BY ALEXIS EYRE
HEAD OF MARKETING, FIVE BY FIVE
With Halloween just around the corner, confectionery brands are gearing up to make the most of it. Because the spookiest day of the year isn’t just about kids anymore – October 31st is being reclaimed by Gen Z and millennials, who now approach All Hallow’s Eve with the same enthusiasm as they do Christmas or Easter. A survey commissioned by Cit Bank of 2017’s celebrations revealed that millennials spend up to twice as much as any other generation in the lead-up to the 31st, with over a quarter of each consumer’s average spend going on confectionery alone.
This demographic shift offers confectionery brands a unique opportunity to launch products that will target what’s essentially a captive audience. However, many miss the mark – special packaging or limited-edition branding no longer cuts it. There’s just too much choice. Brands need to cut through the noise with a blood-curdling scream – several have done this by way of immersive communications.
Although not a launch as such, Mars is one of the strongest recent examples of Halloween-linked creativity, last year teaming up with Fox to produce four ‘Bite-Size Horror’ films. The shorts promoted Skittles, M&Ms, Starburst and Snickers, helmed by up-and-coming horror directors and aired across Fox networks throughout October. The films generated huge social media engagement and were later screened at the Cannes International Series Festival.
This move showed Mars capitalising on a millennial and Gen Z audience of digital natives, with four of the five goodies featured in the films squeezing into America’s top ten Halloween sweets. But most confectionery brands fail to drain the blood of this opportunity, leaving other sectors to suck up the spoils.
Budweiser is falling out of millennial favour, so sought to build affinity over something they love: Halloween. The beer launched a pop-up shop last year, dubbing itself ‘King of Fears’ and offering ‘Bloodweiser’ on tap. These kinds of activations from established brands always perform well, which begs the question: why on earth aren’t confectionery brands investing more time, effort and money on launching brand new products into the market around the 31st?
No one brand owns Halloween in the way John Lewis does Christmas, or Cadbury dominates Easter. There’s so much room to get creative, but a lot of confectionery brands just seem content with slapping some skeletons on the packaging and washing their hands of it. Is green slime oozing from a Creme Egg honestly the best this sector can do?
Christians traditionally abstained from meat on Halloween, so why a vegetarian or vegan confectionery brand hasn’t taken this and ran with it is a complete mystery. Meat/dairy free is a huge deal for the millennial market – almost half of UK vegans are under 34 years old – so why not dive into that? Make an occasion of it?
Premium free-from brands like Booja Booja and Ombar stand to gain the most, given that luscious, ‘fancy’ confectionery like Lindt always does well when anchored to a seasonal event. Again, this is about establishing Halloween as more than a tacky kids’ thing – it’s a time when people get together and have a lot of fun. Like Christmas and Easter, it deserves to be afforded the same amount of pedigree by confectionery brands, otherwise they’re going to completely lose this market.
When you think about it, Halloween is the perfect launch marketing opportunity. Its sensationalist nature gives confectionery brands the chance to be over-the-top as they please, to reach out and launch genuinely different products. It’s a short-lived window of release, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘just one day’ – people often hold parties on the weekend if it falls on a weekday. And most importantly, no brand currently owns this area. By exploiting this, confectionery brands can leverage the excitement generated by Halloween and carve their names into the market’s squishy orange flesh.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019