Halloween has become more than costume contests and candy devouring. It is now an important seasonal marketing opportunity for brands to increase their awareness and resonance with consumers.
Growing up in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I ditched my plastic pumpkin for a pillowcase to get my Halloween candy stash. Victory during my pre-teen years, it seems, meant having the heaviest pillowcase full of goodies. Now, three years out of college, living in NYC and world traveled, I’ve taken my intellectual curiosity beyond trick-or-treating gluttony to question the rationale behind Halloween marketing campaigns.
Just the other day, I approached a cash register at a local Chipotle and caught the word “Boorito” on a sign next to it. And the copy beneath the headline read: “This Halloween come into any Chipotle dressed in costume from 4pm to close, and you’ll score a burrito, bowl, salad, or order of tacos for just $3.” I’ve never associated a holiday full of pumpkins and chocolate with guacamole and fajitas, but sure, everyone loves a discount. Plus, all of the proceeds on Halloween (up to $1,000,000) benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, “a non-profit organization established by Chipotle Mexican Grill to continue and strengthen its philanthropic efforts,” which, according to the company website, “helps fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming, culinary education, and innovation that promotes better food.”
The name of this campaign (Boorito) is simple, brilliant and effective; the cause behind it is even better. But when I step back and think about the audience, who is Chipotle really trying to target? Parents who will bring in their kids after school? Millennials headed to a party? Supporters of Chipotle Cultivate? In my view, Chipotle may simply be attempting to throw its hat into the Halloween ring and capitalize on a seasonal marketing opportunity. While the occasion may not call for a burrito, Chipotle is backing the effort in collaboration with its nonprofit foundation, creating a perfectly balanced and executed promotional campaign.
Menscience, a men’s grooming, skin and nutrition retail store in Soho is also banking on the holiday. A window display draped in cobwebs, spiders and pumpkins gives life to the illuminated “Menscience” signage and below it, in a green slime-like font is the tagline “Get Masked!” This is less an ode to Halloween and more a call to action for its in-store facial revitalization capabilities. Since when does men’s grooming go hand-in-hand with Halloween? These days, any holiday is an opportunity to make an extra buck.
Both of these Halloween branding efforts are unique and impactful in nature, but make me wonder about their ulterior motives. Are they in it to create an additional revenue stream, or attempting merely to stay relevant in the marketplace?
The methods in which companies communicate have drastically changed since my candy-by-pillowcase days. Social media has forced brands to stay agile and create their own unique voice in the marketplace. Chipotle and Menscience are but two examples that reflect the current state (and challenges) of branding. If companies can extend their message to suit a particular holiday, you can be sure they’re going to seize the day and do just that. I’m all for holiday spirit, especially when it leads to creative branding, and believe this is only the beginning for out-of-category brands attempting to capitalize on a marketing opportunity. The more the merrier! (Oops, wrong holiday.)