Each year as the end of October approaches, brands tend to overwhelm consumers with Halloween-themed social media posts that are heavy on generic visuals and ghastly wordplay. All too often these pieces blend together to form a monster mash of indistinguishable content in social feeds and are overlooked.
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 is an effective example to learn from because it stayed true to the spirit of the season while also taking a unique approach.
1. 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 featuring a collection of 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.
2. Dunkin’ Donuts: #DunkinDressUpContest
Dunkin’ found an effective way to tap into the power of user generated social media content by offering $1,000 and free coffee for a year to a lucky winner who shared a Halloween costume photo on Instagram and used the hashtag #DunkinDressUpContest. The campaign inspired a flood of posts that featured the brand in many frightfully fun, and frightfully cute, ways.
3. Target: #TagAndTreat
Like Dunkin’, Target found success by creating a Halloween-themed user generated content campaign. However, 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.
4. Lush Cosmetics: Halloween Collection
Every year Lush Cosmetics releases a Halloween collection, and every year the brand’s social posts 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. This combination makes it hard to look away when one shows up in a feed.
5. Starbucks: Halloween Frappuccinos
Along similar lines to Lush, Starbucks stands out around Halloween 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 feature colorful seasonally-themed drinks (such as last year’s Witch’s Brew Frappuccino).
6. Heart and Stroke Foundation: #TheUndeading
This is an oldie but goodie. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation brilliantly highlighted the importance of learning CPR by creating an epic YouTube video featuring 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.
7. Hershey’s: Gomez’s Dark Cocoa Mocha
Hershey found a fun way to engage audiences by posting this Addam’s Family-themed recipe to its Facebook page. The piece, which showcased the character Gomez whipping up a delicious chocolate concoction, connected by being both cute and useful. For marketers, it highlights an important fact: Not every Halloween campaign has to be hair raising.
8. Bacardi: #DressToBeFree
This video from Bacardi is another example of a brand tapping into the Halloween spirit without going for frights. The piece, which was released across multiple platforms, featured people around the world who “dress to be free,” such as a Carnival dancer in Brazil. It smartly captured the appeal of the season while also conveying a wider brand message.
9. LG: So Real It’s Scary
Of course, sometimes it is fun to simply scare people around Halloween. LG found a creative way to do this by replacing parts of an elevator with television screens and then tricking unsuspecting riders into thinking that the floor was falling away. The YouTube video worked on multiple levels: It engaged audiences and also clearly conveyed the brand message — that the screens present an ultra-realistic picture.
10. M&Ms: #MillieAndMax
Finally, this groundbreaking set of animated videos from M&Ms told an interactive ghost story across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter over the span of weeks. At the end of each “chapter” (i.e. social post), audiences could choose what the main character (Millie) should do, and those votes drove the direction of the story. The series is especially important for marketers to study because it features many of the key elements — such as multimedia storytelling and group participation — that can make Halloween social media campaigns uniquely compelling.