VR and utility are in this year. Parodies and elaborate pranks are out. But 2015 may also be remembered for moments such as The Year of The Horrible Head in a Jar, Night in the Catacombs, #GreenPoop, Zombie Brain Donation and/or Ghost Drones.
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, for example, Subway’s biggest problem was a Halloween spot with flimsy costumes that many consumers deemed sexist (my, how Subway’s fortunes have changed). What’s more, 2014’s Sexy Ebola costume has been replaced by Cecil the Lion Killer. (And, if Playboy has its way, Sexy Pope Francis and Sexy Vladimir Putin.)
In addition, thanks to wine app Vivino, the world now has a definitive guide to wine-candy pairings.
What an age to be alive! Do you know what else is alive?
2015 Halloween marketing.
To wit: Video remains the dominant medium for festive brands, but, like consumers turning to Star Wars and DC Comics for costume inspiration, brands are into virtual reality and customer utility this year and seem to have softened their pranks.
In the spirit of Halloween, Momentology canvassed the holiday marketing landscape and has awarded the most spirited brands its coveted 2015 Halloween Campaign Superlatives.
The 13 winners follow.
1. Best Consumer Value-Add: Tesco
Per BBH London, UK supermarket chain Tesco has created a social campaign around a video, Spookermarket, which had 1.3 million views just five days after it was posted.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqWeuBJfxsQ
In it, a Tesco location has been given a “spooky makeover” and hidden cameras capture the reactions of unsuspecting customers. Viewers are then driven to four videos that demonstrate how consumers can achieve similar tricks at home:
- How to Paint a Creepy Clown Face
- How to Make a Horrible Head in a Jar
- How to Make Chilling Severed Hands
- How to Carve a Petrifying Carved Pumpkin
In a statement, BBH London said the effort was produced by its in-house video production studio, Black Sheep Studios, and was meant to “help customers enhance their Halloween celebrations easily and conveniently, by serving up entertaining content and genuinely helpful advice.”
2. Best Video Overall: Pizza Hut
Following on the heels of its wildly popular Dangers of Selfie Sticks PSA, which has 4.2 million views, Pizza Hut once gain teamed up with video agency Shareability for a Halloween-themed video.
“Halloween is one of our busiest days of year and we wanted to recognize and celebrate the people who go out of their way to make Halloween special,” said Jenna Bromberg, head of digital engagement at Pizza Hut. “So we came up with the concept of the dos and don’ts for making Halloween exciting again.”
The video, How to Win at Halloween, even advocates consumers give out full-size pizzas instead of candy.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKK_AYPOqJE
The brand will be distributing clips on Twitter “for snackable content throughout the week,” Bromberg said.
Halloween is one of the brand’s five busiest days of the year — it is about 50 percent busier than an average day, but will be magnified in 2015 as Halloween falls on a Saturday, according to Doug Terfehr, senior director of public relations at Pizza Hut. He said the brand expects to sell 1.4 million pizzas on October 31.
3. Best Tie to Brand Ethos: Chipotle
In an effort to focus on the “creepiness” of unnecessary ingredients, quick service chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has produced a short film in conjunction with New York-based studio Piro, Unneces-scary, in which a customer enters a fictitious restaurant, Cheapotle, where the brand said she “discovers what Chipotle would be like if it served traditional fast food.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4RtVQJVPhQ
Chipotle has also brought back its longstanding Halloween fundraiser, Boorito, in which it offers $3 menu items to customers dressed in costume on Halloween. This year, however, to “showcase the simplicity of its ingredients,” Chipotle is asking customers to add an unnecessary ingredient to their costumes to qualify for the offer. Proceeds up to $1 million will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
“This twist on the costume guidelines supports the company’s larger vision of serving only the highest quality ingredients versus the complex array of unnecessary additives and preservatives that are typically found in fast food,” a press release said.
4. Best Use of VR: Target
Retailer Target launched a virtual reality series on YouTube, The House on Hallow Hill, which allows consumers to “use their smartphones to explore its many cobwebbed rooms with 360 degrees of action made visible by tilting and angling the phone’s screen like a lens,” the brand said in a press release.
In the initial video, which is shot from the viewer’s perspective, a raven swoops in and absconds with the viewer’s phone. The viewer is then encouraged to go inside the mansion to get it back. From there, viewers choose from among available rooms, including:
- The Sugar Skull Cantina
- The Haunted Dining Hall
- The Candy Carnival
- The Ghoulish Graveyard.
What’s more, the items featured in each video are shoppable. Consumers click the links featured in the YouTube cards to go to curated Target.com pages.
In addition, Target rolled out Treatster, or what it calls “the first social network designed exclusively to help parents map out the ‘must-visit’ houses on each block for their trick-or-treaters.”
Treatster crowdsources information from parents, who Target says can up-vote the best trick-or-treating spots by tagging their locations as a “Treat” on their maps. The more “Treats” a location has, the larger its pumpkin will appear, “helping trick-or-treaters get the absolute most out of the big night,” Target added.
5. Best Potential Scare: Airbnb
Rental site Airbnb is offering a night in the Catacombs on Halloween, or what it calls the largest tomb in Paris, which it said “contains the remains of six million souls” and “guaranteed nightmares.”
In order to qualify, the brand is asking interested parties to explain why they think they are brave enough to sleep in the Catacombs. Airbnb will choose one party of two for the experience.
