Trick or treat? 2016’s most successful Halloween campaigns

Burger King's spooky McDonald's prank

With Halloween now ranked third among the biggest retail events of the year, it comes as no surprise that while people were busy putting together their costumes, global brands such as Tesco, Airbnb and Burger King were perfecting marketing campaigns for this year’s festive season.

Although Halloween was predicted to have a record-breaking 171m Americans celebrating, amounting to a total $8.4bn spend, it is no longer just a US celebration. In fact, data from Verdict predicted that yesterday saw the UK retail spend mark hitting £472m – which is up from £460m in 2015 and £442m in 2014.

But which marketing campaign had consumers talking the most this spooky season?

The most humorous: Burger King

When it came to social media, Burger King was one of the brands to come out on top this Halloween. According to our media intelligence data, more than 51,042 conversations discussed Burger King’s dig at its rival, McDonald’s. Last week, a Burger King restaurant dressed up as ‘the ghost of McDonald’s’, by covering itself in a massive white sheet alongside a sign stating “Booooooo! Just kidding, we still flame grill our burgers. Happy Halloween.”

It appears that mocking the competition is an age-old theme among major brands looking to stage a joke for the holiday. Soft drink giant PepsiCo executed a similar Halloween stunt a few years ago, releasing promotional images of its cans draped in Coca-Cola capes. The tagline on the campaign read, “We wish you a scary Halloween!”

The most interactive: Airbnb

According to the data pulled using Meltwater’s social media monitoring tool, there were also more than 4,964 conversations on social media discussing Airbnb’s Halloween campaign.

The community-driven, hospitality giant couldn’t resist a campaign that allowed guests the chance to spend the night in Dracula’s Castle. Hosted by Dacre Stoker, the great grandnephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker, the competition winners received a night’s stay at Bran Castle in Transylvania on Halloween itself.

The competition, which Airbnb shared on their Twitter account was retweeted 100+ times and received 300 likes since being posted on October 17th.

The most charitable: Tesco

Forget about killer clowns and ghosts this year. With as many as 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins being thrown away each year after Halloween, Tesco decided to set up 10 ‘pumpkin rescue stations’ across north London to save pumpkins from going to waste. Of course, this isn’t a traditional method of marketing from Tesco, but the retailer’s goodwill CSR efforts are likely to score it top publicity points.

With 58.4% of overall Tesco Halloween conversations showing a positive sentiment, it seems to be a tactic that is going some way to combat the negative brand image Tesco had less than 12 months ago.

So, how can other brands learn from Halloween 2016?

Businesses not only need to be planning ahead, but thinking outside the box and doing something a little unexpected to wow their audience and draw attention to their brand.

Looking at the social success of the three campaigns, Burger King chose to inject humour into its efforts and just enough shock factor to get consumers talking, without being overtly offensive, which in turn made it this year’s most successful marketing campaign.

With a witty campaign, brands only need to tickle a few social media influencers who will then share the content far and wide.

Heidi Myers is director of Marketing EMEA at Meltwater

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