I’m not a huge fan of Halloween.
There’s nothing really fun about being scared or scaring others which is what it’s about for a lot of people. I inherently mistrust someone in a mask and I’ve always preferred seeing people for who they really are.
photo by PumpkinDave
Trick-or-treating, however, is an entirely different ball of silly string.
I love to trick-or-treat and I know why.
It’s all about marketing.
At 10 or 11, I realized a number of aspects affected my “great candy to crap candy corn ratio.” I think they apply to marketing any service, product, book or business today.
1. Creativity and presentation count
People like to see creativity and thought put into costumes. It’s easy to go the mass-market store-bought route, but the older you get, the more that seems like a lazy ploy to get free candy. Big whoop. Just by knocking, you’ll probably get a piece. But when someone acknowledges your (and your mom’s) hard work, planning and ultimate execution with a great compliment and bigger handful of the goods? That makes all the difference. Here, go ahead, take another.
2. Manners and kindness move mountains (of candy)
Halloween is, in many ways, the most social and public tradition we have. At no other time are we invited to knock on so many doors with the almost guaranteed assumption that we will be welcome and no expectation we will ever return. Even if you know a ton of your neighbors by name, a good Halloween route takes you outside of that immediate circle and you find yourself at the houses of strangers.
And despite some who project a sense of annoyed obligation at the task, and others who simply opt-out of it by not being home or turning their porch lights off, the majority of houses put out a flickering jack-o-lantern because they want you to come knocking.
So when you do, you Must. Be. Nice! I credit my mother for teaching me to always make eye contact, smile, and yes, actually say the words “trick-or-treat.” (Now that I have my own house I realize how few kids actually even say that anymore. Many just grunt and hold their pillow cases open. I drop in a piece. Just one.)
And then, for god’s sake, look them in the eye again and say thank you. These people have decided to interrupt their regularly scheduled evening activities to give you free candy. Expressing gratitude is polite. It shows you respect their time and their candy. You’re so welcome. Here, have another.
3. Beware of the false promise of great decoration
There’s one in every neighborhood. The house that’s decorated to the hilt – gravestones litter the yard, spider webs hang in every tree or doorway. Ghosts and monsters peer from corners. Perhaps there’s a smoke machine or crazy lighting set up on the big night. It’s the house that makes a kid say, “I have to get to that house on Halloween” even if that means walking a half-mile farther in the cold.
More often than not, it’s these houses that fail to deliver when it comes to the candy. They give out those tiny Tootsie Rolls like the bank or the nail salon offers in sad little bowls along with peppermint candies. Sure, it was fun getting to the door, but what a letdown. These are the people who are supposed to “get it” more than others. And yet, they don’t.
Sometimes the balance is perfect. The atmosphere is great. The candy is equally great. All the kids leaving the yard are amped from the experience and you can’t wait to get to the door. It’s the stuff of legend.
4. Communities have memories
It doesn’t take long for the word to get out about those houses that have weak candy offerings or, even worse – raisins! There was one house on our street that every year, without fail, gave out raisins. As the years passed and the pattern was confirmed, I simply skipped that house on my route so I could spend that time in pursuit of better goods.
At the same time, certain houses in my neighborhood could always be counted on for great candy goodness. The Green’s always gave out Baby Ruths, which I loved. The big yellow house on Park Place had bowls of Bit-O-Honeys every year, a favorite of my mother’s and mine.
These may not have been everyone’s favorite, but they made my mental “must visit” list every year. And I made sure to tell them their house was one of my favorites and why — anything to reinforce their candy of choice for following year.
5. Some houses are worth extra effort
One of my best friends since middle school lived on a tiny cul-de-sac of three houses, right off a pretty busy residential road. In the Connecticut suburbs on a dark Halloween night, it wasn’t exactly a trick-or-treating hot spot.
My friend’s mother always liked Halloween and wished more trick-or-treaters would come her way. One year she bought a ten pack of king-sized Snickers bar. You know, the long ones, like you got at the movie theater? She let it be known among us pre-teens and that year we strategically included her house in our Halloween night plans, each walking away with the king of all Halloween treats. We felt amazing for the experience and so did she. Her house was the first on our list for years to come and it wasn’t really for the candy. It was more for the feeling of being in a special club of elite trick-or-treaters.
In marketing, engagement is our candy. It’s why we want people to seek us out and what we’re looking for in return.
So for this Halloween, treat yourself to thinking about your marketing activities from the mindset of an 11-year-old about to embark on another trick-or-treating adventure:
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