Oct 25, 2017

How to Build Strong Halloween Ads With Emotion

by Karrie Lucero
Holiday Marketing

As Halloween grows closer, you may have started to notice local businesses growing increasingly spookier in both their in-store displays and advertising strategies.

For many businesses, holidays are a great opportunity to engage consumers in a marketing campaign. Now that the leaves are changing and temperatures are dropping, you’ll definitely see an increase in Halloween ads.

Creating a successful holiday marketing strategy is somewhat of an art form. The best ads combine the holiday spirit with strong visuals and emotion to connect with consumers. In fact, October is the ideal holiday marketing month (not just for Halloween), with nearly 40 percent of consumers kicking off their holiday shopping.

Halloween Marketing Isn’t Just for Candy

Halloween is one of the most successful marketing holidays for businesses. In fact, this year candy, costumes, decor and other Halloween-themed products are expected to bring in a whopping $9.1 billion in consumer spending, nearly 9 percent more than in 2016.

Like most successful marketing, holiday campaigns excel when they use one thing–emotion. Halloween is often considered a spooky time of year, filled with fear, horror, guts and gore, but this doesn’t mean your campaign content has to leave consumers screaming. Instead, you can knock their socks off with humor, happiness and nostalgia.


Emotions in Advertising

One of the most successful marketing tactics is utilizing emotion that connects with consumers. Emotion is one thing all people have in common, and it makes your marketing and advertising content more relatable.

Emotion is successful in marketing because consumers respond more to it than logic and reason. Why? Simply because it doesn’t appear as obvious as a direct ad that is trying to persuade you to buy something. In fact, many studies show that when it comes to making buying decisions, consumers rely more on emotion than information, logic and reasoning.

According to HubSpot, these are the most frequently used emotions in marketing:


Happy ads usually contain content that induces smiling, laughter and positivity. Most of the time, these ads create a feel-good association with the brand, product or service that is being promoted. In a 2010 study, the New York Times found that articles that focused on a positive subject were shared more than negative ones. The same can be said for happy content.


Another emotion that has grown in popularity is sadness. Sadness can sometimes tied in with regret and loss in, but more often than not, it is combined with a story of inspiration and hope. These ads can sometimes induce tears and often shows imagery that tugs at your heartstrings. This emotion creates inspiration for change and hope for better that becomes associated with brand, product or service being promoted.


In any situation where fear is present, it creates an urgency for action to increase our chance of survival. When fear is used in advertising, it is often meant to prevent consumers from doing something. Fear is a popular tactic in public service announcements (PSA) such as those aiming to prevent smoking and drunk driving. Often these ads induce fear and unease that is associated with the product or service marketers want consumers to avoid. 


Anger is often thought of as a touchy emotion that shouldn’t be used in your advertising. However, when anger is used correctly, it can bring new issues to light and encourage people to act. Often this imagery shows injustice, which is meant to bring about feelings of disgust and frustration. A recent study by imgur.com found that when negative photos contained an element of surprise and anticipation, they were more likely to go viral


Another emotion that is often overlooked in marketing is nostalgia. This tactic has proven to be extremely successful with consumers, especially Millennials, but it has been known to work with all generations. Nostalgia could be considered a subcategory of happiness because it induces feelings of happy memories of the past. Either way, it is one of the most successful emotions in advertising.


Taking Advantage of October Holiday Ads

October is a prime month for developing holiday campaigns. As the first full month of autumn, it’s a natural segue into holiday marketing, starting with Halloween ads. Most October holiday advertising is centered around Halloween, incorporating slightly spooky and playful content.

After Halloween, many ads transition to preparing consumers for their holiday shopping. Holidays are one of the best times to grow and nurture customer relationships because consumers are looking to buy.

This is why it’s also important to begin working on your holiday campaigns prior to the holiday season. October is one month before Black Friday and two months before Christmas, so it’s important to start preparing and planning ASAP.

