Trick or Treat? The Big Brand Guide to Halloween Marketing

Pumpkins, bats and ghastly ghouls. What’s not to love about Halloween? It’s the perfect time to creep out your consumers. So, as mummies tighten their bandages and vampires sharpen their teeth, why not capitalise on this historically high spending period? Trick or Treat? The Big Brand Guide to Halloween Marketing.

Spine-Tingling Shopping Stats: Ignore at Your Own Risk

  • Brits spent a whopping 419 million on Halloween goodies in 2018, a trend driven by young millennials.
  • Halloween is the second biggest commercial holiday in the US behind Christmas.

  • Roughly $480 million was spent on Halloween costumes for pets, more than doubling the $220 million spent in 2010 when the National Retail Federation began tracking pet costumes. This trend is huge and growing fast, so stay on the ball if this is your thing.

Why we like this tweet:

  • There’s a link to more detailed content. So, consumers aren’t left hanging for more information. And when you do click through, the buying process is easy. And, there’s a really cute picture of a dog wearing a Pina Colada Pineapple hoodie. Bonus.

  • There’s a clear call to action…
  • …and an appropriate use of hashtags. Popular Halloween hashtags for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr include Halloween (58%), horror (8%) and spooky (5%) according to a recent best hashtags search. But it’s also a good idea to check out other related hashtags for your brand. This can help you to build excitement and anticipation. The hashtags below are followed by the number of Insta posts for that hashtag.

Top tip: Use a combination of high and low-density hashtags to help your post make the biggest impact. High-density hashtags have over 500,000 posts. Every time someone uses this hashtag your post will get buried. But high-density hashtags show relevancy and put your content among similarly tagged posts. Lower ranking hashtags, however, have less competition, increasing your chances of ranking in ‘top posts.’

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But Isn’t It Too Early for Halloween Marketing?

The floorboards are creaking already! Can’t you hear them? Ghouls across the land are preparing to own their most Spooktacular night of the year. So, as summer gives way to bone chilling nights and hooting owls, there’s every reason to start warming that cauldron.

We looked into our bubbling potion – and here’s what it revealed:

  • 6% of shoppers will start shopping before September. Not pulled your wand out yet…? Well, panic not, there’s still time because…
  • 28% of shoppers will start their shopping in the month of September.
  • 41% of shoppers will likely finish their Halloween shopping by the first week of October.
  • 25% of shoppers will wait until the latter half of October in search of better deals.

The Big Brands Getting Halloween Marketing Right

So, as we’ve established. Now is the perfect time to do the Monster Mash and get brainstorming for a horrifying Halloween. Let’s check out some of the big brands doing it right for inspiration.

#1 Dunkin’ Donuts – Lovin’ the Pumpkin

Sweet treats go hand-in-hand with Halloween and Dunkin’ Donuts get it right year after year with their themed goodies. They’re even helping consumers build Halloween ‘traditions.’

This year, they’ve brought back the much-loved Pumpkin product line-up which not only perfectly welcomes autumn AKA ‘fall’ but also carves consumer curiosity around Halloween. It’s all-round epic. So, what are they doing?

  • Promoting their loot early

Dunkin’s seasonal campaign allows them to promote Halloween products early, popping key marketing messages right by that all-important Follow button on Twitter. Smart move.

  • Making the most of Insta stories

As an omnichannel campaign, Dunkin’ has also taken to Insta, rocking the Stories section with a series of #pumpkingoals updates and promoting location-specific stores. This is regional targeting in full swing.

  • There’s engagement and outreach

By asking consumers to carry out a specific call to action ‘tag the Pumpkin lover you’re bringing to Dunkin’, the brand is also working to increase outreach and engagement. Video is cleverly used to bring each of the delicious products to life.

Dunkin’s First Ever Halloween Costume

Halloween is all about dressing up, right? Dunkin’ has regularly hosted Halloween costume competitions online in the past – a great idea for all you marketers out there. But this time they’ve taken things a step further by debuting their very first Dunkin’ Halloween costume at New York Fashion Week.

Turning things up a notch more, the outfit will also be available exclusively to Instagram followers in October. What better way to pique interest and attract followers?

Why we like this:

  • The promo was high-profile and on-point. Hot pink is hardly going to get missed.
  • The announcement was in tune with Halloween – Friday 13th, a date filled with spooks and superstition.
  • While a multichannel presence can increase brand presence, creating a platform-specific promotion can help you to achieve specific goals such as boosting your Insta rankings.

