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7 ideas for frightfully good Halloween email marketing campaigns

There are two essential truths when it comes to Halloween: 1) Anybody who tells you the goal isn’t to consume the most candy possible is lying; 2) It’s an amazing opportunity for eCommerce stores to reach customers with fun promotions.

Halloween spending reached $9 billion for the second consecutive year in 2018, and with good reason: consumer confidence was at its highest level in 10 years, and Halloween is fairly cheap for families to pull off. With 175 million Americans participating and spending $86.79 per buyer, Halloween presents a great opportunity for eCommerce stores to tap into a beloved family holiday that’s all about fun.

If your store doesn’t sell horror movie memorabilia, costumes, or candy, it might seem like Halloween isn’t a natural fit. But that’s not the case at all. There are creative ways of brands of all stripes to get in on the holiday fun. If you’re not sure where to start, look no further than this compilation of Halloween inspiration. The following examples highlight a few different options for integrating Halloween themes into your email marketing campaigns.

1. Put classic Halloween imagery to work

Witches, ghosts, zombies, and black cats: these universally recognized spooky symbols are sure bets for your Halloween marketing. However, a scarily good campaign may require a bit more creativity than simply inserting a ghoul into your usual template.

This example from Framebridge shows the potential for Halloween marketing to tap into nostalgia and tradition. Two children sit in front of a television watching a bonafide Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus. They’re wearing black cat pajamas and witch hats, which subtly match the color scheme of the merchandise displayed in the photo. 

This email is effective because its visual themes are instantly recognizable for any family that has celebrated Halloween. The use of nostalgia is especially appropriate for Framebridge, which specializes in products that are closely associated with family memories. As an added bonus, this email uses scarcity marketing to encourage fast action with a deadline (“Until Tuesday”).

Recommendation: Think about how classic Halloween themes can connect with your brand. A few bats or a jack-o’-lantern might be enough to conjure up Halloween memories, but you’ll really seal the deal if your products are successfully integrated into your visual presentation. Your customers will be in awe of your Halloween marketing prowess.

2. Don’t be afraid to use some bewitching puns

Puns are an unexpectedly divisive art form. Some people love them, others roll their eyes. Middle-aged dads are stereotyped as being particularly fond of puns, but recent studies suggest that puns and plays on words are most popular with millennials. Additionally, pun appreciation seems to increase with higher levels of education, with postgrads showing the highest enthusiasm of all education levels.

Whatever your top customer demographics may be, rest assured that playful punnery is a staple of Halloween marketing. It’s also a fairly easy way to inject some light-hearted personality into your Halloween marketing campaign.

Bouqs Halloween email.
Via: Emma.

Bouqs shows us how it’s done by top-loading this email with a witty pun and a play on an enduring slang phrase. The remainder of the email is simple and effective, with a Halloween-themed discount code, a subtly holiday-related color palette, and Bouq products clearly highlighted. There’s even a contest built into the email promotion—contests encourage email list growth and provide a great way to encourage email subscribers to stay engaged with your content.

Recommendation: Use Halloween-themed puns to add humor and levity to your Halloween marketing. If you’re not skilled with punnery, you may want to consult your in-house millennial with a doctorate in English (we laugh so we won’t cry).

3. Use orange and black—tastefully!

Orange and black are recognized as the official colors of Halloween, so it may feel like a no-brainer to use them in your Halloween marketing. However, it’s worth noting that orange has been found to be the most hated color for visual design, making it somewhat risky for marketing even when it’s entirely appropriate. Other studies have found that orange is associated with cheapness. All in all, this is not a ringing endorsement for Halloween-themed marketing emails.

This email from Taylor Stitch proves that orange and black can be utilized tastefully, in a way that few would find visually offensive. The trick here is that the orange letters and graphics have been limited to a soft glow, mimicking the real-life glow of a jack-o’-lantern, which is further enforced by the use of imagery. Rather than assault subscribers with garish colors they’re probably likely to hate, Taylor Stitch has managed to use a soft orange to evoke a classic sight on Halloween night. (Bonus points: they also infused their coupon code with some Halloween cachet by using the spooky-sounding industry term, deadstock.)

Recommendation: If orange and black aren’t typically utilized in your visual branding, it may be best to tread lightly. Try using black, white, and gray as your primary colors and use orange as more of a strategic highlight. 

