Ghosts, ghouls and ghastly candy galore. With the demand for candy surging during the Halloween season, confectionary manufacturers’ fight tooth and nail to get a slice of this lucrative market. The week of Halloween in the US is reported to account for a staggering 8% of yearly sales. This equates to approximately US$2.6 billion, moving 300,000 tons of candy or 2lbs per American. Spooky!
To celebrate the occasion, we thought it would be wicked to test 10 of the most indulgent and original Halloween candy innovations – and provide an answer as to which delighted consumers and which spooked them.
We use 3 ‘Cs’ to predict the in-market success of new product innovations:
- Captivate: Does it stand out and elicit a positive emotional response?
- Connect: Does it leverage unique brand properties to create instant recognition?
- Compel: Does it predispose people toward purchase?
The power of having a famous brand quickly became apparent when looking at the top performers. Original, newfangled products from less familiar brands fought for shelf space – and while they successfully attracted attention with unique ideas and distinctive packaging, they lacked the necessary substance to get people to consider them further.
Kit Kat launched one of the best performing Halloween innovations, staying true to its iconic milk chocolate wafer while incorporating a unique glow-in-the-dark wrapper. This worked two-fold: it offered a playful and fun twist for casual consumers, and a practical way to make Kit Kat a top-shelf trick-or-treat candy.
Hershey’s took a similar approach with its ‘Spooky Kisses’, substituting the individual chocolate wrappers for ones featuring Halloween iconography. This concept wasn’t nearly as distinctive however, with consumers not finding it to fully embrace the festive spirit. It was subsequently seen to lack difference versus other candies, and instead relied entirely on consumers’ existing goodwill toward the brand.
Trolli went in a different direction, choosing to release an original (and sour) take on a Halloween staple – Candy Corn. While this concept was highly distinctive, scepticism over the flavour combination – compounded by widespread negativity toward Candy Corn – hindered its overall success.
Several brands developed Halloween variants of familiar products, but those that incorporated seasonal elements – while retaining their distinctive branding properties – performed best. Sustained marketing investment paid off – making these brands synonymous with the festive occasion without having to reimagine their products from scratch.
Oreo leveraged its iconic blue packaging and archetypal shape to reinforce the same perceptions of sharing and indulgence that they are famous for. This aligned with the values people associate with the Halloween holiday, with the orange-coloured crème and spooky biscuit proving to be the most effective product concept of the season.
Peeps took a similar approach with a Halloween-inspired variation of its Easter marshmallows. However this concept was less successful, lacking synergy with the brand and conflicting with Easter associations and iconography. Peeps also lacked the necessary brand equity to carry what was considered to be a relatively mundane product.
Brands aiming to capitalise on Halloween must fully embrace the values associated with the occasion and be seen as genuine in their endeavours. Reese’s set the benchmark in this respect, having worked for many years to make their brand synonymous with the spooky holiday. Reese’s orange colour and pumpkin-themed products naturally give them a level of authenticity which is difficult for other brands to replicate, subsequently earning them the crown of the most ‘festive’ product.
Conversely, Kool-Aid’s Popping Candy aroused curiosity through its novel idea and eye-popping packaging, but the switch to “Ghoul-Aid” impeded its strongest asset. The product’s close similarities with Pop Rocks meant that the majority weren’t convinced enough by its benefits to give it a go.
While M&M’s Creepy Cocoa Crisp did little to recall Halloween iconography, its sales success was guaranteed by virtue of being a well-loved brand offering an appealing new flavour. However, it missed an opportunity to fully embrace the Halloween occasion to position the brand in a more unique way (and subsequently build longer-term predisposition).
Skittles’ ‘Rotten Zombies’ tried to ‘trick’ people with a foul-tasting candy, creating a high level of social noise and buzz in the process. However, the associations it triggered weren’t fluent with people’s perceptions of the brand, while the product’s lack of shareability meant it was seen to be little more than a novelty.
New product innovations at Halloween don’t need to be ‘spooky’ or rely on stereotypical themes to leverage the boons of the festive season. It was clear that trick-or-treating was not the only driver of sales, with a number of brands demonstrating that simply tweaking a product to embrace the Halloween festivities can be a highly successful strategy. Our testing revealed some other interesting insights that were too ghastly to share here, but if you dare get in touch through our contact form, we would be happy to provide the full case study!
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