Halloween is just around the corner, and the Covid-19 pandemic has spooked the bid candy-making companies, which are worried that sales will see a downturn similar to Easter if they do not ramp up their marketing strategies to address the changed circumstances.
Hershey and other chocolate making companies have started a massive advertising and marketing campaign three months ahead of Halloween.
Many parents will not be happy sending kids out during the pandemic door-to-door for the trick and treat part of the celebration. To not disappoint the children, they will be looking for alternatives and here is where the confectionery companies’ marketing and advertising is concentrating.
A recent National Confectioners Association Halloween poll that showed that 74 percent of Millennial moms believe Halloween is more important than ever this year as families and communities create a new normal together.
As part of a new marketing strategy in partnership with Alphabet Inc’s Google, Hershey will beam digital ads based on where people live, how likely they are to be on lockdown, and what Halloween activities they have been searching for online.
Google will provide the search data. Based on whether people are searching to find out business hours of nearby stores or vacation ideas, or party ideas and spooky home decorations, the company will tailor the ads accordingly.
“We have the ability to tailor our advertising by ZIP Code,” said Hershey spokeswoman Allison Kleinfelter. “Our team can see where there are differences like in cities or large states.”
Hershey will show videos and clips on social media of people eating KitKats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups under twinkly lights in their backyards or living rooms for homebound people. For people adventurous enough to venture out, they might see ads of mask-clad kids and adults going door-to-door for candy.
“On a weekly basis, we can change how we’re talking to consumers based on what we’re seeing geographically,” Phil Stanley, Hershey’s chief sales officer, said in an interview in August.
Hershey said the data will be completely anonymous, showing only the data points of unnamed users and will be aligned with research from shopper surveys, retailers and municipalities.
Halloween is typically the candy industry’s biggest holiday season by sales. Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day follow this big sales event. For Hershey, Halloween represents a tenth of its roughly $8 billion in annual sales.
Also anticipating a sharp increase in online sales Hershey, Mondelez International Inc. and others are spending more on digital marketing and keeping aside more e-commerce inventory for retailers.
Trick or treating candies are a big part of the chocolate making companies’ sales, according to Reuters.
Only about one-third of U.S. parents plan on sending their kids trick-or-treating this year, according to Matt Voda, CEO of marketing analytics firm OptiMine Software. “So that’s the big dilemma for candy companies - how do you overcome that potential shortfall?”
Hershey chairman and CEO Michele Buck discussed the holiday during an earnings call, “Halloween celebrations are likely to be different this year, with an earlier start to the season and more geographic differences than in prior years,” Buck said. “We expect that there will be more at-home activities, with families sharing timeless traditions and new ways for people to celebrate with neighbors.”
Hershey plans to increase digital media spending on Halloween by 160% versus last year, targeting mainly e-commerce shoppers. Mondelez too plans to spend more this Halloween on social and digital media.
The candy companies are pushing the idea of celebrating at home by aggressively displaying their wares at all major grocery retail outlets.
Walmart and Target have Halloween displays out from August itself. Hershey claims the move has far driven a 24.8% increase in its seasonal sales.
In 2019, 37 percent of Halloween shopping took place before October, with in-store and online displays building anticipation and excitement.
Before the event, it is impossible to figure out how much the candy makers will be able to sell and make up for any potential shortfalls due to the pandemic fears but one thing is sure, they are doing everything possible to prevent it from being a complete washout.
“While research indicates trick-or-treating participation will likely be below prior year levels due to COVID-19 concerns, the expectation of this holiday tradition has been consistently improving over the past several weeks,” Buck emphasized earlier. “We expect to outperform the category given our iconic brands, strong innovation and merchandising, and great execution.”