Be afraid, be very afraid (or maybe not): why you should take advantage of Halloween and other holidays


I have to admit that the Halloween holiday passes me by almost unnoticed every year. Apart from my cynical “What’s the point,” reaction, I see it as just another opportunity for companies to make more money – especially off the already-pressured parents of kids who want this opportunity to collect sweets. It falls into the same category as Mother’s, Father’s and Grandparent’s Days, Secretaries’ and Bosses Days, Valentine’s Day and many others.

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And boy, is it profitable! There are no figures for South Africa, but this particular holiday is worth $7 billion in the USA. That’s 70 billion rand! The biggest beneficiaries are, of course, sweet companies, followed closely by decorations, make-up, and costumes, (think life-sized skeletons, rubber masks, face paint, cloaks, plastic stick-on warts and gory stab wounds, and fake Dracula teeth.) Millions of people will buy greeting cards and attend Halloween parties. And, of course, DStv will show hours and hours of re-runs of every horror and spooky movie ever made.
Now you may –like my children – be thinking, “Oh here he goes again, the grumpy old Aki who likes spoiling our fun,” but you would be wrong. You see, when we look at Halloween and other special days from a marketing perspective, there are a few nice lessons that all businesses can learn:

It’s about having fun
The most important is the fact that – out of nothing – these businesses have created a fun experience that allows people to enjoy themselves. Any excuse for a bit of a laugh, and it really doesn’t cost a lot to organise. Your business may not be able to be as specific about this holiday, but there must be something that you can arrange in order to celebrate.

Every month there is something, and this year Halloween follows Heritage Day, where I saw lots of staff come in to work dressed in their national costumes. At one Spar, the Greek owner came dressed as — you guessed it — the Greek Soldier with white kilt, long white stockings, a fez on his head and red pom-poms on his shoes. The staff enjoyed it, but the customers adored it.

Being part of the group
It creates a sense of community, of belonging. When everyone else around you looks as silly as you do, it breaks down barriers between us, and it’s comforting to know that there are millions of other people out there doing exactly the same. (My wife and I once went to a charity ball dressed in fancy dress – but nobody else did. It turned out that we had misunderstood the invitation, but the potentially most-embarrassing-moment-in-my-life turned out fine.

One man took off his tie and tied it around his head, another took his shirt out of his pants and tied his hankie as a “doek”, a woman replaced her sexy high heels with an old pair of running shoes in her car boot, and almost everyone got into the spirit of things by doing something totally ridiculous. The next year the charity ball was declared to be a fancy dress party.)

There’s money to be made
From the company’s perspective, it is very profitable. We all know that De Beers is responsible for one of the biggest trickeries in many centuries, for it is they that just a few decades ago persuaded the world’s population that “Diamonds are Forever,” and that every man who asks a woman to marry him has to produce a diamond ring, however small. Between the three peaks of Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween, sweet and confectionary companies generate vast amounts of money and great returns for shareholders – without their customers even thinking about complaining.

There is nothing to fear as Halloween nears. It’s a treat all investors enjoy, but it can also create a fun and memorable experience for your customers.

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