8 Trends That Will Shape Your Halloween Marketing

8 BIG Halloween Trends You Need to Know to Shape and Target Your Social Media Marketing This Halloween

Let the Halloween shopping begin!

As you read this post, the people who are planning to celebrate Halloween 2018 (there are about 179 million of them, by the way) are already knee-deep into their Halloween preparations. So, I suppose the more appropo greeting would be, “Let the Halloween marketing begin!”

The U.S. is one of only three countries where Halloween festivities are a big deal. The other two are Canada and Ireland. Even still, in 2017, Halloween sales were expected to reach $9.1 billion, up from $8.4 billion in 2016.

Last year, the average person planned to spend $86.13 on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations. Not bad. To put this in perspective, the average family spends $5 per person celebrating Thanksgiving Day and about $75 celebrating the Fourth of July. So, as far as spending goes, Halloween is a mid-range retail holiday.

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By the time September 1st rolls around every year, shoppers have already spent about $500M on Halloween-related purchases. Interestingly enough, people are shopping pretty early for Halloween stuff. The number of Halloween celebrants shopping earlier in the season has gone up 11 percent since 2013.

That means, Back-to-School, Labor Day, Halloween, and holiday shopping now officially overlap every year.

6.4 percent of celebrants start shopping for Halloween stuff before September ever arrives. Another 29.9 percent shop in the month of September.

Of course, that means, 63.7 percent of the people who plan to celebrate Halloween don’t even start their shopping until October…


Right now, they’re planning, Pinning, bookmarking, saving, Liking, Following, “tutorialing” and budgeting. So, it’s the perfect time to roll out your Halloween social media campaign.


Here’s What’s Changing for Halloween

The world’s spookiest retail event is growing, but it’s also evolving in some really important ways. We’ve put together a list of the things we see in the data that are shifting in this space. Plus, tips on how you can leverage this info to help you better target your Halloween marketing campaigns.


Trend #1: Candy sales are slowing

As you would probably expect, two of the most popular categories for Halloween spending are candy and costumes, both of which are fueled, in large part by trick-or-treaters. According to the Halloween Industry Association, 95 percent of Halloween celebrants plan to buy candy to celebrate, 72 percent will spend money on decorations, 69 percent are planning to buy costumes, and 37 percent of Halloweeners plan to pick out Halloween cards.

Candy is the most popular item people will buy for Halloween. Halloween candy sales are expected to hover between $2.7 billion and $3 billion (or about $16.45 per person). But spending on costumes trumps candy spending by 25 percent.

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As it relates to Halloween festivities, candy sales are up, but slowing, and there are a number of important factors contributing to this change. First, trick-or-treating is steadily declining. In 2016, only 29.7 percent of celebrants planned to go trick-or-treating - the lowest participation rate in recent history.

Family-friendly alternatives to trick-or-treating are cropping up all over the place. Halloween festivals are on the rise, stores are participating in community events (I talk more about that later), churches are opening harvest festivities to the surrounding community. Plus, the overall trend toward going for holiday experiences over just grabbing handfuls of candy are all factors that impact this popular Halloween tradition.


Nutrition is also factoring into trick-or-treating. Parents today are more concerned about limiting the consumption of gluten, nuts and sugar for their kids.

Older Halloweeners are further solidifying the “experiences” trend for Halloween by throwing costume parties and participating in fashion shows to display their costumes. And let’s face it - experiences like fashion shows and parties make for more engaging social media posts than trick-or-treating.


The move away from centering Halloween festivities around trick-or-treating gives brands and marketers room to create experiences or sponsor local events. Makeup brands can work with MUAs with a knack for #halloweenmakeuplooks to teach parents and teens how to add depth to their costume ideas with Halloween makeup.

Source: Instagram    @neoniaartist

Source: Instagram @neoniaartist

Skincare brands can partner with influencers who create Halloween looks and provide them samples of wipes, moisturizers or cleansing scrubs that the influencer can test to figure out which products are best to use for which types of makeup removal. After a long night of partying, being able to remove makeup quickly and completely matters.

