Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Offers Associations Creative Growth Opportunities

Halloween Event Photos: Treats Unleashed. HalloweenTown, West County Y & West County Honda

Happy Halloween!

Last week, USA Today featured a Page 1 story about the growth of Halloween. 

  • “This adultification of Halloween is taking place in virtually every city. At bars. At restaurants. At theaters. Even at high-end gift shops. Like treats snatched from a trick-or-treat bag, adults have slowly been stealing Halloween from kids for years. Now it appears, grown-ups own the holiday.
  • A record $8 billion will be spent by U.S. consumers this Halloween, most by adults, for adults. Seven years ago, when the National Retail Federation asked adults if they planned to celebrate Halloween, 52.5% said yes. This year, it's 71.5%. ‘I call it Occupying Halloween,’ says consumer anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff. ‘My gut tells me that it's bigger than Halloween, and is actually part of our culture. We need to creatively express ourselves to find pure joy.’”

Not to be outdone, USA Today columnist Craig Wilson wrote Carve Out Some Restraint this Halloween.  

  • “Most everyone knows by now that Halloween has gotten out of hand. No longer is it a cute little visit-the-neighbors-for-a-treat kind of holiday. The statistics are staggering. An estimated 41 million people are expected to trick-or-treat next week, visiting 85 million homes. And in the end, they will each eat 1.2 pounds of candy.” 
Gen X and Gen Y have helped make Halloween the 2nd largest holiday in the U.S.
Creatively using Halloween as a “peg” for growth might offer a powerful tactic for those associations seeking to grow participation of younger generations.
I know, some of you are saying engaging members in Halloween is “beneath your dignity.” And, for some, that may be true. That feeling, however, may be a barrier to engaging younger generations.

One way to celebrate Halloween and recruit younger members may be to combine it with a cause marketing effort and/or fund-raising for a local or national cause. (By the way, Millennials love cause campaigns and would flock to your organization if you let them.)

So, what might your association (and/or nonprofit organization) do for Halloween 2013?
  • Local celebrations (networking events focused on young professionals)
  • Pumpkin picking trips for staff (helps create staff loyalty)
  • Pumpkin Carving Contest with/for a Local Charity
  • Fund-raiser / Cause Marketing effort
  • Hold Halloween event in your office and invite your members
Here are five examples of associations and other nonprofits using Halloween to help their organizations:

  • Boston Medical Center used a “Halloween Town” to raise funds for five years.  (They discontinued the event in 2012 to take a breather.). Halloween Town is the largest family (19,000 participants) Halloween event in Boston. Halloween Town benefitted the Kids Fund at Boston Medical Center. It transformed the 70,000 square-foot Seaport World Trade Center into a spooktacular event for kids of all ages! Halloween. It engaged hundreds of volunteers. 
  • The West County YMCA (St. Louis) sponsored a Halloween Fest the Saturday before Halloween. The trunk-or-treat event featured a carnival with pony rides, a petting zoo, bounce house, FredBird, face painting, snacks, games and “Pas de Chat,” a children’s production presented by Leverage Dance Theater. The YMCA offered local businesses the opportunity to have a booth relevant to the Halloween theme.
  • Tweets Unleashed hosted its SPOOK-TACULAR party of the year! Trick-or-treat at all Treats Unleashed shops on SATURDAY, OCT. 27. Costumes for pets and people were welcome, but not required as they trick-or-treated around the shopping plaza for delicious treats. There were lots of creepy, crawly fun for the whole family! Pets welcome!
  • West County Honda held a Saturday evening Halloween event in their showroom.  Here's their Facebook invite: "Happy Halloweekend, everybody!!!! Don't forget about our costume contest for kids tonight from 5 pm till 8 pm. Tons of candies and prizes will be waiting for you! See you all there!"
  • Delta Dental Health Theater in St. Louis created a "post-Halloween" Great Candy Exchange inviting kids/parents to bring new Halloween candy.  The candy will be collected and shipped to troops.  Lots of fun stuff plus kids get a raffle ticket for a free Xbox 360 Kinect.  
If you want more examples (from a nonprofit perspective), Joe Waters shared in Halloween Cause Marketing Scares Up Funds for Nonprofits several examples of cause-related Halloween events.  Great stuff.

My conclusion from all this: 
Use assertive promotion and marketing to engage your members, prospects and friends in your Halloween celebration and fund-raiser. Since you are hoping to engage Millennials and Gen Xers, be sure to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs and other social media tools. 

Start planning for 2013 now. 
Ask some of your younger members and younger staff to “take it on.” Let them brainstorm and be creative. Trust their instincts. Remember, your Halloween event(s) are aimed primarily at younger members and prospects so do not evaluate the ideas from a “Boomer perspective!”

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