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Alternative Halloween Experiences Connect Brands & Parents

October 19, 2020 Erin Sweeney

While traditional activities and events like indoor costume parties and door-to-door trick or treating are being discouraged by the CDC, a recent National Retail Federation (NRF) survey shows that 58% of consumers plan to engage in Halloween in some way. “Retailers are prepared to meet the increased demand for seasonal décor, costumes and other items that allow families the opportunity to observe Halloween safely,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. As such, retailers including Lowes, Home Depot, Target, CVS and Walmart are presenting parents with unique ways to position Halloween fun to their kids. 

Lowes Offers Alternative Trick-or-Treating

lowe's trick or treating halloween

This year, Lowes is offering a safer alternative to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating with drive-through, curbside trick-or-treating at all of its stores. Building on the popularity of their curbside pick-up program, consumers can register online to drive through their local Lowes parking lot for candy and child-sized pumpkins. Lowes profits spiked during the pandemic as people began spending more time at home, and the company is looking to give back. Joe McFarland, Lowe's executive vice president of stores, said in a press release, "Our associates take great pride in serving our communities, and as we all find new ways to safely celebrate the holiday, we look forward to welcoming families to our drive-through, curbside trick-or-treating events this year." In addition to giving treats to kids, Lowes is encouraging consumers to celebrate National First Responders Day on Oct. 28 by carving pumpkins with messages of gratitude for heroes on the front lines of the pandemic and by sharing photos on social media using #BuildThanks

The Home Depot Wins Home Decorating Dollars

The Home Depot is focused on offering a vast inventory of indoor and outdoor Halloween decor this year to help customers set the scene for Halloween at-home activities. Partnering with influencer Haunt Former, The Home Depot hosted a scary movie style virtual store tour to market their wide selection of decorations and animatronics to those who may be shopping online this Halloween. The Home Depot campaign immediately caught the attention of other major brands like Budweiser, Natural Light, Slim Jim, Sour Patch Kids and Oreos who featured The Home Depot’s 12-foot tall skeleton in their social media content. When the 12-foot tall skeleton from The Home Depot sold out on October 1st, the company posted a picture on Twitter of the skeleton’s glowing eyes with the message “MFW [my face when] The Home Depot runs out of 12-foot skeleton.” 

The go-to location for do-it-yourselfers, The Home Depot website is targeting audiences with useful and engaging seasonal website content that includes how-to guides on everything from creating creepy, creative home projects like coffin centerpieces to building a Halloween candy holder for contactless trick-or-treating.  

Target Boo Bags Help Provide Candy & Kindness

target halloween boo bags

Target is providing inspiration for alternatives to trick-or-treating this year with their boo bag collection. The Target “random acts of eek!” campaign encourages kindness and builds on Target’s partnership with Magnolia Home stars Chip and Joanna Gaines who have carried out random acts of kindness in their stores. The boo bag collection includes goody bags, baskets and buckets, with a special teal colored bucket that signifies allergy friendly treats, and a wide variety of candy, snacks and toys to stuff the boo bags and buckets with. 

Target’s Halloween marketing messaging encourages recipients to pass on the kindness with door hangers that read “You’ve Been Booed” or “We’ve Been Booed” to show that the family is participating in the fun. To get customers hooked on booing with Target boo bags, the retailer is giving out free starter kits to its curbside pickup shoppers. 

CVS Partners With Hershey’s & UPS For Long-Distance Sweet Boos

CVS is partnering with Hershey’s for its own version of the boo bag. The pharmacy is giving each shopper a free boo bag treat container with purchase while supplies last, pledging to distribute one million boo bags this Halloween. Like Target’s “random acts of eek!,” CVS is encouraging families to surprise friends with bags of treats and then asking recipients to pay it forward.

With 5,600 UPS Access Point locations within CVS stores nationwide, the retailer is increasing the range of booing, providing shoppers with the shipping supplies and UPS delivery drop-off points to send their boo bags beyond the local neighborhood. And, in addition to Hershey’s candy, CVS is suggesting consumers stuff their boo bags with Hallmark Halloween cards “to help family and friends stay connected while being apart,” states a Candy Industry press release. 

The pharmacy’s marketing is equal parts safety and spooky fun this year. On Twitter and Facebook, CVS posted, “This year, not wearing a mask is the really scary choice. Check out our spooky mask collection just in time for the big night.” CVS is also offering resources to help families make informed decisions this Halloween season, including a color-coded COVID risk level map, provided by the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Walmart Offers Interactive Halloween Activities

To appeal to their pandemic fatigued customers and help families celebrate safely, Walmart is offering two alternative Halloween programs this year.

Shutterstock_1539015713 San Diego, CA/USA - October 22 2019: The exterior of a Walmart around Halloween season.

The first is Halloween Camp, an extension of Walmart’s successful 2020 summer camp program. Developed through a partnership with CAMP, a family experience company, and eko, a video platform, Walmart’s Halloween Camp features a series of interactive videos with actor Neil Patrick Harris in which customers can discover family-friendly games, learn how to make spooky projects and get decorating tips and tricks. Tom Fishman, general manager of consumer apps at eko, said, “Families continue to need to find ways to stay engaged and entertained as they hunker down at home. Our Halloween refresh of Camp by Walmart provides a fun, safe and personalized experience for them to do just that.”

Walmart stores in select locations will also decorate their parking lots to create “spooky street” drive-through trick-or-treat events that are contact-free and socially distanced. The company’s press release states, “kids and their parents are invited to dress up – the season’s most popular costumes are available at Walmart – and head to Walmart for these free Halloween events.” Individual Walmart stores will announce their event details on Walmart’s Facebook and Twitter social media channels. 

Innovative Campaigns Help Brands Connect With Consumers No Matter How Consumer Behaviors Shift

Even though Halloween in 2020 will be a different experience than years past, the holiday is still an opportunity for brands to engage with target audiences. A September NRF survey predicted that overall Halloween spending will be down slightly with a drop in participation due to the difficulty of maintaining social distancing in many traditional Halloween celebrations. However, consumers who love Halloween may be spending more to make the holiday memorable and safe, with individual spending projected to rise to $92.12 on average compared with $86.27 in 2019. Early sales figures are supporting NRF projections with U.S. sales of Halloween candy up 13% compared to last year, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association

Many top retailers are creating Halloween family fun to connect with families at a time when consumers are demanding more support from brands. Providing a wide range of products and activities can help retailers build loyalty and establish lasting relationships with consumers. 

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About the Author

Erin Sweeney

Erin Sweeney is a freelance writer and professional educator. Throughout her 12 years of experience in secondary education, she has taught advanced composition, business communications and research methodology. Erin has a keen interest in psychology and the science of motivation. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from Saint Anselm College and a Master’s in Education from Plymouth State University. Through research and writing, Erin contributes to DMS Insights with informative articles surrounding the digital and performance marketing industries.

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