If you’re interested in getting to smaller children and parents, supplying local stores with branded, reusable canvas bags strong enough to hold treats on the big night and shopping trips for mom after Halloween can get your name in front of parents.

The goal is to go where the people are before and during Halloween festivities, and find creative ways to show your audience just how useful your products are. 


Trend #2: People are spending more on costumes... but home decor isn't far behind

Interestingly enough, even though more people are planning to spend money on decorations than on costumes, Halloween costume expenditures make up the largest share of Halloween spending, with $3.4 billion in revenue in 2017.

That’s more than one-third of total Halloween spending! And costumes aren’t even the most popular category for Halloween spending.

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Decorations tie with candy for Halloween spending, generating $2.7 billion in purchases for streamers, ghoulish cardboard cutouts, plastic cauldrons, dangling skeletons, perpetually hissing black cats and a ton of other creepily creative Halloween home decor ideas.

Finally, Halloween greeting cards (which I didn’t even recognize as a thing until just now) will bring in $410 million this season.


And the cup just makes this cooler. Source:  Brit Morin  on Pinterest

And the cup just makes this cooler. Source: Brit Morin on Pinterest

Halloween home decor can be subtle or it can be more obviously Halloween-inspired. There are sub-schemes within the broader Halloween color scheme, meaning decorators aren’t limited to using the traditional orange, black and purple color palette to create Halloweeny looks.

Focus on creating a cool design first and foremost. Companies that sell home goods, crafts, used items, furniture, or interior design services can think about finding ways to integrate your products into really cool interior design ideas instead of trying to design around your product.  

Good example: The pic to the right prominently features the Boo mug, though the room design could easily be the focus on this post. The design elements in this post are what get the picture shared. Not the mug. Though, I will admit I love the mug.

Keep things simple. Think about coming up with ideas that will allow customers to transition their interior design from Halloween to Thanksgiving without completely revamping their home.

Source inspiration from existing content You don't have to reinvent the wheel, here. Big brands are not above recreating existing looks and adding their spin to the look. 

The pins below are from Target's Halloween Pinterest board and Pottery Barn's board.  The overall design is very similar between the two pics. But the nuances in which accent pieces are used make the difference. 

Pottery Barn and Target recreated the same design idea with their own products. Which do you like better?

Pottery Barn and Target recreated the same design idea with their own products. Which do you like better?


Trend #3: Pet Costumes

Pet costumes account for 10 percent of total spending on Halloween costumes. In 2016, owners spent $420 million on Halloween costumes for their pets. That’s because 16 percent of the people surveyed admitted (that’s the correct word for that, right?) they’re going to dress-up their pets to celebrate Halloween.



The pet industry is notoriously bulletproof. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. households have companion pets - dogs, cats, birds, and/or horses. There is an opportunity here for marketers to zero in the focus for this Halloween on the furry friends who are considered members of every two in five households in America.

Create Pet - Owner Experiences. Marketers can do that by sponsoring live or virtual pet costume contests or fashion shows, or pet-person costume contests. Create a branded hashtag or use an existing one like #doghalloween (20,753 posts to date) or #doghalloweencostume (13,521 posts to date) to get the contest found. Partner with influencers who prominently feature their dogs or work with pet influencers to spread the word about your event. 

An easy voting system would be having users comment or double-tap to vote on the winner. . The comments and double taps will help  you to boost engagement and provide one metric for determining the success of your campaign.


Grabbed this pic of Zulie the Siberian Husky (the sushi) and “Momma” (the Kikkomani soy sauce) from Instagram @zuliethehusky

Trend #4: Halloween IS for Grown-Ups

If you happen to be someone who is fascinated with the story of Halloween, you know Halloween didn’t start off as a day for kids to hang out, eat candy, and let sugar highs fuel their madness. I’ll skip the weird Halloween backstory and just tell you that in 2018 Millennials are big on Halloween. Of all the adults who get dragged out on Halloween to beg strangers for sweets, Millennials are one group who may be doing it willingly. Without the kids.

