5 Halloween marketing campaigns: get ready for the horrorrrr!

Alina Gorbatch
by Alina Gorbatch on October 26, 2016

Companies, big and small, get excited as kids when the holiday season comes. And who isn’t? Candy, costumes, profit! Well, we have Halloween at our doorstep. Naturally, today’s post is dedicated to this honorable holiday.

hello october

I’ll tell you about Halloween marketing campaigns that inspire, scare, make you go “awww”, or everything at once. After all, every holiday marketing campaign is about standing out in the vampire-filled season. It’s tricky to make yourself noticeable without a budget that allows you to film something like this prank done by Ford, so I’ve chosen campaigns that can inspire even the smallest (but potentially no less evil) businesses.

1. REI

You’d think Halloween only applies to candy and gothic stores, right? Think again! REI is the outdoor clothing, gear, and footwear retail, and its Halloween campaign idea is probably the best in the world of spooky marketing. REI created a guide for surviving a zombie apocalypse. Of course, you’d have to use some of their equipment to survive. And that's okay, REI offers a full Zombie Survival Gear. The guide looks like this:


Lesson from REI: Look at your product from a different angle. Are you owning a simple bookshop or a bookshop with the ultimate collection of books on black magic? Are you sure electronics in your shop don’t become alive at night and attempt a machine uprising? Are those wedding dresses you’re selling reeeally romantic? Think like a child who enjoys both Disney and German fairy tales, and come up with a story, a picture, or a simple social media post about what’s going on in your store!

2. Oreo

It comes as no surprise that for the consumer-packaged goods industry, Halloween is practically Christmas. And for the candy industry, the only holiday that tops Halloween in sales is Easter (and not even every year). Most years, Halloween-goers spend about $2.1 billion on candy. So you can see why the cookie monsters such as Oreo take time to come up with the holiday-themed campaigns. Like this one:

As someone who’s genuinely scared of horror movies and haunted houses, I appreciate Oreo being cute. So do a lot of kids, which are the main target audience for Oreo’s Vine campaign. Surely, Oreo didn’t stop at Vine. The company has a Pinterest board and Oreo’s Instagram filled with Halloween-themed sweets. They share all of it on Twitter, too. Pictures of sweets look like this:

Nomsters :)

Nomsters :)

Yes, these cute and creative Halloween treats are called Nomsters!

Lesson from Oreo: Never forget your target audience. Can’t do scary? Cute is more than okay! And never feel like you’re over-using the Halloween theme. It happens once a year - bring to life as many ideas as you can.

3. Booking.com

In 2013, a hotel booking website booking.com worked hard to get the Halloween spirit work for them. And it totally paid off. The company did the following: they picked a number of hotels and created a movie inspired poster and a story for each one. Of course, they recreated The Stanley Hotel from horror classic The Shining. That wasn’t it, though. If you chose to stay at The Stanley Hotel, scrolling up the page would lead you to the stairs and get you straight to the room 410 from The Shining. Remember that one? Next you’d see a button reading ‘stay here if you dare’. Unsurprisingly even, it became an extremely successful marketing campaign. Apparently, there are a lot of risky people out there.


Lesson from Booking.com: Firstly, hard work pays off. But you probably knew that. Secondly, the story works. Our minds are wired to remember stories - we’ve heard them since we were little kids. Relating products with famous horror stories builds associations that are memorable and exciting. So think which story might be related to your product, or come up with your own story (and post it on social media, of course).


TESCO never misses a chance to look good for holidays. Last year they’ve introduced the Spookermarket. Again, they invested some serious work in it. But it’s also something you can easily repeat at home at work on a smaller scale!

Tesco hid a couple of actors behind the aisles to freak out customers in the shop. The best one was a girl with her face painted white, who’d appear behind the stack of toilet paper and say ‘ah’. I figured it doesn't require any special acting skills, but if you disagree, simply painting faces could work too. Tesco also filmed everything they've done for Halloween for everyone to see! You can watch the video here: 

The Spookermarket got over 18 million views on YouTube and Facebook combined, which earned Tesco loads of customer engagement. Tesco also released a series of ‘How To’ videos for Halloween enthusiasts, in which they explain how to get frozen bloody fingers and such using Tesco’s products.

Lesson from Tesco: Introduce some life experience into the shopping routine. You don’t need much: just some painted faces in the right place at the right time. Offer some useful tips following the entertainment for even more exposure!

5. Starbucks

Last year as well, Starbucks introduced something beautiful: a Frappuccino that could inspire every coffee shop and every restaurant and every pub. It was called Frappula Frappuccino. It was made with white chocolate sauce, milk, ice, mocha sauce, whipped cream and raspberry syrup. It looked like this: frapuccino

Lesson from Starbucks: we’ve talked predominantly about shops up till now. But coming up with something Halloweenish is even cooler if you talk about food. There are so many ingredients that will make anything look bloody and so much food that can look gross! And it never hurts to have some disgusting cookies on your table, does it?


Don’t skip Halloween just because you don’t feel creative. Every holiday, and especially one so unlike any other, is a chance to drag people’s attention to your brand. Don’t reinvent the bicycle if you don’t feel like it - just make your version of the tricks that work. Connect your brand with any of the known horror stories, make your product Halloween-themed, freak out some customers with face paint and fake blood. No one forgets the place they got scared in :)

Related posts