Don't Be Afraid To Embrace The Potential Of Halloween

Last Halloween, at about 10 p.m., some "trick-or-treaters" rang my doorbell. When my wife and I answered with our bowl of candy, I was dumbstruck by four teenagers standing on my stoop with pillow cases, none of whom made any real attempt to dress up (I think one wore a clown nose). One of the kids standing at the back of the group uttered the words "trick or treat" as a lit cigarette hung from his mouth. Assuming, my house would get egged or my pumpkins smashed if I didn't comply, I handed over the remaining candy, turned out the lights and shut 'er down for the night.

The experience had me wondering about how today's youth celebrate Halloween. The more I looked into it, the more I realized how much fun there is to be had out there. Youth marketers should know that Halloween for college students is always a bull market, and for a very small amount of time each year, they need look no further than the local haunts if they want to reach this demographic.

College Parties College kids don't need a reason to party. Halloween on campus means house parties with crappy cover bands, kegs of cheap beer, and dressing up like a character from a Will Ferrell movie. Just off campus, you'll find local watering holes with costume contests, dancing, and drink specials at ghoulish prices. Cities like Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Chicago also have Zombie pub crawls where participants dress up like zombies, meet at a local park, and then proceed to shuffle from bar to bar. If I owned a taxi company, my drivers would be dressed up in rented hearses offering zombie discounts and a safe drive home.



LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) Remember those dudes in college who would rather go out to the woods to play D&D than watch Saturday's big game? Well, maybe they were onto something. Role playing is gaining ground in a big way, and it isn't just for dorks anymore. College students are participating and, if you ask me, providing a great opportunity for companies to join in the fun. Just check out the immense popularity of Zombies vs. Humans. This is an elaborate game of tag created by students at Goucher College, where one group of students (zombies) tries to tag other non-infected students (humans) who defend themselves with rolled-up pairs of socks or Nerf dart guns. I can think of a dozen brands right now that could supply some swag for this game.

Seasonal Attractions Halloween brings out the kid in all of us, and teens today are in search of something fun they can do with a group of friends. Companies should look at partnering up with hayride operations, local ghost tours, and kitchy haunted houses. These seasonal businesses count on teens to get the through the month, so I'd bet most would be very excited to have a corporate sponsor supply the hot cider or glow sticks.

Paranormal Investigating Playing ghost buster is not just for the hardcore haunting enthusiast anymore. Television shows like A&E's "Paranormal State" and "Ghost Hunters" on SyFy have helped fuel the interest of paranormal investigating among the general public and today's youth. Ghost Hunting 101? Don't count it out. Although many don't advertise it, some colleges like Duke, Princeton, and the University of Arizona offer courses that focus on parapsychology and paranormal studies. Don't expect to see gaussmeters or thermal scanners in college bookstores anytime soon, though. Local paranormal investigation groups are popping up in cities all over the U.S., including schools like Columbia College. Hoosier State Paranormal  is an Indiana-based research group made of college students that investigates paranormal activity for people all over.

Movie Watching Looking for teenagers on a Friday or Saturday night this fall? Try the movies. The Halloween season is when the dark side of Hollywood gets to shine. Movie theaters across the U.S. will entertain millions of college students looking for a cheap thrill. This years' surprise film is "Paranormal Activity," and it's seeing "Blair Witch"-like success. College kids are flocking to see it, and the massive online buzz it has achieved has marketers taking notes. There's a hot horror flick just about every year, so plan ahead for next year and think about getting your brand behind one of these films with hosted campus screenings, sponsored movie-watching parties, or some cinema advertising.

4 comments about "Don't Be Afraid To Embrace The Potential Of Halloween ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Victoria Oldham from Trade Winds Advertising Inc, October 16, 2009 at 12:54 p.m.

    Excellent article... so many good opportunities for marketers here. Cracked me up reading the opening...the kid with the cigarette saying, "trick or treat," like right out of some National Lampoon movie. Too funny!

  2. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine, October 16, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.

    This is great - but more than just teens love Halloween. My 15 year old is now a foot taller than me and hasn't gone out in about 3 years - I really miss it - so I (only half kiddingly) proposed that this year, I put on a head to toe costume and when we go to doors, I could be the one in front and he could tell people I'm his little brother! Halloween is the only day of the year when so many people come out of their houses, actually set foot on their neighbors doorsteps and are generally happy and friendly. Hey didn't that used to be Chiristmas?

  3. paul myers, October 19, 2009 at 4:01 p.m.

    Halloween represents a huge opportunity for any brand to reach the teen/young adult market. Our partner's Halloween-themed attractions will have attendance of over 1 million teens/young adults on a national basis this year.

    These attractions present a unique opportunity for brands to get in on the action while enjoying category exclusivity with traffic building overlays that target the valuable teen/young adult audience with no competing messages.

  4. Jennifer Luna from The List, October 23, 2009 at 12:25 p.m.

    Awesome article Jason! Made me think of another group that celebrates Halloween in a BIG way - the gays! The gay community not only loves Halloween (costumes, gender-bending dress-up, parades, parties, drinking, etc) but they are also a demographic with tremendous buying power. If anyone has been to bars that cater to the gay community on Halloween, then you would agree that no one celebrates the holiday in a bigger way than this demographic.

Next story loading loading..