#2 Netflix – New “Netflix and Chills” Category

In true Halloween spirit, Netflix has introduced a brand-new category specifically for Halloween. “Netflix and Chills” perfectly plays on the commonly used slang phrase “Netflix and Chill” and will treat subscribers to a myriad of different movie titles including cult classics such as Pet Sematary, The Blair Witch Project, Poltergeist, and The Shining as well as TV shows including Stranger Things, The Haunting of Hill House, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and American Horror Story. If you do not have Netflix but still want to join in with some Halloween fun, then you may want to take a look at the different streaming services and comparison to see what else is available so you don’t miss out on the spooky shows and films.

We consume horror for a variety of reasons, one of which is to be stimulated. Exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of such acts, can stimulate us – both mentally and physically – in opposing ways: negatively (in the form of fear or anxiety) or positively (in the form of excitement) (in the form of excitement or joy). So you could consider watching one of those movies on Halloween. However, if you are unsure about which movies to watch first, you can visit websites similar to, which may provide you with a list of the best horror movies on Netflix. It may also provide you with a brief overview of the films that could pique your interest.

Netflix may also release a host of original content to this category. The first of these productions, Shadow of the Moon, will air on September 27th, followed by the movie adaptation of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s ‘In the Tall Grass’ on October 4th. 5 movies in total will roll out throughout October.

Why we like this:

  • Netflix itself assigns users to three to five of 1,300 ‘taste clusters.’ These clusters are based on viewing preferences. So, if horror is your thing, you’ll start to see recommendations based on what’s popular in your communities helping you to make good choices for those Netflix and Chills evenings.
  • The millennial generation has replaced TV viewing with streaming platforms such as Netflix. What’s clever about this campaign is that it taps into the nostalgia of this demographic by releasing movies that were popular as they were growing up. The Blair Witch Project, for example, was released in 1999 and had great appeal to early and late teens of the time experimenting with horror.
  • Throwing new content into the mix helps to keep audiences engaged even if they don’t want to watch older movies on repeat.

And from a content marketing angle?

  • What better way to promote a streaming service than with video content? Not only was the Netflix and Chills announcement on-trend but it was short, to-the-point and featured a trailer of all 5 new releases. There’s a focus on exclusivity too as well as a clear call to action. Both marketing techniques work together to evoke excitement and intrigue.

  • A well-timed announcement allowed for the generation of organic content. The Netflix and Chills campaign kickstarted on September 14th and was picked up across the internet including social media platforms like Twitter. Organic posts from fan sites and related sites can generate publicity without eating into company budget.

Why we like this:

  • The hashtag is branded and unique, making posts associated with this topic easy to find, generating engagement.

#3 Hershey’s – Stop-Motion DIY Videos

DIY is a key element of Halloween. Whether it’s wrapping yourself in toilet roll to look like a mummy or cutting a circle out of a sheet for a ghostly appearance, arts and crafts come into their own at this time of year.

Hershey’s capitalised on this idea wonderfully in 2018 with their stop-motion DIY videos posted to their Facebook page. The most successful video showed how to make Halloween bats as a party favour. This went viral receiving well over 1.5 million views.

Why we like this:

  • It’s promotional without being salesy. Instead, the idea is simple, cute and encourages interaction and engagement with Hershey’s.

Halloween is a great time for confectionary brands as it’s associated with Trick or Treaters. Hershey’s have used this to their advantage over the years with campaigns that draw on this fun part of the holiday.

  • It tells a story. Consumers expect to be taken on a journey and not just have products flashed in their face. This video showed scary Halloween figures turning into popular Hershey’s treats and was a great example of advertising made fun. Watch it here.

Halloween is a spooktacular time to get your scare on! Contact myself and the Contentworks ghouls for content marketing that works this Halloween and beyond.

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About the author

Charlotte Day, known as Charli, is a content marketing strategist heading up social media and storytelling at Contentworks Agency. A content marketing thought leader, she has 1000+ articles published, guest writes for leading social media hubs and frequently speaks at events. She also maintains her own blog at and a writer’s life presence on social media. When she’s not writing and managing the agency, Charli enjoys swimming in the Mediterranean, writing poetry and reading.