Hershey makes Halloween marketing about more than trick-or-treating

Gamifying another holiday is helping the CPG create a month-long celebration at home.

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COVID-19 is disrupting retail seasonality, especially with event-based occasions like Halloween. But Hershey is making it come early this year, launching gamified trick or treating on Snapchat to help people tap into the spirit of the season all month long.

“Treat Quest” is played like it sounds: players search for virtual Reese, Oh Henry, Hershey Cookies & Cream, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers products. As they play, users can unlock special Halloween-themed Snapchat lenses, as well as win Hershey prize packs and donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada.

The brands were chosen as the heroes for the campaign, as they are the most beloved brands in its portfolio, according to Ola Machnowski, senior marketing manager at Hershey Canada. She says 2020 has been a challenging year for families, so Hershey developed this game so they can still celebrate Halloween at home if they are looking for a safe alternative to going door-to-door.

Machnowski tells strategy that the project was developed with agency Mint in the summer, based on insights that engagement on with Snapchat’s game features soared in terms of both frequency and duration when the pandemic was in full gear. It also builds upon socially distant Easter egg hunts the company did with a Snapchat Lens to pivot its Easter marketing for Reese. While this execution also features chances to win chocolate and a charitable element, the company has built in a “harder hitting direct to purchase” element, Machnowski says, relying on new dynamic ad products Snapchat has launched for ecommerce retailers.

The digital experience, she adds, is helping the company find the right balance between being nimble to respond to immediate COVID-linked challenges, but also to plan ahead for a Halloween season, which, according to its insights will be vastly different from anything it’s seen before. Machnowski says that despite health concerns, 90% of consumers it polled are still looking forward to the holiday, and contrary to other confectionery studies, its insights reveal that people are intending to purchase more than previous years, even if they shop differently.

A digital execution like “Treat Quest” can be engaged with at any time and will be relevant regardless of how safe families feel going trick-or-treating. Machnowski says Hershey’s Halloween marketing is about creating a full month of Halloween to enjoy the season whenever kids and families want to; it is also partnering with parenting and lifestyle influencers like Taylor Kaye, who will be sharing other at-home activities that recreate the fun and excitement of trick or treating. On top of that, the day itself is happening on a Saturday this year, so an execution less focused on going out trick-or-treating can help it tap into a full-day opportunity for engagement.

That approach also ties back to the Hershey’s masterbrand “Life is Sweet” platform. “It’s about creating more moments of sweetness and goodness, which take place any time of year,” Machnowski says.

Hershey Canada is working with Toronto creative agency Mint on the campaign, with which it worked for on last year’s condo-friendly Halloween activation. UM handled the media strategy.