Monday, November 7, 2011

Halloween: Not just for kids anymore

When I was growing up, Halloween seemed a lot simpler than it is today. We picked our costumes, carved a pumpkin or two, and then hit the neighborhood. My sister and I then spent the rest of the evening organizing our candy by brand and making trades as necessary. Maybe that was just us…Today, Halloween seems to have become a month-long event as opposed to a one night a year holiday. Driving around a North Shore neighborhood a few weeks ago, I noticed that more houses were decorated for Halloween than not. Some were extremely elaborate, with entire graveyards, blow-up creatures, and ghosts swinging from trees. This trip around a neighborhood not unlike where I grew up, and recent reports, got me thinking about how Halloween these days seems to be inching up on Christmas in terms of spending.

Halloween spending is predicted to be up an amazing 18% this year, up to $6.9 billion from $5.8 billion last year. Although Christmas sales still dwarf Halloween at $400 billion in spending, sales are only predicted to increase at a rate of 2% this year. The change from when I was kid seems to be the increase in adult participation in the holiday. In the past, it was “uncool” to dress up past the age of 11. Now, people wear costumes beginning in infancy and basically never stop. Trips to the Haunted House and Halloween themed parties are also popular events for both children and adults. This year, 69% of Americans intend to participate in Halloween, a new record.

What does this all mean for social marketers? Clearly, Americans enjoy being able to escape from the worries of the recession and love getting to act like kids again. The possibilities for social are practically endless. The holiday can be further capitalized on through retailer-sponsored contests, Halloween related tweets, or blogs dedicated to tips for having the best Halloween party. An example might be a “The Spookiest House,” contest, where people could post photos of their decorated home in order to win a prize. There is also a big opportunity for pop-up stores that open only for the holiday to use social in order to promote stock and to get customers more involved. With an increase in adult participation, an increase in social seems only natural.

Margo Zuffante
Graduate IMC

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