4. Use uniquely spooky graphics that fit your brand

You probably never resort to clip-art for your marketing campaign, and Halloween is not the time to start. Your goal should be to adapt classic Halloween imagery for your brand so that your Halloween campaign feels like a natural part of your communications.

Clearly, Moleskine has a great design team; this email’s graphic elements have a Tim Burton-esque feel that Moleskine’s unique customers are sure to find appealing. Though no Moleskine products are featured in the email’s visuals, the illustrations look a bit like they could’ve been drawn in a notebook. The result is an email that is fully Halloween-themed but also very consistent with Moleskine’s brand. This email campaign also uses scarcity on multiple levels, with a sale deadline and a promise of limited edition merchandise, and features some low-key punning.

Recommendation: Don’t phone it in when developing visuals for a Halloween marketing campaign. Think about how Halloween colors and symbols can be appropriated in a way that fits with your unique brand.

5. Go all out with the spooky language

Of course, Halloween is all about scary sights and creepy moods (well, that and candy), so spooky graphics naturally lend themselves to Halloween-themed email campaigns. However, your copy can be just as important for evoking the right mood. 

This email from Fortnum & Mason is unrelenting in its use of Halloween language and plays on words. There’s even a promised ghost story for interested customers who want more. Alliterative and pun-filled phrases like “perfectly petrifying” and “gore-geous biscuits” add whimsy and humor to the email’s copy, making it an entertaining read from start to finish. That’s important for an email with a large block of text.

Recommendation: If your Halloween email campaign uses a moderate-to-heavy amount of text, be sure to integrate Halloween-themed language throughout. If text-heavy email is common for your brand, a Halloween campaign presents a great opportunity for some fun, themed storytelling. 

6. Add a Halloween touch to discount codes

Halloween is an opportune time to tap into consumer enthusiasm and offer a great sale. Discount codes offer the chance for an extra holiday-themed touch to cap off your email campaign. Pick a spooky word to use for your code, and make sure you make it readily visible in your layout to encourage click-throughs.

Lands’ End doesn’t waste time letting its subscribers know they’ve got a great discount on offer. The terms of the sale are front and center, and the discount code is provided right away. The code is also very simple, easy to remember, and quintessentially Halloween. (By the way: check out the amazing, original, on-brand imagery that manages to show off their products, evoke the holiday, and use Halloween colors in an inoffensive way.)

Recommendation: A discount code is always a great way to encourage click-throughs and generate conversions. Don’t be afraid to get playful with your code word; “BOO” works just fine, but there are plenty of more creative options to give your email a boost of personality.

7. Offer up some playful mystery

Whistlefish Halloween email
Via: Pinterest.

This email from Whistlefish is successful in a number of ways. The visuals are unique and brand-appropriate, the call-to-action is clearly highlighted, and the discount code is TOMBSTONE—a perfect choice for a Halloween sale. Whistlefish adds a layer of intrigue to the campaign with a mystery coupon; customers have to click through and enter the code to find out how much they’re saving. While it would not usually be advisable to make your subscribers work harder for an offer, Halloween is a time when people are more receptive to some playful tricks.

Recommendation: There are lots of ways to work some mystery into your Halloween email marketing, including mystery deals that require a click-thru to discover. Just be careful not to engage in any tactics that might be perceived as misleading or scammy. Keep it playful and consistent with a trick-or-treat theme. (Note: we’re gonna guess that Whistlefish didn’t actually trick any of their customers—it’s a safe bet everyone who used that code got a discount treat.)

Bonus Tip: Be creative and avoid cliches

Halloween has been utilized as a marketing opportunity for decades; the potential for retreading tired gags is high. Your brand is unique, and Halloween provides an excellent opportunity to showcase your voice and personality. Use these tips to steer clear of cliches and keep your Halloween marketing fresh:

