Halloween has come and gone on Oct.31, with the trick or treating done for another year.
At the mention of Halloween, one would normally think of a festive event filled with people dressed in various kinds of costumes, candies being handed out to those trick-or-treating and a myriad of jack-o-lanterns lined up lighting up the houses and streets.
The first documented use of the term Halloween was during the 16th century. A Scottish variant of the phrase "All Hallows' Eve," the festival is usually linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, in which it was believed that spirits from the supernatural realm could travel into the land of the living. Both friendly and evil spirits mingled with the living, therefore costumes were worn to ward off the harmful ones.
Putting the historical aside away, it is interesting to learn how Halloween has become something as big as it is today. How did this yearly celebration, which happens on Oct. 31 every year, become such a celebrated festival in America and in other parts of the world?
Frankly said, Halloween is about much more than just candy, with people dressing up like their favourite characters. This festival is a profit-driven business. How could a superficial ritual develop successfully into a business? Intense branding enforcement is the answer.
Business is one of the driving points that can be linked to this phenomenon. Surprisingly, during Halloween the candy industry rakes in an average of US$2.2 billion (S$2.7 billion) annually. Americans spend an estimated US$6 billion on Halloween decorations, costumes and candy annually according to the National Retail Federation, making it one of the most commercial American holidays of the year. Who would've thought?
Halloween is a playground, not only for the community but also for corporate brands. As a medium, Halloween offers brands an opportunity to raise awareness and to promote themselves. Brands that benefit the most from this concept are those with existing brand mascots, as mascots are usually colorful and vibrant, making it easier for the public to recognise and remember their products. Burger King and M&M are among the brands that have taken advantage of this opportunity by licensing their rights to mass produce their brand with Halloween costumes.
So it can be said that the concept of combining a costume with a brand is not totally new, however, Halloween provides a field to expand this particular idea to new levels. Simply creating awareness does not necessarily guarantee an increase in brand loyalty. One major benefit of Halloween costumes is that they are not worn by paid actors, instead by ordinary people; therefore, it is not seen as another marketing effort by a company. This is what we call sublime advertising.
Brands who take part in promoting Halloween festivities are committed to building an everlasting fun and quirky image of the ritual. Thus, these brands help the Halloween brand develop its equity. We, unconsciously, are attracted to it and succumb to the allure of the Halloween celebration, ultimately consuming the products associated with the event, e.g. candies, drinks, costumes, party supplies, stationary, etc.
Consumers of today rely quite heavily on the opinions of others, especially friends and family, thus endorsing a brand via Halloween costumes can have an immense effect on their buying habits. As they decide to dress up as their favourite brand mascot, unconsciously they are building brand affinity toward that particular brand. This mutually beneficial relationship between a mascot brand and the Halloween brand is what keeps Halloween alive in our hearts. What used to be a simple American ritual, has now become a world tradition and a platform for business activities.
This is the power of branding: from simple unimportant festival to worldwide annual sensation. Branding can change anything as long as there is a consistent and continuous message. In this case, Halloween is endorsed by everyone in the world who wants to celebrate the festivities and the brands who promote the event. Over the years, this branding enforcement has become stronger and the Halloween brand has become more influential.
Kevin Suryadharma is senior brand consultant and Jensen Drawan is brand consultant at DM IDHOLLAND.