Old and new wickedly creative PR and marketing campaigns to spook inspiration within you this Halloween
Halloween is the time of year to overdo the fake blood (or glitter), play a trick on the neighbors, plop your unwilling pet into a costume, and indulge in mini treats—but don’t let the fun stop there. Halloween also presents a wonderful opportunity to amplify your content, and market your business, especially as we approach Black Friday and the holiday season. You might even try a Halloween email marketing campaign.
Almost every global brand has some type of hauntingly creative communications designed to grab your attention, and to offer a trick—or a treat—during spooky season. In no particular order, we’ve collected some of our all-time favorite Halloween themed PR and marketing campaigns, so pick your poison and keep reading.
Topshop: “Stranger Things” themed store
If you’ve read some of our blog content, you can probably tell we are fans of many trending TV series! But almost nothing beats the gripping plot and spectacular acting than the fan favorite series, “Stranger Things”—the most watched Netflix original. Their partnership with Topshop offered a mind-bending retail experience for customers. The London flagship store was costumed, just in time for Halloween, to replicate scenes from the show.
This campaign was spook-tacularly successful! “Stranger Things” has a supportive fan base who surely love to be creeped out and were eager to get their hands on merchandise and costumes from the thrilling TV series. Envisioning a portal to the upside down is surely a nightmarish enough reason to seek some retail therapy.
Uber Eats: “Don’t Run Out”
On Halloween night, a trio of friends realize they’re running low on candy. While ordering more food on Uber Eats, Palmer’s character explains how one family vanished on Halloween after the same thing happened to them. After splitting up, a masked figure in the shadows, who reveals their identity at the end, pursues the friends. Director Dan Trachtenberg of Great Guns USA known for such thrillers as “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “Prey” directed the short.
Fortnite: Skull Trooper skin release
The world’s leading interactive computer game has the attention of thousands of kids and adults, and the Fortnite team has shown us many times that they are masters of content marketing. Before Fortnite reached the phenomenal levels of popularity it enjoys today, it released the Skull Trooper skin for Halloween.
The Skull Trooper skin went viral and has generated hype around Halloween every year since as users anticipate the return of one of the most loved skins. The Skull Trooper Fortnite skin is considered one of the most iconic characters to ever be released in the game. It was one of the first premium skins you could get when the game was increasing in popularity in 2017. To this day, that memory is fresh in players’ minds. This Halloween marketing idea essentially created the culture of purchasing skins on the free online game, and surely has generated billions of dollars for Fortnite since then.
The marketers at Fortnite have promoted new skins year after year, and they kill it every time. This year, werewolves have been lurking around Fortnite during the Halloween Fortnitemare events: Fortnite players transform into werewolves and earn unique capabilities. When players visit the location “Reality Tree’s Alteration Altars” they can discover an emote (Fortnite term for dance or celebratory animation), which offers “Howler Claws” that unlock new, werewolf-y abilities.
Fanta and Snapchat: Ghoulish QR codes
If Coca Cola is the Christmas beverage of choice, then frightful Fanta surely owns Halloween. In 2018 Fanta promoted an interactive QR code experience that unlocked Snapchat filters—one of Snapchat’s most successful activations.
They’re back this year with a code for you to scan—but this time you could win big! Fanta has released a “Ghoulish” package featuring QR codes where lucky players could instantly win from a £50k prize pool. Prizes range from cauldrons of cash to home entertainment systems and necessities for the ultimate scary movie night in.
Those who don’t win will receive exclusive digital content to scare their friends and family with instead. “Soft drinks value growth was up £69 million year-on-year during Halloween 2021, a period in which Fanta achieved a 12% increase in value sales” according to Coca Cola.
Svedka: Banner Ad Curse
Were you shocked to be stalked by Svedka in 2018? One of the most impactful digital advertising campaigns showed the ability to leverage the power of targeted ads. Just like a killer that creeps behind a victim—these targeted banners were startling and tracked your every online move.
