This article was updated in November 2020.
Each year as the end of October approaches, brands tend to overwhelm consumers with Halloween-themed social media posts. And usually they’re heavy on generic visuals and ghastly wordplay. (This applies to other holiday-themed campaigns as well.) All too often brands create a monster mash of indistinguishable content overlooked in social feeds.
How can you avoid this frightful fate? To help, we’ve dug up some Halloween-themed social media campaigns that broke through with audiences. Each of the following is an effective example, from marketing to advertising, to learn from. Brands took a unique approach while staying true to the spirit of the season.
Burger King: #ScaryClownNight
Burger King hit a nerve by highlighting a common fear that many find far from funny: Clowns. This savvy multi-format campaign included a terrifying YouTube video. Think creeptacular clowns as well as real-life meetups in Burger Kings across the U.S. The first 500 guests who visited select restaurants dressed as a clown even got a free Whopper.
The fast food franchise is adept at these types of marketing campaigns. Check out the video content created during Covid-19, “Stay Home of the Whopper.”
Dunkin’ tapped into the power of user generated social media content by offering $1,000 and free coffee for a year. All the lucky winner had to do was share a costume photo on Instagram with the hashtag #DunkinDressUpContest. This Halloween campaign inspired a flood of posts that featured the brand in many frightfully fun, and frightfully cute, ways. Just don’t call them Dunkin’ Donuts.
Like Dunkin’, Target found success by creating a Halloween-themed user generated content campaign. The retailer upped the ante by encouraging people to create videos rather than photos. The savvy premise of the challenge was to share a costume aisle strut and audiences took the opportunity to showcase their moves.
Lush Cosmetics: Halloween Collection
Every year Lush Cosmetics releases a Halloween collection, and every year the brand’s social campaigns promote the line perfectly. The key is the strong visuals. The photography and short videos tend to have clear compositions as well as an original (and disturbing) feel. The combination makes it hard to look away when one shows up in a feed.
Starbucks: Halloween Frappuccinos
Along similar lines to Lush, Starbucks, which has been steadily shifting to a video-first strategy, stands out around Halloween. How? By developing original spooky visuals for its social accounts. These posts often capture the eye by including just a bit of movement, usually via a short animation. And they feature colorful seasonally-themed drinks (such as last year’s Witch’s Brew Frappuccino).
Heart and Stroke Foundation: #TheUndeading
This is an oldie but goodie. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation brilliantly highlighted the importance of learning CPR. This epic YouTube video features a woman trying to escape an army of zombies. How exactly did the non-profit organization work a do-good message into a classic horror theme? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Hershey’s: Gomez’s Dark Cocoa Mocha
Hershey found a fun way to engage audiences by posting an Addams Family-themed recipe to its Facebook page. The piece features Gomez whipping up a delicious chocolate concoction, which turns out to be both cute and useful. For marketers, it highlights an important fact: Not every Halloween campaign has to be hair raising.
This video from Bacardi tapped into the Halloween spirit without going for frights. Bacardi released the video across multiple platforms. It featured people around the world who “dress to be free,” such as a Carnival dancer in Brazil. And it smartly captured the appeal of the season while conveying a wider brand message.
LG: So Real It’s Scary
Of course, sometimes it is fun to simply scare people with Halloween-themed campaigns. LG found a creative way to do this by replacing parts of an elevator with television screens. Unsuspecting riders were tricked into thinking that the floor was falling away. The YouTube video worked on multiple levels. First, it engaged audiences. Second, it clearly conveyed the brand message that the screens present an ultra-realistic picture.
M&Ms told an interactive ghost story across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter through a groundbreaking set of animated videos. Audiences chose what the character does at the end of each chapter/social post and their votes drove the story. The series is especially important for marketers to study because it features key elements like multimedia storytelling and group participation. Integrating those elements can make Halloween social media campaigns, or any holiday-themed campaigns, uniquely compelling.