Scare tactics: winning moments and mindsets at Halloween

Halloween is upon us, and with it comes a monstrous opportunity for consumer-packaged goods (CPG) brands of all kinds.

While sweets and confectionery might be the first thing that springs to mind, though, All Hallows’ Eve means much more to shoppers than just grabbing goodies to give out to trick-or-treating boys and ghouls. So, from mindsets and moments through to some useful customer insights – and with apologies in advance for the puns – let’s take a look at how to make it a fang-tastic Halloween (sorry).


From autumnal delights to pumpkin-spiced frights


In Europe and North America, where Halloween is most widely celebrated, the change in seasons drives a similar shift in shopper behaviours. As the temperature drops, being warm and cosy quickly becomes the priority, which puts a renewed emphasis on home cooking. Pies, roasts, curries, soups, and baking tend to be the focus, making it a perfect time for relevant brands to provide inspiration in the shape of sponsored recipes and cooking hacks.

It's not all about food, either. Comfort goes beyond the dinner table, and many shoppers will also be thinking about sprucing up their home and investing in indoor activities. Candles, blankets, board games, books, and seasonal decorations all start flying off the shelves at this time of year too.

(Super)naturally, though, it’s the very end of the month that serves as the centre of attention for most. October 31st isn’t just a big event for kids, but for families and younger shoppers too, with many either hosting or attending themed events and parties. In fact, almost half (43%) of young shoppers in the UK say they’ll be dropping in to a Halloween party this year. That presents a range of themes that savvy brands can tap into, including:

  • Devilish drinks

From bloody martinis and Frankenstein’s punch through to moonrise mocktails and horrifying hot chocolates, themed drinks typically go down a treat at a monster bash. That means opportunity galore for any brand that plays in the beverage space – and that isn’t just limited to alcohol; people go to Halloween parties for much more than the boos, after all. 

  • Fiendish foods

Halloween and gross-out food ideas go hand-in-hand. Blood-spattered biscuits, anyone? Bat-wing tacos? Or how about a severed-finger sausage roll? Fun recipes call for plenty of different ingredients, many of which might not be regular basket-adds for the majority. That again gives savvy CPGs the opportunity to tap into the mood of the moment and deliver demon-strable sales results.


Tuesday terror, or weekend weirdness?


This year, Halloween falls on that most terrifying of occasions: a Tuesday. With the exception of a few horror diehards, that means that most people will bring their celebrations forward to the weekend of the 28th and 29th. If you’re planning a last-minute ad campaign to add some bite to your sales, the trick is to make sure that you don’t miss out on that crucial early weekend.

In the (likely) event that you’ve already got this year’s marketing activity wrapped up like Boris Karloff, then it’s always worth looking ahead to 2024. Next year, Halloween will fall on a Thursday, which puts it much closer to that weekend sweet spot. Even then, it’s likely that most people will opt to host parties and do the neighbourhood rounds the weekend before: there’s something just not quite right about Halloween celebrations in November, after all.


Alarmingly affordable and eerily easy: what shoppers want


These are strange times for shoppers. In one recent dunnhumby study, for instance, we found that the prolonged cost of living crisis was beginning to have a negative impact on mental wellbeing. What’s more, in addition to cutbacks on discretionary items like confectionary and snacks, we saw people having to make difficult choices in core categories like dairy, fruit and veg, and meat, fish, and poultry, as well.

Naturally, these conditions hardly lend themselves to reckless Halloween spending, and it’s important to consider the overarching pressures when planning for the spooky season. Other, separate pieces of research[1] reveal that around half (46%) of customers will be looking out for Halloween promotions and sticking to a budget, for instance. That makes pre-shop influences all the more important for those brands that want to end up in the basket.

While finances may be tight, it’s not all doom and gloom, however. A third (32%) say that they’re planning to make a special trip to purchase Halloween-related items, with a quarter (25%) focusing on new products. With much of that spend likely to be happening in-store, the impactful displays that typify this time of year will be vital for capturing that already piqued attention.

The final thing to bear in mind about shoppers at this time of year is that most of them appreciate convenience. Two-thirds (66%) say that they like it when all Halloween products can be found in one place, which means that it’s important to get your goods into those all-encompassing event locations both online and in-store. By doing so, you’ll maximise the chances of them ending up in a customer’s basket.

As noted above, with this post being published so close to Halloween, it’s unlikely that these pointers will be particularly useful for this year. That said – and with the exception of that note about finances – these are relatively universal truths that should continue to apply in 12 months’ time.


Setting up for spooktacular success


One last thought on all things Halloween: don’t forget that customers actively choose to celebrate it. As a result, they are already primed and are likely to be highly receptive to the right brands. With a good blend of store presence, retail media activity, and a creative approach to moments and mindsets, October 31st and the weeks leading up to it should be something to shout – not scream – about.



[1] IGD Research; 1st and 2nd March’23. Base: 329 UK shoppers & IGD ShopperVista; Mar’22 Base: 212

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