According to the National Retail Federation, Millennials ages 21 to about 35 spend about 40 percent more on their costumes than other adults, $42.39 compared with $31.03. Millennials are also more likely than other adults to celebrate Halloween. Chances are pretty good Millennials are bringing their A-games to the Halloween bash because for good or for bad, pics of them will inevitably end up on social media.



Go back to basics - SEO. A great Halloween costume is worth its weight in Likes, shares, and retweets. But for Millennials and Gen Z partiers, there’s got to be a little innovation in play as well. That usually means they are planning well in advance and sourcing ideas on social media instead of store racks.

When it was prom time a few year s ago, my daughter didn't go inside a single store for her prom ensemble. Stores are trendy and they carry the same stuff. Instead, she sourced everything online and bought about half her accessories directly from China. It took over a month for her to get everything in the mail. 

That's typical. More than 35 percent of Halloween shoppers will source inspiration from online searches, compared to the 30 percent that will go in-store to find ideas. That means your content strategy has to get you found by search engines for popular search terms like…

  • Halloween costume ideas (enormous number of monthly searches for this one with very little competition, comparatively)

  • Halloween costume ideas for couples (another big one)

  • DIY Halloween costume ideas

  • Creative Halloween costume ideas

  • Halloween costume ideas for groups (another surprisingly big one)

Reach women on Pinterest and men on YouTube. Social media also plays a key role in how Gen Z and Millennial shoppers source their ideas. According to the National Retail Federation, adults ages 28.4 percent of adults 18 - 34 turn to Pinterest for ideas, and 23.3 percent turn to YouTube for costume ideas.

Women are more than twice as likely to go to Pinterest than men, and men are more likely than women to default to YouTube. That said, Pinterest is an invaluable tool for sourcing inspiration for looks of all kinds. Even if your team does most of its targeting on Facebook and Instagram, adding Pinterest to your arsenal will only help you. Repurpose your existing content for Pinterest, YouTube, and IGTV. 

Source:  Statista

Source: Statista


Trend #5: Pop Culture Costumes

Coincident with Millennials taking ownership of Halloween is a trend toward sourcing costume inspiration from pop culture. TV character costumes, Halloween meme costumes, and celebrity costumes are on the rise. Overall, 17 percent of those polled said pop culture would inspire their costumes. For older Gen Zers and younger Millennials who fall in the age range of 18 - 24, that number was 34 percent - one in three young adults say pop culture will inspire their costumes. 


Stay relevant. The first tip is to stay relevant by keeping up on trends. And a simple way to do this is with Twitter and Instagram. A 10-minute review of both platforms once a day will do wonders for you marketing strategies. If your team is able to push out content in hours instead of days, you can capitalize on trends in real time.

Use what you already have. The next tip is to use what you have. The Internet went sorta nuts last year when a 2016 lecture at Getty Museum entitled Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of Game of Thrones was mentioned in an article on Apartment Therapy that revealed Ikea rugs are used as capes on the popular HBO show Game of Thrones. Of course, Ikea released its own official instructions for recreating the GoT look with a pretty funny sketch. 

The news increased online searches of Ikea’s SKOLD rug by 775 percent.

Ikea's lo-fi instruction manual for converting their rug into a GoT cape.

Ikea's lo-fi instruction manual for converting their rug into a GoT cape.


Trend #6: Grocery Stores are the New Front Porch

So, did anyone else have to take their candy to the police station to be scanned by the officers growing up, or was it just me? I remember the fun I had as a kid dressing up and trick-or-treating. I also remember CAREFULLY EATING candies that cleared the scan (not all did) hoping Daddy and his cop buddies got all the bad ones out.  That may have a lot to do with why my family doesn’t do trick-or-treating now. As a parent, the idea of handing my toddlers a piece of “some guy’s candy” is… umm… not really optimal.

