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Halloween Marketing: 7 Tricks and Treats From Market Leaders

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Halloween is the second largest holiday in the world after Christmas. True or false?

The evidence isn’t clear, but the fact that marketers huff and puff to milk their seasonal campaigns for all their worth is apparent.

Sometimes these efforts are hugely successful in generating hype, while in other cases public outrage is the result instead. No matter what, though, businesses hang on for dear life and try to come up with increasing numbers of new ways to create demand for their goods and services.

There’s really not a lot that’s new under the sun anymore, and sometimes the best thing you can do is rely on classic, tried-and-true tricks to get the treat of extra sales and extra income. Let’s take a look at some of the best tricks and treats marketers consistently use to their success.

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1. Being the early bird

People are up to their ears in work, and many don’t even start to think about the holidays until the last possible second. That changes, however, if you put some well-executed themed content right in front of them early on.

Last year, M&M’s new Cookies & Screeem flavor was introduced early on, winning the battle against other competitors. Their Pumpkin Pie taste arrived even earlier. This rather unexpected move gave the company the undivided attention of customers and guaranteed that the new Oreo’s rivals won’t remain on shelves piled by marmalade pumpkins or chocolate bats.

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People will always respond to seasonal content when it’s done well, and by starting early, you get the edge. Start with your holiday offers as early as you know that customers will start responding.

2. Making it exclusive

Everyone wants to be special, and that goes for your customers too. It’s why loyalty programs are so effective, and why limited edition products go flying off the shelves. In an age where #FOMO is a huge driving factor for Millennials and other shoppers in general, use this to your advantage.

Lush has used this strategy with their “Indulge Your Dark Side” commercial. It utilizes appropriate seasonal themes with a stress on the fact that the product is a limited edition in order to create a strong appeal that resonated strongly with customers.

Limited edition products always do well; if you want another candy example, Reese’s always releases egg-shaped Reese’s cups, and many businesses offer their best Black Friday deals to insiders and loyal customers. The more exclusive and the more limited, the more people will be on board.

3. Hosting competitions

A little rivalry is automatically appealing to a lot of customers, many of whom who are ready to prove themselves, and an incentive in the form of any kind of prize is the cherry on top. Hosting competitions on social media is a great way to increase engagement, build brand recognition, generate discussion about your brand, and even drive leads.

Last year, Cheetos rolled out an ingenious monster competition. Users had to make a monster out of Cheetos, and the winner would get their monster placed in their Cheetos Museum. Even more significantly, the winner walked away with 50k.

Prizes still don’t need to be anywhere close to 50k in order to get entries, however. A gift card or a package of your products or a free month of service can be more than enough to get people on board.

4. Dressing up

Dressing up is one of the central parts of Halloween, so why not dress up your site a bit, too? Seasonal appeal is always welcome, after all, and many customers respond well to brands who add some of the festivities to their site. Think about how much people respond to Google’s themed illustrations, and consider the opportunities available to you for the whole month.

Want an example of how this could work for you? Check out last year’s #SEMrushHalloween, a combination of seasonal design and some utterly useful and funny hacks to leverage your own advertising campaigns. This case study by SEMrush will also show you how to use holidays and other occasions to entertain your users and get them to know your product better.

For example, when Halloween came last year, there was a ghost flying around in the Social Media Poster’s interface.

We got rave reviews and a ton of engagement from this strategy!

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This was exactly the time the tool went into open beta, so the promo was a great way to get as many people to test the new tool as possible. Also, the flying ghost does not require substantial investment.

This year, SEMrush’s Pumpkin is back, prompting you to give your followers the shivers by posting your spookiest Halloween GIF!

5. Going for DIY

Halloween is one of the biggest times of the year for DIY. People are looking to do everything from making their own costumes to carving their own jack-o-lanterns, even if they’ve never held so much as a sewing needle before in their lives.

How-tos and Halloween tutorials are incredibly effective content this time of year, especially in video form, which has a high chance of being shared, clicked, and saved. They’ll become even more successful if you’re able to add extra meaning to the tutorial, like the emotional appeal of engaging your kids or maybe using recycled goods to save the planet.

Last year, Body Shop focused on the “upcycling” appeal to convert empty product bottles into trick or treat jack-o-lanterns. If you’re going for this approach, make sure to use terms like “DIY” to increase your results in searches on social media, and mention if it’s kid-friendly, too.

6. Keeping it simple

Halloween is great but it’s not the only holiday in the year. It’s not even close to the only holiday in the season; Christmas is a much bigger focus, and it’s just two months later. Because of this, you don’t want to get excessively carried away with expensive goods.

Sometimes, the best plan of attack here is to offer inexpensive all-in-one solutions that are easy, affordable, and convenient. Customers have enough on their minds right now, so this is speaking their language.

If you’re looking for an example, Aldi’s UK branch promised customers that it could help them have a great Halloween without the terrifying, jacked-up holiday prices. They ran a video campaign that clearly featured the discounts, and they made sure to post affordable and accessible ideas on their Instagram for a comprehensive marketing approach.

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7. Booing them all in the end

No matter how many competitors you have in the market, you can always win by finding a unique way to represent your brand.

Last year, Mars was an excellent example to follow. Their “Bite-Size Horror” short movies aired on Fox TV networks during the Yankees’ Game 5 ALDS win in October, and they were actually shockingly scary. The series includes four films – “Floor 9.5” for Skittles, “The Road” for M&Ms, “The Replacement” for Starburst, and “Live Bait” for Snickers.

None of the films say a word about Skittles or Starburst or any other Mars’ candies. According to the rumors, some of the short-film creators didn’t even know they were creating ads and there are 8 more movies to be revealed. Yet despite this, they still became effective advertisements because they were so widely shared.

Getting creative with your marketing campaigns are a great way to stand out, so think outside the box.


When it comes to marketing and Halloween, we’re always working so hard to come up with The Next Big Thing. In many cases, however, utilizing classic strategies that have worked for years and finding exciting new ways to make them appealing to our target audience is a better way to go. Get creative with your campaigns, and use strategies that are the same. Sometimes the classic tricks are going to be the best ways to get the most treats.

Guest author: Maria Raybould is a Content Writer and Strategist at SEMrush. Nothing excites her more than seeing her content make a difference. Working alongside the SEMrush Social Media team, Maria strives to deliver the best toolkit for social media professionals all around the world.

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