With the Halloween season officially upon us, we are hitting the stores to stock up on our favorite candies. Despite rising prices, consumers are expected to spend upwards of $3.6 billion on Halloween candy this year, a 16% jump from last year and a record high (National Retail Federation).
Retail trends show that consumers typically buy Halloween candy twice a year – once earlier in the Halloween season, which gets eaten, and then again closer to the end of October. With the Halloween buying season often making or breaking sales for the entire year, confectionary brands need to step up their game to ensure their candy is the one filling jack-o-lantern buckets.
With fierce competition to catch the candy buyer’s eye, we tapped the MarketCast Ad Solutions team to discover the most memorable candy ads so far this Fall (September 1 through October 25, 2023) to see what insights we can uncover.
Longtime ads deliver the best memorability, wearing in over time
Hershey’s Chocolate & Candy came in with the most memorable ad this season, “Heartwarming the World: S’mores Table,” featuring a Minnesota small-town festival. Hershey’s has seen tremendous success growing their S’mores brand within the retail grocery market, and combined with the ad’s ability to showcase the brand’s commitment to local communities and play up the nostalgia of summer festivals, it became highly recognizable to anyone who’s ever eaten a s’more.
An old favorite came in as the runner-up this season; Tootsie Roll’s classic “Mr. Owl” ad dominated the competition, first airing in 1970, with their Brand Recall score (the percentage of viewers that remember both the ad’s content and the advertised brand) thanks to its years of wear-in.
In a surprise twist (no pun intended), Licorice.com landed in the third slot with their ad “Where Do You Stand?” While relatively new to the advertising scene, Licorice.com’s ad made a big impact with a bold voiceover and a simple narrative, calling out the (sometimes) polarizing preferences of licorice and delivering above-average general recall.
Lindt Chocolates’ ad “Put the World on Pause: Almond Butter” may not have been the most memorable ad of the bunch, but what it lacked in Ad Memorability it more than made up for in Brand Linkage. In keeping with their traditional strategy, the ad showcased clips of smooth chocolate and a gourmet chocolatier. These mesmerizing clips, reminiscent of the opening credits to Willy Wonka, provide the viewer with consistent brand cues, making it very easy to name the brand behind the ad.
Other notable Halloween trends this year
Of course, Halloween is about more than just spooky skeletons and handing out candy. This year, many people are focused on gifting festively themed items for their loved ones. According to MarketCast’s Social Research Insights team, BooBaskets (Halloween-themed baskets given to friends & family) are a big trend on TikTok this year, with 12K relevant videos and 229M views in October alone. 18-24-year-olds make up the bulk of the trend (71% of #boobasket viewers on TikTok), popularizing the Fall-themed baskets for their friends. 25-34-year-olds make up 21% of the trend, with many making baskets for their children.
Additionally, families are using colored pumpkins or candy baskets to tell their neighbors they will be providing candy alternatives or that their child has a specific need. The Epilepsy Foundation created the Purple Pumpkin Project in 2012 to raise awareness about epilepsy and to support children and families impacted by the disease. The subsequent nationwide participation in the movement sparked other organizations and causes to soon follow suit with their own color-coded pumpkins.
In a surprising twist that nobody had on their 2023 bingo card, the highly controversial yet ever-present Candy Corn made its way into the top ten most popular candies in the U.S. for 2023 (CandyStore.com.) Candy Corn landed at number eight, while the top three most popular candies were Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, and Hot Tamales. Whether people like to actually eat the tri-colored treat or simply use it to occupy a decorative bowl on their kitchen counter remains to be seen.
For confectionery brands, the Halloween buying season doesn’t have to feel like a fright fest. MarketCast’s Ad Solutions team is the gold standard for advertising performance measurement, which works across the whole ad lifecycle, from early concepts and storyboard testing through in-market ad and cross-media campaign measurement. To start optimizing your advertising performance with scary accuracy, contact us!