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How the top 3 marketing tricks of 2020 can make Halloween a treat

By Lisa Hurst, evp, marketing and strategy

September 24, 2020 | 6 min read

Upshot Agency’s Lisa Hurst talks us through some of her favorite marketing campaigns of 2020, explaining the tricks that can be taken from them and how they can help make Halloween a treat.


Let’s face it, this will be the strangest Halloween in history. Families are concerned about balancing fun and safety. So how do we tackle this challenge? With marketing of course. Here are three of the year’s best marketing ideas for inspiration.

1. Bring Halloween into the home with a hub

Inspiration from Walmart’s ‘Camp by Walmart’.

While a mask may be inherently distancing friendly, chances are kids won’t be popping up at strangers’ doorsteps or bobbing for apples at a school sponsored event this year. But fear not! You can still downsize the party while upsizing the fun by offering consumers a digital home Halloween hub that they can turn to for activities, recipes, games and a panoply of inspiration.

Take Walmart’s ’Camp by Walmart’ virtual experience, for example. It delivered an at-home summer camp experience by providing challenges, crafts, tutorials and other activities for the whole family. Unlike most summer camps, going digital meant Drew Barrymore and LeBron James could be your camp counselors.

If a hub can successfully convert the home into a summer camp, there’s no reason it couldn’t transform it into a haunted house or the perfect setup for a thrilling whodunnit, complete with group costume tips. Furthermore, a hub brimming with ideas and themes helps expand Halloween to the whole season and not just one day. Candy all month!

Current example:

And that is exactly what Ferrero, the second largest chocolate and confectionery company in the world, plans to do. Beginning on October 1, its ’31 Days of Halloween’ campaign will share out-of-the-box DIY projects, initiatives and holiday recipes that anyone can do from their home, hoping to expand and keep the Halloween spirit thriving.

2. Sponsor socially distanced Halloween events, even if it’s in a parking lot

Inspiration from Häagen-Dazs’s ‘Cinema Sur L‘Eau‘.

Brands can creatively curate events that organically lend themselves to safety measures, rather than sponsoring events that feel scaled back to account for the pandemic – which can make the holiday feel deflated or eerie (and not in the fantastical, fun Halloween way, either). How about horror movie night?

Consider Häagen-Dazs’s ‘Cinema Sur L‘Eau‘ (Cinema on the Water) in Paris this July. A float-in theater! What better way to socially and aquatically distance attendees than with a fleet of tiny electric boats on the Seine? A touch more exciting than using tape on the floor. And sure, not every event set-up will contain a world-renowned, gorgeous body of water, but other landscapes, as well as games and inventive premises, may lend themselves to a perfectly spooky sponsored event that’s distanced yet delightful.

Do you know what Walmart has a-plenty? Parking lots. So that’s what it utilized to host drive-in theaters this summer. By offering curbside pick-up for snacks, as well as car-side concessions, moviegoers shared in a communal yet cozy experience.

Distancing friendly events also provide the opportunity to make what could’ve been perceived as a massive, cookie-cutter experience feel ultra-personalized. While others may be somewhat near attendees in proximity, distancing inherently makes people feel that something is happening just to them. Find ways to capitalize on this with nuance, emphasizing that personalization and uniqueness rather than making attendees feel solitary.

Current example:

Super League Gaming – a global leader in competitive video gaming and esports entertainment – has launched a virtual Halloween experience. Its ’Minehut Halloween Spooktacular’ will feature a custom designed escape room, a haunted house and mazes. It will also feature community virtual events built entirely in Minecraft, such as pumpkin carving and even trick or treating, allowing kids to safely experience all the festivities Halloween has to offer.

3. Mystify the mundane with AR

Inspiration from Burger King’s ’Tiny Tinie Performs Whoppa on a Whopper’.

This has been augmented reality‘s time to shine. AR ignites our sense of discovery and imagination via our ever-present smartphones. For example, in the UK, Burger King used AR this year to put a tiny rapper, Tinie Tempeh, on a Whopper to perform his song Whoppa. Yes, you read that correctly. Burger King put on the most intimate gig of 2020 by transforming a mere burger into a stage. AR took fast food wrappers to a whole new level… dimension, even!

Imagine what else brands could do to shake things up a bit! That living room in which we’ve been lazily streaming hours of reality TV? Turns out it’s haunted! That sidewalk we mosey down every day for a little mail retrieval outing to spice up our afternoons? Crawling in spiders! Even our own faces can transform before our eyes with AR magic. (Eek!)

Current example:

Constellation Brands, the third-largest beer company in the United States, is leaning into AR during the holidays. It has revamped its packaging for both Victoria and Modelo beer with a Day of the Dead theme. Once purchased, consumers can scan the QR code on the packaging and watch their beer bottles come to life with spooky AR graphics and visuals.

Brands have an opportunity to take inspiration from these nimble but imaginative responses to 2020’s challenging environment. Consider how your brand can excite the ghouls, goblins, tiny Avengers, teen witches and all the other revelers in search of a safe but creative and escapist Halloween this year.

Lisa Hurst is the executive vice-president of marketing and strategy at Upshot Agency.

Burger King Walmart Augmented Reality

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