Scare Tactics

Thought Starter…

If companies put half the innovation and creativity into their regular process that they put into Halloween (or Easter, for that matter) in and outs we would be awash in mind-blowing new products.  This is what happens when you remove some of the typical ROI constraints in which companies are awash – you end up actually generating ideas that leap over those constraints, and create a category that is growing rapidly rather than one that is cost-reducing itself to death.

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From The New York Times (free registration), not content to just hand out Skittles and escort trick-or-treaters, adults are celebrating Halloween themselves. This year, 36 percent of adults are planning to host or attend a Halloween party, up from 25 percent in 2005, according to the National Retail Federation.

Hershey is introducing 10 Halloween products this year, up from six last year. Among them is a Halloween twist on its popular Easter treat, the Cadbury Creme Egg. The Screme Egg is also a chocolate egg with white filling, but with a green yolk-like center instead of yellow.

Also this year, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Hershey is using seasonal packaging that focuses less on Halloween and more on autumn.

“We still have Halloween-themed packaging with black and orange,” Anna Lingeris, a Hershey spokeswoman, said in an interview. But she added that many new packages, including some for Hershey’s Kisses and Reese’s Pieces, feature “fall colors and fall graphics related to fall activities.”

While Halloween products are heavily discounted starting on Nov. 1, the new Hershey strategy enables more products to remain relevant — and at full price — through November, Ms. Lingeris said. Among seasonal candy purchasers, 30 percent buy at least some discounted candy right after the holiday, according to Mintel.

To increase what food marketers call usage occasions, candy brands often develop seasonal recipes. At Peeps, best known for marshmallow chicks, about 30 percent of candy sold is used in recipes or craft projects, according to Matthew Pye, vice president for corporate affairs at Just Born, which owns Peeps.

Non-candy brands also turn to recipe development. For Halloween, Jell-O offers a brain mold on its Web site, JelloMoldShop.com. Suggested recipes include Oozing Brain, an opaque brain made from peach gelatin and evaporated milk over which warm strawberry gelatin is dribbled to resemble coagulating blood.

Other non-candy brands also are angling for a Halloween lift. Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, has more in-store promotional displays tied to Halloween this year than ever, according to the company. Displays feature haunted castles and characters like Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. For 20-count variety packs of brands including Doritos, Cheetos and Fritos, the displays show the snacks in buckets carried by trick-or-treaters.

While homeowners may give little consideration to what they hand out on Halloween, Cybele May, founder of Candy Blog, said that for young trick-or-treaters that choice may be loaded. “Whether they admit it or not, kids judge the adults they get the candy from, and their peers, based on their candy taste,” Ms. May said. “Kids that are 8 or 9 years old don’t have cars or anything to use as social markers, so candy is a good way for creating some hierarchy.”