make and Take – where customers visit their nearest LEGO store and create a black cat build to take home for free.

Both of these are great marketing tools to get consumers into stores and drive in-store purchasing in exchange for delivering a meaningful experience for consumers. Giving away a limited amount of free product makes the event feel exclusive, grows affinity and will certainly make some noise. Winning consumers will be buzzing and want to talk about their experience – hopefully on their socials – further bolstering LEGO’s fan base.

Mattel has announced a range of toys featuring the likes of Disney’s Hocus Pocus and Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Part of the toy giant’s Little People Collector range, they have been designed to appeal to the kidult market and targeted at adult collectors who love these nostalgic pop-culture favourites. Both the Hocus Pocus and Nightmare Before Christmas ranges are adorable.

Apparel brand, Blackmilk is also promoting nostalgia this Halloween with a spooky collection called Halloween: Tales of Terror. The brand has teamed up with Warner Bros for its biggest collection of the year with designs inspired by classic Halloween movies like Beetlejuice, Friday the 13th, Corpse Bride, It and Annabelle. My personal favourites are the Beetlejuice pieces.

Tapping into nostalgia is a great way to engage adults and drive sales. For Mattel, choosing IPs like Hocus Pocus and Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas are smart choices. Hocus Pocus 2 was released on Disney+ last year and Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween classic. They both appeal to the kidult market, too, which doubles your target audience.

I also loved the tie-up between CandyRific and Disney’s Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Nickelodeon’s PAW Patrol and M&M characters. Together they’ve created novelty items for kids to use while trick or treating including fans, safety lights and light-up safety wands. Kids go out trick or treating multiple times during the Halloween season, so I think these are such a great idea. It makes kids feel like they are dressing up as a character, without having to go full fancy dress, and parents can identify their child on a busy night of trick or treating.

Moving into the digital space and looking at the App Store there are a few Halloween treats. In LEGO Duplo Marvel players can visit the Green Goblin’s House of Not-Fun, Hot Wheels Unlimited has released some new Halloween themed tracks and apps like PAW Patrol Rescue World and Toca Life World: Build a Story are releasing some scary bundles for players to purchase and play this spooky season. Personally, I think games and apps would be silly not to invest in a Halloween themed bundle for people to purchase. As I’ve mentioned, Halloween happens every year and once you have invested in creating this content it can be repurposed and updated easily.

As a lover of Halloween though, I’m a little disappointed not to see a more broader spectrum of brands getting involved and launching clever live experiences and activations. Perhaps I’m expecting too much? Just like the holidays are ‘owned’ by Mariah Carey, October, in my book, should be owned by the Sanderson Sisters and Jack Skellington.

So here’s my call to brands – seize the seasonal opportunity! Don’t leave it to the big brands. There’s a huge opportunity here to attract new customers. Think about real life attractions, games and AR experiences, bigger and better (also more sustainable) character costumes, spookier toys, sweets and apparel. This is a time when consumer creativity and imagination flourish so the opportunities really are endless.

Halloween is a huge global event that people across all ages can enjoy every single year and, as kids get older, there’s a whole new army of recruits to keep the magic alive. For brands and licensing, it’s also an amazing opportunity to bolster fandom and increase loyalty by delivering experiences and consumer products that allow fans to engage with their favourite characters and create everlasting memories.

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