Reinventing the Holidays: Halloween

kids at halloween

We’re pleased to share with you the first in the 2020 series of Reinventing the Holidays, a miniseries of Matchbox On Demand audiocasts produced by Erica Ruyle, SVP of Qualitative Insights at Maru/Matchbox.

This project centers on a central question of this quarter, for consumers and brands alike: what does the 2020 holiday season hold? With so many risks, and so many parts of our lives transformed by COVID-19, how can we still make this time of year special?

We aim to answer this through a holiday-by-holiday series, aimed at understanding people’s perceptions of these holidays, and helping them translate their expectations for this year into impactful end-market implications.

These studies are run primarily through Maru/Matchbox’s Instant Qualitative platform, allowing for rich content sharing including video uploads and engaging moderation. This allowed us to really dive into how respondents feel, behave and think about Halloween.

First, let’s start with an overview of Halloween. This holiday is defined first and foremost by trick or treating, which means it’s a very weather dependent celebration. Those of us who grew up in the north will remember many costumes that were slightly less authentic because they had to be worn over turtlenecks- or worse- under snowsuits. Of those we surveyed, 59% said they plan to celebrate Halloween this year, and 37% said they hold parties for Halloween, while 47% said they attend one. Another big part of Halloween celebrations is the decorating, which takes place inside and outside, and fits in nicely with the typical trick or treat activities.

Perhaps even more than other holidays, Halloween has deep nostalgia for those who celebrate. It’s a very kid-centric holiday, so many adults look forward to dressing up their children (furry kids included).

As far as consumables, this is a snacking and sweets focused holiday. Candy, of course, is the big driver here. In fact, our research showed consistent requests from consumers for brands to get more creative with baked goods, meals, and drinks (alcoholic and non) that go beyond the saccharine traditions of this candy-centric holiday.

Of course, party-going, and even trick-or-treating, are on the decline this year. Only 36% of respondents plan to celebrate Halloween the same way they normally do with no changes this year. 26% are either not celebrating at all, or are unsure and are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how COVID-19 develops as the holiday approaches.

We do expect this to have a significant impact on spending. 42% of our respondents plan to spend less money this year on Halloween, particularly driven be reduced candy and decorations spend. Many towns and cities have cancelled trick-or-treating altogether, or have set very limited timeframes and distancing rules. A smaller group of respondents are trying to keep the Halloween spirit alive anyway they can, and are spending more on decorations than ever to celebrate.

Halloween inspiration for brands to consider

Halloween is a creative holiday- costumes and decorations can be as unique as each individual person, and can be hugely expensive. Many respondents use social media for creative solutions to make decorating and costumes easier, specifically mentioning Instagram and Pinterest frequently. There were two big takeaways for brands when it comes to Halloween inspiration:

  1. Consumers are exhausted from Pinterest fails, and they want activities and projects that feel impressive but doable. Off the shelf kits and inspiration are helpful, and easier, more accessible projects are also in demand.
  2. There’s a big opportunity for new and innovative ideas and product lines. Many respondents complained of the same recycled ideas being used for years. One respondent raved about Michaels Crafts black and pink Halloween display this year, which felt less kid-centric and more glamorous than most Halloween decoration collections. Target also had an elevated collection this year with a sophisticated, vintage vibe.

The future of Halloween

Many of our clients have been asking, what will 2021 bring? With the hope that we’re past the COVID-19 epidemic a year from now, how will people respond to holidays next season?

Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure what next year’s pandemic status and holiday implications will be, but most respondents are ready to go bigger and better as soon as they can, and look forward to having a time to celebrate in all the ways they wish they could this year.

Another topic we asked for feedback on, is how would consumers reinvent the Halloween holiday if they could. The themes include several we’ve already mentioned:

  1. Kits– make Halloween celebration, decorating, and costuming more accessible for all skill levels by creating packs and kits to work from
  2. No more pumpkin spice– consumers are looking for new flavors and seasonal creations, and pumpkin everything just doesn’t cut it
  3. Consider other Halloween focused adult drinks. To the above point, pumpkin beer isn’t enough to keep the people satisfied. What other creative Halloween drinks can brands deliver?
  4. Breaking the mold on traditional. Consistently, respondents felt this holiday could use a refresh, and were hopeful that brands can come up with some new ideas to bring new themes, colors, and experiences to this festive season.

Listen now

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Reinventing the Holidays, and look out for our Thanksgiving episode, coming soon, with more recommendations for brands to consider this season.

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