Halloween: A Marketing Opportunity

I am fascinated by the growing popularity of Halloween as a holiday in the U.S..  When I was a kid, Halloween was focused on trick-or-treating and informal parties.  In the past 20 years, it seems like Halloween has become a major holiday, so I went looking for some research about October 31.

The best sources of data I could find were from the National Retail Federation and Harris Poll.  Here is some information from a September 28, 2012 release about Halloween 2012:

The average American adult will spend $79.82 on Halloween-related items such as decorations, costumes, and candy this year, up 10% from $72.31 last year, according to data released in September by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGinsight. Total Halloween spending is expected to reach $8 billion, a healthy 16.6% increase from $6.86 billion last year.  This year’s per-person spend of $79.82 represents the highest figure since the NRF began the survey in 2005, when the average consumer planned to spend $48.48 on Halloween.

The 2012 spending forecast easily outstrips average spending per adult of $64.82 in pre-recession 2007. The survey also showed that 71.5% of adults plan to celebrate Halloween in 2012, up slightly from 2011. So more people are celebrating and they are spending more per person.

Even more fascinating statistics came from a Harris Poll in October 2011.  Christmas and Thanksgiving are the top two favorite holidays with American adults of all age groups and both genders. Halloween ranked third in popularity (ahead of Easter, Fourth of July, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc.) for Echo Boomers (age 18-34), Generation X (35-46) and women of all ages.

While the average spending and total spending for Halloween are lower than other holidays (Christmas $750 ($586 bn total), Mother’s Day $153 ($18.6 bn total), Easter $145 ($16 bn total), and Valentine’s Day $126 ($17.6 bn total)), the spending statistics for Halloween surprised me.  Given that other holidays usually entail bigger ticket items, the average and total spending on Halloween are pretty impressive.

So what does this mean for marketers?  Clearly, if you are targeting Echo Boomers, Generation X or women of any age, you need to consider Halloween tie-ins in your marketing efforts to these groups.  Since it is a holiday that is in their top three favorites, it would be a mistake to not at least think about how you can use Halloween themes and specials to generate attention, buzz and a share of wallet of these consumers’ Halloween spending.  Obviously, it is too late for this year, but it is something to keep in mind as you develop your 2013 marketing plans.

If you market your products and services to all age groups and men, your Halloween marketing will not be lost on these other demographics.  According to the same Harris Poll, Baby Boomers (47 – 65) and all men ranked Halloween fourth in their list of favorite holidays and Matures (66+) ranked it fifth.  So Halloween clearly enjoys popularity across age groups.

What makes Halloween additionally attractive is its timing in a, ahem, “dead” part of the calendar.  Falling well after back-to-school and weeks before the year-end holidays, it has little competition for consumers’ attention and spending.

With its popularity and the increased spending on the holiday, Halloween has specific appeal for consumer products/services companies.  Effectively tapping into these trends could boost your sales and scare the heck out of your competitors.

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