October has arrived and with it, the beginning of the holiday season. Seems early, doesn’t it? But the truth is that Halloween decorations went up for sale in August and pumpkin spice everything (including hot sauce) is in full effect.
While Halloween might seem like one more holiday to get through while you prepare for your big end-of-the-year holiday selling season, Halloween consumer spending, including candy, decorations, and pet costumes, accounts for roughly 7.4 billion dollars in the US alone.
Research also suggests that Halloween is actually the beginning of the holiday season. December is a month full of holidays it includes familiar ones like Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa, but also Boxing Day, St. Lucia Day, and Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The media and marketing dollars might have you convinced that Black Friday is the start of holiday shopping and sales across businesses, but the preparation for these celebrations and seasonal shopping starts long before the snowy season rolls around. How much will consumers spend collectively on Christmas alone? The projection for 2015 Christmas gift, card, travel, and decoration shopping is over 600 billion dollars in the United States.
So it pays – literally – to be on top of your marketing game long before the Santa lawn statues make an appearance. To get a piece of the consumer-generated Halloween revenue and also prep for the later holidays, it’s beneficial for businesses to not skip Halloween in their marketing plan. In fact, we’ve talked with several businesses – including brick and mortar retailers and online service vendors – across the country about how they use Halloween as an opportunity to build up brand awareness, show off their personality, and get attention for their businesses before the holiday shopping and celebration craze begins.
Thrill of the Hunt
Heather Piper is the co-owner of Thrill of the Hunt, a company that develops and directs themed scavenger hunts for team-building activities, fundraisers, corporate outings, and public hosted events. They’re headquartered in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, but plan scavenger events for parties and companies in communities all over the country.
One of their signature public events, which takes place during the Halloween season, is called the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt. Heather describes it by saying, “These events are brought to local dog-friendly communities and give the dogs and their owners time to spend together walking around the area, figuring out clues, and completing challenges while collecting dog treats and toys. Before the event begins, the dogs are paraded around for the judging part of the scavenger hunt, and there’s always a best costume prize.”
We imagine these guys were probably among the winners.
We also love the idea of taking an already-existing business model and Halloween-ing it, to get a boost of business exposure in October. In the business of scavenger hunts, Halloween and hunts make a perfect match, Heather says. “October is now our busiest month. Halloween is fun and brings out the child in all of us, as do scavenger hunts.”
But Heather explains that these events go beyond bringing in new business just for the season.
“These public dog scavenger hunt events…[have] been our gateway into local communities, expanding our reach and our brand. It seems that Halloween and scavenger hunts go hand-in-hand and have been successful for us in many respects, including branding, experience, and word-of-mouth marketing. Halloween has been a great ‘excuse’ to hold a scavenger hunt event and a nonthreatening way to introduce something new to the area.”
JotForm is another example of a business that uses Halloween to spruce up and spook up some of their existing products and services. An online form builder, JotForm helps businesses create forms like website contact forms, payment forms, lead collection forms, application forms, registration and event forms, and more. Many small business owners use their form builder to create custom payment options on their website or forms where users can sign up for a company newsletter.
Leeyen Rogers, the VP of Marketing at JotForm says, “The appeal of JotForm is that it’s easy to use, completely customizable (people can add images, logos, company colors), and comes with lots of functionalities (integrations with PayPal, Google Docs, DropBox, SalesForce, and many more).”
When Halloween rolls around, it gives the JotForm team an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and offer even more customization options to their users – and grow their customer base by showcasing some of their seasonal creativity.
Leeyen says, “The marketing team at JotForm loves being festive, and any holiday is an excuse to release specially designed forms on our theme store. Using our Form Designer tool, our team gets to be creative and make whatever themed forms strike their fancy: ghosts, pumpkins, haunted houses, the works!”
They advertise these specialty templates and holiday options on their website theme store, in blog posts, and in their email newsletters, so companies can find out about fun, new themes. If companies want to add some festive flair to their forms and websites, they can just head over to JotForm and grab the design that fits their fall feelings.
JotForm also designs invitation forms that people can use to invite their friends to Halloween parties or fall festivals, meaning that they attract clients around the holidays who might not need their services otherwise.
Black N Bianco
Black N Bianco is a children’s formalwear shop. While most of their business comes from weddings, as a children and teen boutique, they also get to tie their business to Halloween (arguably one of the most kid-centric holidays out there).
Although formalwear might not be everyone’s immediate thought for Halloween costume shopping, it’s easy to take a tux and go as a “Formal Apology” or pair a fancy dress with some ghoulish face makeup and embrace a Zombie Prom theme.
Lisa Chu encourages parents to consider Black N Bianco for their kids Halloween costumes by hosting an online costume event. She says, “We encourage our customers to share their photos [of formalwear being used as costumes] through social media and we would send out a free bow tie for participating in our event.” Using the hashtags #blacknbianco, parents and tech-savvy preteens can show off their spooky style.
Black N Bianco also features their Boys Suit and Tie outfit around Halloween, noting that it makes a perfect Slenderman costume for meme enthusiasts and kids who really want to amp up the creepiness factor of their costumes. Lisa notes that these suits – and their other formal wares – can be readily reused for special occasions like weddings and baptisms, turning a Halloween costume into a wardrobe investment.
Andrew and Mary Ross are the duo behind Sensory Swim, a renowned special needs swim program. Andrew shared that during Halloween, he and his wife host a special needs-friendly haunted house.
“Parents know how to locate us because while we are in full makeup we rock our ‘Sensory Swim’ hoodies. When our friends see us walking with a kid they know to take it easy on the spooks. Every year we have a few hundred kids come through. For us this isn’t about branding or making money. This is making sure everybody can celebrate Halloween.”
While the Sensory Swim team might not use Halloween to specifically increase business, there’s no doubt that their efforts in hosting an event like that can only build goodwill towards their brand and ultimately attract clients to their services.
If you’re looking to dress up your brand for Halloween and make a haunting impression with your customers all season long, here are some ideas to start with:
- Host or sponsor an event. It can be as elaborate as a haunted house or as simple as advertising that your business will pass out candy to trick or treaters who stop in during office hours. You can even host an online event and track participation with a custom hashtag across social networks.
- Put a creative holiday spin on your products. Lots of businesses might not lend themselves directly to Halloween, but a little strategic (or spooky) positioning can go a long way.
- Don’t forget to decorate. A big part of branding is creating a story and showing off personality. Spruce up your website with your company mascot in costume, show off pictures of your sales
team in matching Rat Pack costumes on your company blog, or host a virtual costume contest on social media.
- Start your sales early. Black Friday and pre-Christmas aren’t the only times to have special pricing – get your customers excited to save all season long with a Halloween sale or product preview.
Whether it’s using the candy-friendly, social holiday of Halloween as a way to introduce your small business to your community or using the offbeat holiday as a way to reach an audience who might otherwise not need your services, there are lots of ways to ensure that your business stands out during Halloween and long into the holiday season.