  • All treats, no tricks. No tricks, just treats. However you phrase it, this one’s been used a bunch. The real trick is to repurpose trick-or-treat in a unique way. Try integrating visuals that show the spirit of trick-or-treating, costumes, and family traditions. Don’t be afraid to work “tricks” and “treats” into your copy, but consider pairing them with descriptive adjectives: devious tricks and spine-tingling treats, for example.
  • Go beyond boo. Nothing against ghosts, but we think you can do better than “boo.” If you need some help coming up with uniquely scary words, don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus. Horror icon Stephen King may object, but we aren’t all professional novel writers. Sometimes a little help from a trusty reference manual can go a long way.
  • Spooktacular has lost its meaning. We love puns, but spooktacular has been around the block a few too many times. The great thing about punnage is you can build a great play on words from scratch. Think about an adjective you’d use to describe a sale or discount, and then examine it for opportunities to replace a syllable with a spooky word. For example, you might normally offer terrific deals to your repeat customers, but on Halloween your discounts can become terror-riffic. Truly chilling!

Don’t forget the basics

An effective Halloween marketing campaign requires more than seasonally appropriate content. You’ll also want to make sure you’re sending the content to the right customers at the right time.

If you’ve engaged in Halloween email marketing before, your email platform should have a record of which customers engaged with your content. Consider creating a list segment that includes customers who opened your previous Halloween emails and targeting promotions to those customers. You may also want to segment your list based around any special discounts you’re offering on specific products; customers who’ve purchased similar products in the past might be especially interested in your Halloween sale. 

You’ll also want to take timing into consideration when planning your Halloween marketing campaign. eCommerce stores that sell Halloween-specific products like costumes, decorations, and candy should plan to send their campaigns at the beginning of October. Serious Halloween shoppers will already be on the lookout for great deals, and you’ll want to avoid falling behind your competitors. If your store doesn’t sell Halloween-specific products and you simply want to tap into the spirit of the season, you should be fine scheduling your Halloween marketing emails closer to October 15 and right up until Halloween.

Key takeaways

Halloween offers eCommerce stores a uniquely fun opportunity to get in on a booming moment in holiday shopping. For most consumers, Halloween is a relatively inexpensive way for families to enjoy each other’s company and keep traditions alive. The key for eCommerce stores like yours is to embrace the silly spirit of the holiday, get creative with marketing content, and create a Halloween-themed campaign that’s consistent with your brand.

  • Email campaigns should integrate classic Halloween imagery into graphics and photos. One particularly effective angle is to highlight family traditions like trick-or-treating, costumes, and scary movie nights.
  • Puns aren’t necessarily loved by everyone, but silly puns and Halloween tend to go hand in hand. Creep it real by working a few puns into your email marketing copy. We promise it won’t be a dead end.
  • Orange and black are the official colors of Halloween and they’re staples of Halloween marketing content. However, orange presents some degree of risk; it’s been found to be a uniquely unpopular design color that’s associated with cheapness. Reduce the potential for offended eyes by using orange as a highlight or accent color, rather than letting it dominate your email’s visual display.
  • The best Halloween marketing content won’t stray too far from your eCommerce shop’s branding and aesthetics
  • If your email content contains a moderate to heavy amount of text, be sure to integrate spooky language throughout. A Halloween-style visual theme will seem off-balance if the accompanying copy is mostly normal.
  • Use playfully scary words for your Halloween discount codes. The best code words will be a little bit unexpected; “boo” works fine, but there are dozens of more creative choices that will help your discount code stand out.
  • Work some mystery into your email campaign to encourage click-throughs. For example, offer a mystery discount that requires customers to click through to learn what it is. Be sure to keep accompanying copy fun and seasonally appropriate to make this trick feel more fun than scammy or misleading.
  • The best Halloween marketing campaigns are creative and brand-appropriate; avoid well-worn cliches like “All treats, no tricks” and “spooktacular” and work on coming up with copy that’s more unique.
  • Segment your list to send Halloween promotions to previous customers who’ve engaged with previous Halloween emails or purchased similar products. Certain demographics may be more enthusiastic about Halloween than others; young adults might be a great place to start.
  • As always, timing is important. eCommerce stores with Halloween-themed or Halloween-appropriate products should plan to send marketing campaigns in early October. Stores that don’t sell Halloween products can safely aim to offer their Halloween discounts in the middle of the month.
Matt Maggiacomo
Matt Maggiacomo is a writer, digital fundraiser, and musician with over four years of executive-level experience in nonprofit management. He has been utilizing digital technology to promote his creative projects since 2001 and is the founder of the creative consultancy Pitch & Prose.

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