Trick or treat: How to win halloween’s annual fright club

Halloween conjures images of terror that comes in many forms: ghosts, spiders, irrelevant branded content. As Halloween returns on 31 October we may once again expect a torrent of branded frights across the city. While Hong Kongers scramble to find the best costume for their office party, brand managers may be looking to the holiday and thinking: how can I use this opportunity?

Halloween, like all holidays, presents an opportunity to talk about your brand using relevant topics. But marketers be warned – it’s not as easy as it looks. Your Halloween conversation or campaign needs to be considered or you could end up with pumpkin on your face.

Here are our top three tips to winning Halloween:

1. Be funnier! Humour can be your best Halloween tactic

Play to your audience - humour and entertainment are the reason why 44% of Hong Kongers use the Internet to begin with (GWI, 2015). Just because it’s a frightening festival, doesn’t mean you want to terrify your customers.

Unless your brand sells fake blood, using horror to get attention is likely a bad idea. Most brands have a positive tone of voice and are focused on being a welcoming source of expertise for their customers. Stay true to your brand guidelines, if building a brand association with terror doesn’t align to your brand, get smart and use humour to show your wit and still be involved.

Taking a humorous approach gives you a one-off opportunity to experiment with a genuinely light-hearted and funny piece of content.

2. Facilitate a frightening experience

Now is not the time to send a “Happy Halloween” eDM to your customers and expect accolades. It's time to get smart and creative. That process starts with two questions:

a. How does my brand solve a problem in my customers’ lives? (You should always be asking this anyway)

b. How is that problem scary? i.e. how could we exaggerate that problem to be humorous?

In other words, scary doesn’t have to involve monsters. It can be a presentation of life’s little horrors. Think about long layovers at boring airports, spilling coffee on your white shirt or being rejected by your crush because of your bad breath.

This could work as an extension of an existing communication, or a nod back to a previously successful campaign. An example: This Listerine Kabedon campaign lends itself well to a Halloween-inspired communication - What’s scarier than finally building up the courage to talk to your crush, only to be rejected at the last moment by bad breath? Nightmare!

3. Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan. It’s imperative to plan ahead

Halloween always falls on 31 October, it’s what your content team would call a “Fixed” holiday. Fixed holidays also include major public holidays and seasonal festivals. All of these occasions present the perfect chance to use relevant topics to talk about your brand.

Be sure to walk before you run (and fall). Many brand managers invest heavily in social listening tools with the goal of reaching a real time marketing objective. But in order to run, a brand should first “walk” by building an editorial calendar around fixed occasions they know will be relevant in a years’ time. Halloween is one of those occasions you can prepare for well in advance.

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this article in hopes of making a big splash in 2015, then you need to be realistic about what you (or your agency) can deliver.

Stunts, events and big production pieces of content are all great ways to get attention, but these take time to plan and execute. A clever, well executed Facebook post or eDM can have a big impact —especially if you treat it with the same creative process as you would any other medium, like TVC.

KNOW THIS! If you want to really make an impact in 2016 you should consider video. In the past month, 72% of all Hong Kong Internet users have watched a video clip. The only activity that’s more popular is checking email.

Halloween is a fun and growing holiday across the world. It’s also an opportunity for you to be bold and experiment with your brand communications—if only for one day. The only thing scarier than a Halloween campaign that misses the mark is a brand that doesn’t bother trying at all.

Happy Halloween!

The author is Kevin Grubb, strategist of Razorfish Hong Kong.