Ready to get your spook on? Here at Sook, we're big Halloween fans, and really enjoy watching the high street to see what brands are doing to build experiences around one of the funnest (totally a word) events in the retail calendar.
Traditionally a big American holiday, Halloween is steadily becoming a big deal here too, and likely to become as mainstream and culturally important as a high school Prom is now.
And, of course, with that importance comes massive spending. D. Tighe is a research expert specialising in online and offline shopping attitudes, who has found a huge appetite for all things spooky, creepy, hilarious and fun on this side of the pond:
“Halloween keeps on luring more and more people towards its festive and spooky spirit in the United Kingdom: since 2013, UK consumer spending for Halloween products has more than doubled. In 2021, spending sat at a comfortable estimate of over £600 million.”
But, even though going all out to give local children nightmares is probably the most worthwhile thing you can do on a weeknight, Halloween isn’t the only opportunity to do something a little differently and attract some consumer eyeballs to your brand. Aside from retailers' favourite Easter and Christmas, there are 80+ awareness days in the UK calendar, plus other, longer-running awareness events such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Mental Health Awareness Week.
Awareness days (or weeks/months) are often set up by businesses and charities to highlight a health condition whilst others aim to bring communities together and highlight something for the common good. There’s pretty much a day for everything, through culture, charity, travel and education, to health, fashion, food and pets. Each one is a chance to piggyback on the wave of activity that surrounds it, and turn it into some awareness of your own.
How can I use awareness days in my marketing?
We spoke to Tamsin Glass, a former senior merchandiser at Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, and who now runs her own gallery in the South West. She says, “In sales, you’re always looking for the next thing to help you engage with your audience, and tapping into culture is absolutely essential. With the powerhouse that is social media, showing your enthusiasm or allegiance to big holidays, or national and international awareness days has never been easier, and they’re worth working into your strategy when planning your retail activity”.
Here are Tamsin’s top tips for seizing the (brand awareness) day…
Get your marketing calendar together
Tamsin says: “I’m a big fan of spontaneity, but save yourself the stress of throwing everything together at the last minute and put a plan together. I’m talking about a marketing calendar plotting all your activity out. Halloween activity needs to start, at the latest, in the 2nd week of October, depending on your business, of course.
Once you’ve started inputting, you’ll be able to see how long you’ve got to plan (at Selfidges, we start planning our windows four months before we execute), and whether there are any clashes with your other activity, or other events in the world’s calendar that would mean your efforts go to waste. For example, don’t schedule a speed dating event on the same night as the World Cup final!
Tap into behaviour
“There is often a more human, emotional side to awareness days, and if you can hit on that you’ll really resonate with your audience. For example, National No Smoking Day is about quitting smoking, sure, but what goes on around the topic? People giving up smoking can experience symptoms of stress or increased hunger. If you show you can understand the struggle, then you’re onto a winner.
Think about what people will be doing as a result of the awareness day or holiday - will they be getting together with family? Feasting? Giving gifts? Halloween is a good time for neighbourhood get-togethers and old-school games. A little research into behaviour and trends will help you design your themes, or adapt your product lines to offer something relevant.”
Find a theme
“Halloween is obvious… or is it? When you’re first starting out in creative merchandising, it’s completely acceptable to keep it simple until you’ve grown in confidence, so don’t over-complicate. An easy way to maintain focus is to give your merchandising a theme, or campaign thought. Some events come with a ready set of symbolism, such as Halloween pumpkins and witches etc, and if you’re activating around awareness days, you’ll already have a starting point, so start there.
For Halloween, there’s the traditional colour scheme you could go with - ornge, black and purple - and all the spooky visual cues that are everywhere, or you could think outside the box and tell a ‘story’, such as ‘Life After Death’, or ‘Spell Workshop’...see what you feel fits with your brand and audience.”
Tamsin adds: “Bear in mind that potentially everyone will be jumping on the same visual bandwagon, which I always try to take a lateral leap to give displays some standout. Don’t feel like there are rules to what you put in your displays, and going against the grain can often draw the consumer’s eye.
Keep it relevant
“Less is more! It can be tempting to try and hit every awareness day, but ask yourself if they’re genuinely a good fit for you and your brand. If you’re a fashion brand, do you have the right to wade in on health awareness issues, and vice versa?
Make sure that you can comfortably link what you offer to the awareness event. For example, if you’re selling organic fresh juices, get onboard with Naked Gardening Day (yes, that’s a thing!) to talk about the importance of natural, organic growing. You can have fun with your interpretation, but it has to make sense at a basic level.
If you activate too many, you also run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and diluting your brand. Make sure you’re leaving enough room in your marketing calendar to get your brand message out there too - it’s important that your audience are clear on what your brand offers, outside of being aligned with multiple causes.”
Join the conversation
“Planning your marketing around big events and awareness days is brilliant because you can use the collective momentum to your advantage, so make sure you’re using the official hashtags, and engage with the movement on socials, and in any printed media. If you’re running competitions, or have got any shareable elements to your campaign, make sure that people know how to tag so your visibility is optimised.”