Last Halloween, I was in no hurry to get home after picking the kids up from school. I didn't want to spend my night ignoring the doorbell. So my kids and I stopped off for a few groceries before heading home. I was surprised to discovered Halloween had been moved inside the grocery store - in the produce section.

We spent more than two hours in my local Kroger decorating cookies, collecting treats, and playing games. My teenager hung out with friends from school who were working as ghosts and operating games. My toddlers - though not in costumes like the other kids - got to “go fish” in the produce section… unfortunately they traded their fruit for candy.

My desire to avoid Halloween unwittingly put me smack dab in the middle of a community Halloween party.


And it’s not just my neighborhood. More and more, retailers are becoming the community Halloween hubs because yeah, it’s hard to uphold the “stranger danger” message when Halloween is so awesome for kids.


Be the hub (or at least be the drinks at the hub). Create family-friendly experiences that parents (like me) can use to distract their kids from the fact that their friends are trick-or-treating. Usually, it’s not that kids want so badly to go; it’s more they want to do something fun.

Your Halloween festivities can be the fun thing they look forward to this year. Marketers can use this time to not only build goodwill in their communities, but to introduce parents to new products like gummy vitamins, sauces, salad mixes, hand wipes, and snack ideas. Let families test the products for free at your event and you will get in front of parents who are happy to add your product to their weekly or monthly shopping lists.

Trend #7: Gender Neutral Costumes

Of the $3.4 billion spent on Halloween costumes last year, $1.17 billion of that was specifically for children’s costumes. But for the past two years, the focus for both boys and girls has been on superhero costumes, relegating the former top costume choice of a princess to second place on the list of kids’ costumes.

The trend toward gender neutral costumes pushes against the idea of traditionally girl or boy costumes. And it’s not really about girls wearing costumes intended for boys. It’s more about there being more female heroes from which to choose.

My toddler the day I surprised her by taking her to a store with Marvel gear. Look at her feet. I snapped this in the one second she wasn't darting around the store, losing her mind.

My toddler the day I surprised her by taking her to a store with Marvel gear. Look at her feet. I snapped this in the one second she wasn't darting around the store, losing her mind.

Gal Gadot kicked butt as Wonder Woman (as did Lynda Carter in the 70s). Supergirl begins its fourth season on The CW this fall. You can’t deny the strength and cunning of the Dora Milaje, the all-female guard that protects the leader of Wakanda in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the eight top-grossing superhero movies of all time all have strong female supers and enhanced humans like Black Widow and Elastigirl fighting side-by-side with the men.

Were I to venture a best guess at the costume my preschooler would pick in a perfect world, I would say Colonel Nick Fury (not sure why she likes him so much), Megamind (again, what?), Minions, Thanos (she sees his point), the Black Panther, Batman and Captain America’s shield.

Yeah. Just the shield. So…

She’s no unicorn. For the past few years, it’s been superhero costumes that have been the top sellers for kids, regardless of age or gender



Make yourself useful. You can win loyal fans and generate content that gets shared with parents who support gender neutral costumes (and who often can’t find what they’re looking for) by retweeting, regramming, and repinning helpful posts to help parents find what they're looking for. If you can, create content that gives parents simple DIY instructions for customizing Halloween costumes for the best fit, look, and experience for their kids.

Trend #8: Haunted Houses

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Remember when haunted houses were literally a 4-person cart zigzagging on a rickety track through the detached container of a 18-wheeler? I do.

Today, the haunted house industry is… well, an industry. I want to tread lightly here, as the haunted attraction industry is still formalizing despite its explosive growth, and it’s not easy to find up-to-date stats.

Back in 2013, NBC News reported Americans spent around $7 billion celebrating Halloween. At that time, there were 2,500 haunted attractions around the world, most of which were in the United States. The haunted house industry was generating $300 million a year in revenue then. Since then, overall Halloween sales have grown by 30 percent, and Halloween participation is up 11 percent.  It makes sense to assume the haunted attraction market has experienced growth as well.

