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The temptation to use Halloween and the entire month of October as a tie-in to new product launches is great for brands, as the season's themes are wide-ranging, fun and unabashedly commercial. That said, PR firms and departments need to be careful at this time of year. Without a keen and up-to-date picture captured with media monitoring, companies could stumble into PR issues.
Track success of seasonal product launches with social analytics
Before digressing into warnings about Halloween promotions, it pays to remember how valuable it can be to launch or promote a product with a strong link to the holiday. This is especially true for food and beverage makers, as there is perhaps no holiday tied so closely to snacking.
The options are much more exotic than a seasonal favorite—some might even call it an obsession—with Pumpkin Spice anything. Just a few years ago, Frito-Lay debuted black garlic Doritos-brand chips adorned with vampire imagery in Japan. And this year, Burger King introduced the “Nightmare King” burger with an eerie green bun, along with a black frozen drink called “Scary Black Cherry.”
The opportunities to launch a new flavor, shape or packaging design in the run-up to Halloween are nearly limitless. With a little effort, you can make just about anything scary, but sales forecasting is important as companies can misjudge demand and end up in crisis mode with product that will not be relevant again for a year.
Haunted by a Halloween Marketing Miss?
Not every brand that launches a tie-in to the season is having a happy Halloween. In fact, those that make mistakes will likely need much more active PR departments than their competitors. Celebrities are not immune from some Halloween backlash. Just last weekend, snowboarder Shaun White’s Instagram post showing himself dressed as Simple Jack from 2008 film “Tropic Thunder” was roundly criticized on social media, leading him to delete the post and issue an apology, saying, “I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night. It was a last minute decision. It was the wrong one. The Special Olympics were right to call me out on it.”
In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, brands that end up in trouble over their decisions will likely need up-to-the-minute media monitoring to quickly realize there is a problem and distribute messaging to counter any lasting reputation damage. Truly great PR departments can learn from others to prevent such a situation from ever happening.
When teams perform active and up-to-date media monitoring regarding topics of interest, they may realize in advance that a trending topic turned into product or costume idea holds the potential to miss the mark or just downright offend.
Stay alert to trends with media monitoring
Sometimes, events in the Halloween season cause PR problems for companies that weren't even trying to engage with the season. In these cases, it's especially important for organizations to stay aware of potential issues and counter them carefully.
In 2016, McDonald's decided to keep its popular Ronald McDonald character out of the public eye in the U.S. market after a rash of incidents throughout October in which individuals dressed as clowns have intimidated or frightened passersby.
By observing the tone of media coverage around clowns worldwide, the restaurant chain made a proactive decision to avoid possible negative associations. The decision was seemingly reached not based on any incident with Ronald McDonald, but the general attitude toward the frightening clown sightings. Preemptive actions are possible if PR departments have keen and timely awareness of media activity.
Get More Treats this Season
To be successful, brands must make sure to keep their campaigns tasteful, understand public sentiment and stay aware of current trends. These insights and tie-ins can provide relevant and appropriate options for branded campaigns and product launches in October. Just in case something does go wrong, it pays to be hyper-aware of any negative coverage of the business or products in question—this level of visibility is made possible today with technology monitoring media 24x7. Halloween is a season of tricks and treats, but brands don't want to be haunted by PR mistakes made during October.
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