Opinion: Should brands do more to cash in on the rising popularity of Halloween?

Taking a lead from the US, over the past decade, sales of Halloween-related merchandise have soared, meaning the festival is now the third biggest by value behind Christmas and Easter.


Cheryl Giovannoni, European president, Landor Associates

Halloween's history, according to my American colleagues, is rooted in All Hallows' Eve and the spirit world, and is also closely associated with harvest time. But as with many festivals and holidays, the origins and reasons for celebrating Halloween are nothing more than a sugar-rush-enhanced blur.

UK retailers heard the cash tills ringing in the US and, hey presto, we can't grow pumpkins quickly enough.

Halloween is now an annual fiendish fixture, with retailers encouraging parents to pile their trolleys high with calorie-laden candy featuring pictures of pumpkins, ghosts and ghouls. Must-haves include sparkly costumes, front-room decorations and a handy carving kit to create your pretty pumpkin prop - and £50 later, you are left wondering whether it was all worth it.

But let's face it, kids love the dressing up and trick-or-treating - and for brands that make it fun and relevant, this is an opportunity too good to be missed. Retailers who don't exploit the potential of Halloween are, without question, missing a trick.


Laura Haynes, Chairman, Appetite

As an American, I believe there are two holiday traditions in which everyone should partake - Halloween and Thanksgiving. I have celebrated both with friends and neighbours for the 30 years that I have lived in London.

The debate about the 'commercialisation' of Halloween has been going on in the US for years.

In my day, our parents helped us make costumes from sheets, old clothes, painted cardboard and make-up, all saved in the Halloween box year after year - not bought in the supermarket.

It was about children and local parties, homemade candied apples and hot chocolate - not bags and bags of 'Halloween-sized' chocolates.

I can understand people's distaste at the most blatant example of American overindulgence and commercialism being imported wholesale.

But it's fun and I'm glad to be in North America on business this Halloween and will be celebrating. And next month, I will order my annual fresh turkey from my local Waitrose for my Thanksgiving dinner.


Andrew Ground, Chief commercial officer, LoveFilm.com

Halloween has really grown since I was a child. Importing trick-or-treating from the US has given us all the excuse to dress up and take our kids round to the neighbours' houses. My children get hugely excited about what to wear, how to carve the pumpkin and who to go with. As a result, there is playground pressure on parents to host parties.

Despite this popular engagement, if you Google 'Halloween', the only big-name brands you will find are Argos, Littlewoods, eBay and Woolworths.

As always, though, entrepreneurs will fill in where the corporations leave a gap. For example, we enjoyed our pumpkin from Extremepumpkins.com. But we have not built our own Halloween graveyard (instructions on Halloweenideas.com).

Maybe that is how it ought to be.

If brands have nothing to add, they should resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon. Too many brands wasted money on 'me-too' activity in the World Cup. Brand managers felt they were being topical, but customers just saw a blur of footy.


Claire Harrison-Church, Communications director, Sainsbury's

Brits are set to spend a record £280m on Halloween, which represents a fantastic opportunity for retailers.

For Sainsbury's, it is of increasing importance as it keeps sales momentum going through the half-term holiday.

We have worked with our branded suppliers to ensure that we are ready for what is becoming the third big retail event outside of Easter and Christmas. By working with brands, we have found we can deliver a Halloween experience for our customers. An example is in-store activity including face-painting, spider-making and competitions that we have organised with Cadbury this year. Events such as these inspire customers to get involved.

We have doubled spend on 'theatre' for Halloween over the past few years, safe in the knowledge that our suppliers are working toward the same goals.

Brands that aren't engaged should assess whether they are missing a trick.


The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to inspiring bolder marketing leadership.


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