Svedka Vodka’s “Banner Ad Curse” locked in a victim once they watch a forced-view pre-roll video. After this, there’s no escaping the relentless targeted banner ads and include frightfully specific information like location and time. Banners with phrases like, “I heart following you around New York,” and “You shouldn’t be up this late”.
The only way to break the curse is to pass it on to a friend.
Burger King: #ScaryClownNight
Halloween candy seems to hit the shelves earlier each year. Food and beverage companies seize this opportunity to promote seasonal treats to their customers—or maybe they have a trick up their sleeve for their competition. Burger King released a horrifying 90-second video of a bicycle-riding boy escaping a group of clowns, one of whom looks suspiciously like Ronald McDonald… With this campaign, Burger King reignited their longstanding feud with their fast food rival. The ending tagline is, “Come as a clown, eat like a king”. On Halloween night, the burger chain gave out 500 free whoppers to guests dressed as clowns.
Heinz: Vampire influencers and tomato blood
Every experienced child knows, the best fake blood for a Halloween costume is ketchup. Heinz rolled with it, and they rebranded the same ketchup that we know and love to offer a limited edition “Tomato Blood”.
In promotion of the seasonal branding of our favorite condiment, the brand partnered with vegetarian vampire Toby, a 280-year-old vampire influencer (played by TikTok star E.J. Marcus) who fortunately prefers the taste and satisfaction of drinking Heinz Tomato Blood Ketchup over human blood.
Butterfinger: Turn yourself in
We know that the second the face paint is wiped off and the kids are tucked in bed, parents munch away on Halloween delicacies. It’s the ultimate crime, made notorious by Jimmy Kimmel’s annual viral YouTube challenge, “I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy”. Butterfinger addressed all the mini chocolate bar lovers in 2021, with a catchy crusade aimed at guilty parents. The campaign promoted user generated content by encouraging guilty and ashamed parents to “Turn yourself in”. The submissions were named the “Butterfinger Case Files”, and parents who “fess up” and submit their mug shot to the devoted website were in the running to win a $25k cash prize.
Temptations: “Tasty Human”
With so much pressure on food and beverage brands to be original and exciting during the Halloween season, we can’t forget about festive treats for our furry friends. Let’s be honest, if you’re going to (gently) shove your pet into an adorable (embarrassing) costume to snap some pics for the ‘gram, they surely deserve a festive treat afterwards. Enter Temptations limited edition cat food for Halloween in “Tasty Human” flavor. Since cats share DNA with lions and tigers, we’re certain that if they were a bit bigger and got the chance, your domestic fur babies just might try to eat YOU! Thankfully Temptations has come to the rescue this spooky season with MixUps Tasty Human treats to satisfy their big-cat cravings.
Crest: #BringOnTheCandy Safes
Candy plus kids equals cavities! Halloween candy is a valid concern for dentists and parents around the globe, who have patients and children who munch away on Candy like it’s nobody’s business. This gave toothpaste brand Crest the perfect opportunity to address dental concerns during the sugar filled holiday. In 2021 they ran a campaign with the theme of protecting your candy—and protecting your teeth. As mentioned in the Butterfinger campaign, parents are notorious for stealing from their kids’ stash on Halloween night. Crest invited their customers to share on Instagram why their family loves Crest toothpaste, and why they could benefit from a candy safe. They were entered into a competition to win a limited-edition Candy Safe, where candy can be safely locked away.
“Halloween is all about the candy. And Crest gives parents peace of mind knowing that when their kids choose sweets, Crest has them covered,” said Carlos Quintero, P&G Vice President, Oral Care North America. “But Halloween candy needs protection too! So, we came up with the perfect solution for parents and kids to keep their teeth and candy protected this Halloween.”
Halloween is the perfect time to stand out from the crowd when everyone is dressing up and getting into the spirit of things. We hope you enjoyed our frightful roundup of the best Halloween campaigns and learned how some of the biggest brands are making a name for themselves by capitalizing on themed marketing during the spooky season. Time to get excited about candy corn, pumpkins, and developing wicked and hauntingly creative marketing ideas!