Is it just me, or is the Halloween industry in need of a branding facelift? When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that this “holiday of sorts” was the cause for so much controversy between differing religious groups, let alone the fact that Halloween’s roots come from ancient pagans who believed that October 31 was the day that the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. (Thus ancient Celtics would wear masks to scare away any spirits.) I come from a Christian family, but my parents were not the ultra-conservative type, and so my brother and I always dressed up for Halloween, participated in Halloween parties at school and always went trick or treating in our safe suburban neighborhood in Lubbock, Texas.
Nowadays, however, Halloween as a “holiday” has a much different look and the industry has literally exploded right before our eyes. In doing research for this blog, I found a stat from BIGResearch that in 2005 (the year my daughter was born) consumers spent almost $3.30 billion. For 2012, figures are estimated to top $8 billion– spending of course on costumes, decorations, and candy. So, if you look at the Halloween from a figures standpoint, the industry has done, well, pretty dang amazing!
However, the Halloween I grew up on is hardly ever called Halloween anymore – it is now known as Fall Festivals, All Saints Day or Fall Solstice. Schools are even beginning to cancel all parties/festivals associated with Halloween. At Skokie School District 69 in Illinois, Halloween (or any variation of it) has just been officially banned, which I find so sad. The reason, according to the district superintendent, is because of a consistent drop in school attendance on that day. As a parent myself, it baffles me that parents are so adamant about not celebrating Halloween that they allow their kids to miss school. At my daughter’s school in Cedar Park, Texas, the district still allows the children to dress in costume on Halloween, but they must dress as their favorite storybook character. A loophole, but I’ll take it!
So this brings me to my original question – is Halloween the holiday in need of some good PR? Is it really that bad?
I’m sure many folks have their own reasoning why they choose not to celebrate Halloween, such as my next door neighbor. I don’t know all the details, but she apparently had a bad experience on Halloween as a child and she prefers not to celebrate it. Certain groups, such as Muslims, Jehovah Witness and Ultra-Conservative Christians also do not celebrate Halloween either because it is against their religion or because of its Pagan roots. While I can understand and respect that, all I can think about are the poor kids who just want to dress up as The Little Mermaid or Superman and get a bag of candy!
Personally, I see many more “pros” than “cons” when it comes to Halloween. If I were to create a PR proposal for the Halloween “holiday,” these are just a few of the main branding messages I’d suggest:
- Halloween is a great opportunity for children (and adults) to show their creativity! Kids love dressing up as their favorite characters, so do moms and dads! We have a family of quintuplets that live across the street from us (family of 8) that dress as a theme each Halloween (last year they were all characters from Snow White) and we all look forward to seeing what they dress up as this year!
- Halloween is a great opportunity to show a sense of community for children – whether it is in your neighborhood, local church or a community organization. I think of Halloween less of an actual “holiday” and more of a festival or party – where you just so happen to get the opportunity to dress up in a fun costumes and eat some yummy treats!
- I also think Halloween is another wonderful opportunity to teach your kids about respect and manners. My children do not get to leave a house we’ve just “trick or treated” unless they’ve told the homeowner thank you for the candy. I am a big stickler on this.
- Lastly, I think Halloween is a great way to teach your children about safety. Just like any parent, I constantly worry about the well-being of my children. On Halloween, we are very big on safety – all the kids in our cul-de-sac are outfitted in glow sticks from head to toe, and we walk in big groups as we move through the neighborhood. Safety in numbers!
But, alas, there is no director of marketing for Halloween, so my proposal is only wishful thinking. I am excited about Halloween this year, as I am every year. My daughter is going to dress as a pirate and my son will be an alligator/crocodile. (I’m seeing a Peter Pan theme happening here! Perhaps I’ll be Tinker Bell this year!)
There is one more marketing message, however, that I’d like to throw out there – Halloween, as is any festivity or holiday, is about making memories. I know that 20 years from now, my kids will more than likely not remember what they were on Halloween in 2012. What they will remember is the fun time they had at the cul-de-sac pumpkin carving party, or better yet, the yummy beef stew and cornbread that my dad makes at our house on Halloween every year. The smell of that stew lingers for days, and hopefully in my children’s memory banks, for years.