According to the listing, the winner will be able to “quench your thirst for adventure in this sprawling maze littered with skulls and bones” and “then live an unusual culinary experience while listening to an underground private concert in a place of the most remarkable acoustics.”
Further, the listing notes, “Pets are not allowed. Anyway, there will already be a monster under your bed,” and it advises, “Do not forget your toothbrush and pajamas, especially if they glow in the dark.”
6. Best Unintentional Hashtag: Burger King
Instead of red carpet, Burger King is rolling out black buns for Halloween 2015 with its A.1. Halloween Whopper “that has A.1. flavor baked in” and is “a burger unlike any other in America.”
“Our U.S. guests have been extremely curious about the bun flavors they’ve seen introduced in Japan and other countries, so we saw the opportunity to bring them an equally unique experience,” said Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn in a statement. “We tailored the flavor of the black bun to the American palate with A.1. sauce…it may look Japanese but it tastes like America.”
On a related note, according to reports, consumers have taken to Twitter to complain this Halloween Whopper also results in #GreenPoop, driving a somewhat popular hashtag and even inspiring a Halloween costume for couples.
7. Best Use of Nostalgia: General Mills
According to a blog post, General Mills has “cracked open the Halloween cereal vault this year” and, thanks to a partnership with augmented reality app Blippar, has brought its Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry characters to life on cereal boxes.
Content includes “phrases of fear,” as well as vintage packages and commercials from the ’70s and ’80s. Count Chocula and Franken Berry debuted in March 1971 and Boo Berry followed in October 1972. General Mills releases the cereals every August and they are available through Halloween.
“The cereal box has historically been a fun source of entertainment at the breakfast table and beyond,” said Emily Daigle, associate marketing manager, in a statement. “This year, we are excited about our partnership with Blippar as it allows us to take a deeper look at the Monsters’ past in such a memorable way.”
8. Best Zombie Implementation: Takis
For its part, snack food brand Takis, which describes itself as “super intense rolled corn tortilla chips that come in crazy exotic flavors,” has asked its teen fans to “donate” their brains to zombies as a tie-in to its Takis Zombie flavor, or a limited edition spin on the habanero-cucumber flavor also known as Nitro.
In the Takis Brain Drive video, a zombie asks viewers to place their fingers on the screen in order to make a donation, which then finishes with messages like, “Adios Brain!”
In exchange for 1 million brain donations, or views, as well as likes or shares, the brand said one fan will receive a crate of Takis Zombies personally delivered by zombies. A crate contains approximately 200 bags. As of October 28, the Facebook video had 1.2 million views. “Last year, Takis created a video around the Zombie product, but the media push was minimal,” said Ashley Brown, account director at ad agency Pereira & O’Dell. “So we wanted to make a bigger impact this year. And with the zombie cultural craze in full gear and fans’/consumers’ obsession to get their hands on it, the brand was interested in a bigger campaign idea.”
The product has been in the U.S. since 2006 and is increasing its distribution.
9. Best Use of Drones: Cheetos
To celebrate the return of its Cheetos Bag of Bones snacks and to inspire consumers to look beyond standard candy for Halloween, Cheetos teamed up with restaurant delivery service Caviar to produce three prank videos:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01FDXr1i-S8
“Halloween is notoriously full of mischief, so naturally the Cheetos brand can’t wait to get in on the fun again this year,” said Pat O’Toole, director of marketing at Frito-Lay North America, in a statement. “We’re excited to offer up an alternative treat during a time when most people are thinking about sugar, sugar and more sugar – and, of course, new content that captures all the fun of scaring the pants off someone.”
Chester has also launched Chester’s Pumpkinator, which invites families to design their own digital jack-o-lantern.
10. Best Masks: Dos Equis
Once again, Dos Equis is inviting consumers to join its Most Interesting Man in the World in an interactive Masquerade. Much like its 2014 Halloween effort, consumers enter into a virtual masquerade as The Most Interesting Man’s guest of honor, “encountering the unexpected and unusual.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01lwW1bWrJk
This year, however, the experience is available via Google Cardboard and YouTube 360. In addition, Dos Equis said branded Google Cardboard masks will be available at bars, as well as via a dedicated microsite.
“Putting on a mask offers the chance to reveal a more interesting side of yourself, and that’s exactly what we’re encouraging consumers to do this Halloween season,” said Andrew Katz, vice president of Marketing for Dos Equis, in a statement.
11. Best Pumpkins: Snickers
In its Hungry for Halloween? execution, pumpkin carver Jon Neill talks about his craft and how he creates realistic faces and the – wait for it – satisfying process he goes through with each pumpkin.
12. Best Literary Reference: Reese’s
The peanut-butter-and-chocolate candy brand teamed up with Comedy Central for its Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Make It a Perfect Halloween, which features the Headless Horseman relaxing at home while trying to eat a peanut butter cup.
13. Best Punny Name: Starbucks
Following on the heels of 2014’s green tea Franken Frappuccino, coffee powerhouse Starbucks is rolling out what it calls “a fang-tastic new Starbucks Frappuccino blended beverage.”
According to a press release, the vampire-inspired Frappuccino, the Frappula Frappuccino, is made with white chocolate sauce, milk, ice, mocha sauce, whipped cream and raspberry syrup. U.S. stores will offer the Frappula Frappuccino between October 28 and 31 and stores in Canada from October 28 to November 1. It is also available in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Which 2015 Halloween marketing campaign is your overall favorite?