Everyone knows the drill this time of year—knocking for bite-sized candy, picking out pumpkins, and planning costumes for the youngsters (or yourself).

Halloween has become so popular that it’s now the second largest commercial holiday. This means consumers are committed to celebrating Halloween—often spending all of October (and some of September) prepping for the big night. In fact, by the time September rolls around, shoppers have already spent about $530M on Halloween-related purchases. 

But this holiday isn’t just for avid trick-or-treaters and costume fanatics. It’s also a chance for food and beverage brands to stand out with limited-edition flavors and products. To give you a taste, we’ve selected a few brands that consistently capitalize on Halloween…

M&M’s Ghost Story

M&M took an interactive approach to a traditional treat. In the Millie & Max campaign, M&M built 30-second clips of animated characters walking through a house, trying to find the culprit of their opened bag of M&M’s. After watching the clip, viewers are given the chance to cast a vote and predict the outcome of the mystery. 

(Fun fact: M&M stands for Mars & Murrie – the co-creators).

M&M Campaign instagram

Why This Works

As an iconic, classic brand, M&M’s social campaigns are far from ordinary. With the build-your-own-adventure series, followers interact with the content and stay engaged with the brand.  

What’s more is that these campaigns give personality to an otherwise traditional brand. Where M&M candies might lack flair, their Halloween campaign and Instagram page bring a human element to the mix. For example, this Halloween, M&M’s is already setting a spooky mood with Costume 101 ideas and themed Instagram posts. 

Starbucks’ Creepy Concoctions 

From Dracula drinks to Zombie Frappuccinos, Starbucks has become a master at turning daytime drinks into Halloween must-haves. (Fun fact: you can still order the “Franken Frappuccino” off of Starbucks’ secret menu).

This year, the coffee chain expanded its foothold on the Halloween market by introducing a line of limited-edition reusable cups and mugs. This caused quite the buzz on social media, with brand loyalists clamoring to get their hands on the skeleton-adorned collection.

Starbucks halloween cups

Why This Works

Starbucks’ success with Halloween stems from the urgency around their offers. Festive drinks are available for a very short period of time, forcing patrons to take immediate action in order to get in on the fun.

User-generated content (UGC) also plays a big role in these campaigns. All of Starbucks’ limited-edition drinks are designed to be highly Instagrammable—boasting bright colors, mesmerizing swirls and unique toppings. Customers Instagram them before they even take a sip, proving the virality of the offer and stirring up FOMO in friends and family. 

Coca-Cola’s Freaky Fanta Experience

Coca-Cola’s Fanta line took experiential marketing to an entirely new level. With Fanta’s “Twisted Carnival” campaign, audiences were invited to visit the 13th floor at a few locations around Great Britain. Upon arrival, they were greeted with scary surprises that would get anyone talking (or screaming), such as frightening dolls and freaky ghouls.  

Coca Cola experience marketing halloween

To further the spooky experience, Fanta came out with limited-edition Halloween packaging with special QR codes on them. Once scanned, the cans gave users access to creepy Snapchat filters unlike any others available on the market.

Why This Works

By creating a unique experience for consumers, Fanta drew consumers closer to the brand, while creating a buzz around the events themselves. The unique nature of the campaign paired with the air of mystery around the carnivals was the perfect recipe for brand awareness.

While not everyone could attend the carnivals, Fanta made sure to supplement their experiential campaign with in-store treats. The limited-edition cans and QR codes gave everyone the ability to take part in the Halloween fun and share on social—further promoting the Fanta brand.

Conclusion

From limited-edition coffees to full-on horror shows, the food and beverage industry is well-versed in the art of marketing Halloween—always with digital at the forefront. As we move closer to the widespread adoption of 5G, it will be interesting to see how these campaigns evolve alongside new technologies.

In the meantime, I’ll sit and wait to see what the food industry has cooking up for Christmas… 

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