It's enough to give Santa a scare. The second most popular event for marketing activity, behind Christmas, is Halloween.
In terms of popularity and consumer spending, the period surrounding the Oct. 31 festivities now outstrips other holidays including Easter and Thanksgiving. Marketers are pushing Halloween with a fervor traditionally reserved for Christmas, virtually skipping over Labor Day and introducing products into stores even before the official end of summer.
The traditional Halloween merchandise market (including candy/mints, beer, soda and snacks) is worth $2.4 billion, according to Information Resources Inc. But other marketers are finding opportunities, too. Ad spending for major Halloween products totaled nearly $157 million from Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 1994, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Traditional Halloween marketers like greeting card companies are keenly aware of the increased interest in the fall celebration.
"Fifty percent of Americans will decorate for Halloween this year while the number is 80% for Christmas," said Steve Beall, a product manager at American Greetings.
Hallmark Cards, tracking the phenomenal growth of Halloween with customer surveys, has found that in 1989, one in four adults bought costumes for themselves, while in 1990 that figure jumped to one in three. And in '90, Halloween became the third most popular adult party occasion, behind New Year's Eve and the Super Bowl.
Hallmark has identified Halloween as the eighth largest card giving occasion, with 28.5 million cards expected to be sent this season, a company spokesman said.
Watts Wacker saw the rise of Halloween coming three years ago. The resident futurist for SRI International, Westport, Conn., predicted at the time that Halloween would turn out to be the second biggest holiday in the country.
"Arguably, I think it is now," Mr. Wacker says today. He believes Halloween has overtaken Easter because of modern America's penchant for all things more casual and less institutional.
"Americans live from occasion to occasion," he said. "We like to have fun. Our society is becoming more casual, so non-institutional and non-religious holidays like Halloween are perfect for us. We are creating holidays as a way to enjoy ourselves more often throughout the year. And Halloween is an intergenerational holiday that can be celebrated by both young and old. It appeals to everyone."
Mr. Wacker said marketers didn't create the surge in Halloween festivities but rather seized upon society's desire for casual fun involving both children and adults.
Jo-Ann Fabrics is one chain that has paid more marketing attention to Halloween as the event has grown in popularity. The chain began selling Halloween makeup and accessories seven years ago. When the products really started to sell, Jo-Ann added home and party decorations and ready-to-wear costumes.
Barb Semen, VP-marketing for Jo-Ann parent Fabri-Centers of America, said direct marketing comprises "the bulk of the company's ad budget." However, Jo-Ann Fabrics started running radio spots last Halloween. And this year the company replaced its radio ads with spots on local and cable TV in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Washington.
The ads, created in-house in conjunction with Liggett-Stashower, Cleveland, started running Oct. 1 and will continue through Oct. 21. Two print ads ran in USA Weekend and Parade on Oct. 8.
Some venerable brands are joining in the Halloween hoopla. Kellogg Co. this month is marketing Halloween Rice Krispies. The cereal comes in a mix of jack-o'-lantern orange, moonlight yellow and its usual white color; Halloween packaging features three holiday recipes.
Kellogg is backing the cereal with advertising as well as consumer and trade promotions. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is the agency of record.
At rival General Mills, the vampire-inspired Count Chocula "is hot during Halloween but then levels off for the rest of the year," said Barry Wegener, public relations manager.
The company heavily promotes the brand during the Halloween season, this year with a new TV spot from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, that began running early last month and will air through the end of October. Halloween packaging features 3-D images with glasses included in the box. The glasses can also be used to view the commercial.
After breakfast comes soda pop and beer.
In one of the more unusual tie-ins, Pepsi-Cola Co. is sponsoring the Haunted Happenings museum festival in Salem, Mass. The festival had no sponsors last year, but this year Pepsi is being joined by others including the Boston Herald and local radio stations.
The celebration, from Oct. 13 to 31, has been going strong now for 14 years. It includes tours of the Witch Museum, a Haunted Mansion and Dracula's Castle, as well as a children's parade, a witches' ball, a psychic fair and costume balls.
Sue Smith, director of Haunted Happenings, estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors would take part in Salem's festivities this year.
Brewers have been linking promotions to Halloween for years. For 1995, Coors Brewing Co.'s Coors Light again features TV horror personality Elvira in a promotion that includes the opportunity to contribute to St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
Stroh Brewery Co. is bringing back it's mummy, which will be featured in point of purchase for Old Milwaukee beer. And Anheuser-Busch is offering a "Bud Chilling" promotion featuring the Cryptkeeper who hosts TV's "Tales From the Crypt." A sweepstakes offers a chance to star in an episode of the series and 1,000 prizes including TVs and videos.
Miller Brewing Co. is offering a promotion tied to all its Miller brands called "Count on a Miller Halloween" with POP displays showing Dracula leaning out a castle window. Miller is cross-promoting with sister company Kraft Foods, offering a discount on Tombstone pizza.
American Greetings' Mr. Beall said the biggest growth associated with Halloween has been in home decorations and adult party accessories. American Greetings has been providing retailers with elaborate in-store displays since 1992. Children can literally walk into this year's display, "Frankie's Castle," which began appearing in stores after Labor Day.
The company's in-store promotions include the "Spooky Pail," which has been going on for about three years now. Customers who buy three cards or $5 in cards (whichever the retailer prefers) are given a pail to be used for trick or treating. "The first year of the promotion included a couple of thousand pails but it's really been growing, and last year we gave away tens of thousands," said Tim Franklin, director of sales and advertising. The only advertising done is newspaper circulars.
Halloween is candy marketers' most important selling season. Consumer spending on candy/mints last October was $744.4 million, up 9.7% from the same period in '93, according to IRI.
M&M/Mars is running a "Monster Match" contest on "fun-size" packaged candy. A puzzle inside the bag can be worth $25,000 and a trip to Universal Studios to the lucky entrant who solves it and responds to M&M/Mars. M&M/Mars is promoting the contest in a free standing insert dropping in the coming weeks.
Hershey Foods Corp. is gearing up for the holiday with promotions such as "Monster Smash 1995." The nation's No. 1 candy marketer is joining Pepsi and Frito-Lay's Doritos in their fifth year of the supermarket and convenience store promotion running from Sept. 18 through Nov. 4 and supported by national TV spots from BBDO Worldwide, New York, and radio from Tracy-Locke, Dallas, as well as POP.
"Monster Smash" offers customers $1 off two bags of Hershey candy products with the purchase of Pepsi products or Doritos.
Carolyn Foley, associate marketing manager for the Pepsi Brand Group, said that Pepsi saw the chance to tap into the growing popularity of the holiday five years ago.
"I'm glad we started this promotion early on," she said. "We saw there was a real opportunity out there. We really helped start the Halloween party craze."
And lest floral marketers be left out, Florists' Transworld Delivery is offering the Boo-quet.
"This branded arrangement has been growing in sales over the past few years," said Lou Nagy, VP-product and marketing for FTD. Mr. Nagy believes that sales growth of the Boo-quet can be attributed to the increase of baby boomers doing more in-home entertaining for this holiday. "Usually," he said, "they use our Boo-quet as a centerpiece."
Contributing to this story: Jeanne Whalen, Leah Haran and Ira Teinowitz.
Copyright October 1995 Crain Communications Inc.