Brands That Have Nailed Emotion in Halloween Ads

As a brand, it can be difficult to channel a variety of emotions in your marketing strategies throughout the year. With Halloween growing nearer, it’s the perfect opportunity to ease your way into the holiday marketing season through emotion.

However, it’s important to note, that Halloween doesn’t mean your ad has to be spooky or scary. Many ads that are directed towards fall and autumn in general are also very successful. To give you some inspiration, here are some brands that mastered emotion in their Halloween ads.

1. Dunkin’ Donuts

Emotion: Happy

Promotion: Costume Contest, Seasonal product changes

Marketing Channel: Social Media–Instagram 

Dunkin’ Donuts has a reputation for running Instagram contests around Halloween. This year, they’ve launched a campaign asking Dunkin’ customers to join the Halloween celebrations by dressing up in Dunkin’ Donuts-themed costumes.

As part of the contest, customers are encouraged to post their costume photos using the hashtag #DDCostumeContest. The winning costume will be featured on the Dunkin’ Donuts Times Square Billboard in NYC, $2,500 and a year’s supply of coffee.

Alongside the contest, Dunkin’ has also renamed several of donut selections to reflect the spooky season, including boston scream, ghoulish glazed, spider and spooky sprinkles donuts.

2. Reese’s

Emotion: Happy (humor)

Promotion: seasonal product release

Marketing channel: TV commercials

Have a Perfect Halloween campaign: 

Reese’s is a brand that consistently use holidays to engage with customers and promote their delicious peanut butter cups. The company has released several Halloween ads throughout the years that use a playful mixture of humor and spookiness.

In addition, Reese’s has created large following of their seasonal release candies. Each Easter, Halloween and Christmas, Reese’s releases seasonal peanut butter pumpkins, eggs and trees in addition to their classic cups. In fact, many fans argue that the seasonal cups taste better than the original!

3. Mars Candy Bars

Emotion: Fear

Promotion: Skittles, Starburst, M&Ms and Snickers

Marketing Channel: 2-minute short film TV commercials

Horror movies are typically associated with Halloween; however, they don’t usually have to do with candy. This year, Mars candy brands are stepping away from the traditional television ad and teaming up with Fox and up-and-coming horror film directors to produce two-minute “bite-size” horror films.

What makes these horror films different is that they don’t contain any candy product placement. Rather, they simply have a short statement before each film that indicates which Mars candy brand is sponsoring the short film. If there’s one thing these shorts will promote, it’s hanging onto your candy because you’ll be seriously spooked.

4. Krispy Kreme

Emotion: Happy (Humor/Inspiration)

Promotion: Pumpkin Spice and Halloween Donuts

Marketing Channel: Social Media (Instagram)

Like Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme is hoping to draw in consumers with some spooky sweet treats. In a recent social media post, the brand posted a photo of pumpkin spice donuts on Instagram using the hashtag #FridayNightSpice to promote the Friday the 13th release.

As Halloween has grown closer, Krispy Kreme debuted their Halloween-themed donuts with a video on social media. The commercial explains how Krispy Kreme rose from the ashes to overcome those who doubted the need for Halloween donuts and earn the brand #TreatCred, which is the theme for the Halloween ads.

5. Chipotle Mexican Grill

Emotion: Happy

Promotion: $3 Booritos

Marketing Channel: Social Media (Twitter)


For several years, Chipotle’s Halloween Boorito has become a tradition customers love and look forward to each autumn. This year, the Boorito promotion, which offers a $3 burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos to those wearing costumes from 3pm to close.

Chipotle is also giving customers a chance to win free burritos for a year in their “Burritos for a Year Sweepstakes.” There’s no need to wear a costume to enter. Customers simply need to text BOORITO to 888222 by 10/31.

Creating Spooky Good Halloween Ads

Creating a strong ad starts with knowing your consumers. This will tell you the best platforms to reach out on and the content you need to grab their attention. With that knowledge, you can use the holidays as a time to both nurture relationships and grow your brand. It’s the perfect time to give your customers a treat (without the tricks, of course!).