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Posted on Fri 1st Nov, 2013 in: Influence, Uncategorized by Aberfield

Not an actual person this week. Nor an animal (it's been known). Instead, I'm naming the small Minnesota town of Anoka my Influencer of the Week. You might not have heard of Anoka - I hadn't until this week - but you'll sure as hell have heard of Halloween. The link is that Anoka is the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World", because it hosted one of the first Halloween parades in 1920. So we've you to thank / blame (delete as appropriate) for the phenomenon, have we Anoka? Stating the obvious but just how MASSIVE is it these days? I swear every single tweet I saw yesterday had a Halloween related hashtag or pun in it, Facebook has never seen so many pumpkin-carving show offs, and Instagram's #scaryselfies went into overdrive. Apparently spooky season led to over 4m posts on social, with parties and promos top in UK and pumpkins and pets hot topics in the US. Greggs next door has been screaming 'scary sausage rolls' from its shop window for weeks (not quite sure what's scarier than the normal ones) and putting 'ghoulish' yellowy green icing on its buns instead of the usual white. Walking home from work last night I must've passed at least 20 zombies, and this photo of a fancy dress casualty from the night before made me laugh this morning (we've all been there!). halloween

Not only is it now one of the retail highlights of the year (behind Christmas and maybe Valentine's Day), it's a cauldron of PR stunts and activity. Covering the White House in giant black spiders, webs and pumpkins was pretty impressive - perhaps not as media-worthy as Michelle Obama's racy leopard costume, though. Pepsi dressing its canned drink in a Coca Cola cape was also a talking point. Kellogg's 'haunted' vending machine dished out free Rice Krispie 'Scares', an experiential stunt which saw a ghostly hand grab anyone hoping fora free snack. Then there was the usual survey stuff gaining column inches - the most successful one naming our very own Leeds as a trick or treating hotspot.

And who can forget ASDA's blunder earlier in the month. Its controversial mental patient Halloween costume sparked outrage from mental health charities, medical professionals and the public, forcing them to recall the costume, make a public apology and give a sizeable donation to charity. Our obsession with Halloween has grown dramatically in recent years, and I'd like to think good old PR piggybacking has played a significant part in making it the occasion it is today. Halloween-related spend in 2002 was a mere £12 million - in 2010 it was up to nearly £300 million. That's equivalent of more than one per cent of our overall GDP. Be interesting to see how much that's gone up this year. Using my trick or treat sweets bowl last night as a barometer, I'd say quite a lot. Fancy dress retailers, food and drink brands, bars, nightclubs and Greggs - you can thank us (and Anoka) later ;).  

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