Erebus in Pontiac, MI (just north of Detroit) is a seasonal haunted attraction with a half-mile walk-through. Look at that line! --Source:  Crain's Detroit Business

Erebus in Pontiac, MI (just north of Detroit) is a seasonal haunted attraction with a half-mile walk-through. Look at that line! --Source: Crain's Detroit Business


Listverse estimates there are now 2,700 haunted attractions in the U.S. alone, and as many as 4,000 haunted attractions worldwide. In the U.S. 22.7% of the 179 million people planning to celebrate Halloween are also planning to visit a haunted attraction. That’s 40 million people. The averaged haunted attraction costs between $15 and $30 per person, with theme parks charging as much as $100 per person.

I would estimate today, the haunted industry rakes in close to $1 billion a year, which HauntedWorld.com backs up. Here’s a great quote I grabbed from Listverse.

There are more haunted houses in the United States than Targets.

Isn’t that quite possibly the most devilish thing you’ve heard today?



Target North America and Asia. Haunted attractions have been labeled a 100 percent American export, with the fastest-growing market for haunted attractions outside the U.S. to be the Asian market.

Makeup artists are important to the haunt industry. As well, the rise of computer-generated graphics in Hollywood movies means makeup artists who would otherwise be creating horrifying looks are now being replaced by or supplemented with CG graphics. That means there's an opportunity here for makeup artists who specialize in film makeup and horror makeup to offer their services - at least on a part-time basis - to haunted attractions to help create different looks.

Look into extreme haunts and year-round scare attractions. The emergence of year-round extreme haunts and offshoots of haunted attractions like haunted hayrides, zombie paintball, escape rooms, and virtual haunted houses are on the rise.

Look at the demographics of patrons. The science behind haunted attractions is that they provide a way for people to be downright terrified and to legitimately feel threatened but have an “out” so to speak. Haunted attractions are a great way to be afraid and in a safe place at the same time.

Haunts appeal to both men and women, but men are 24 percent more likely to visit a haunted house than women. As well, most visitors are the 18 to 34 crowd. Thirty-six percent of 18 to 24 year-olds and 31.8% of 25 to 34 year-olds plan to attend haunted houses. On the flip side, that percentage slides down in the teens for people 45 to 54 years old (19.6 percent) and into the single digits for the 55 and over crowd.

Find sponsorship and partner opportunities. Corporate backing and sponsorships of haunted attractions is on the rise. Melissa Cardone’s Ten Thirty One Productions creates spooky hayrides and other haunted events in both Los Angeles and New York. Cardone got a $2 million investment (for a 20 percent stake in her company) from Mark Cuban during her Shark Tank pitch in 2013.

Two million bucks may not be your thing, but drink startups may consider striking a deal with haunt production companies to provide energy drinks, soda, water or novelty foods. Smaller brands could target local haunts to provide novelty items, screen printed apparel, or partner programs that provide discounts for haunted house patrons who visit their establishment within the same day.

This Week’s Big Wrap-Up Isn’t Really That Scary

The big takeaway here is that people are loosening their hold on candy and trick-or-treating as the be all, end all of Halloween. This current evolution of Halloween means there’s room for brands to dream up family friend experiences… or horrifying ones. Depends on your brand and your demographic.

The goal isn't to sell people, but to find ways to position your products as ways to enhance the thrills people are already seeking for Halloween. Help them make Halloween memorable and they will remember you.

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The one thing that is consistent throughout all eight of the trends we talked about here is that the experience you create has to be grand enough, interesting enough, and unique enough to make it into your customer’s Instagram feed. That’s the ultimate goal.


Are you working with influencers yet?

Well, do you want to?

Heads up! The summer fun is afoot, and that means a couple of things: First, it’s the summer travel season, but it’s also the time for back-to-school shopping. And if you’re not on top of this, you’re going to miss the boat. The Shelf is an influencer marketing platform that takes away the guesswork. With our patent-pending ROI-prediction reports, you’ll be able to understand exactly who’s representing your brand and whether or not your collaboration with them will pay off. Contact us if you want to make a ton of money from your marketing efforts.

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