A Look Into the Top 3 Candy Brands’ Halloween Strategies

Hershey’s, Mars and Mondelēz all showed a shift toward digital ads

Halloween text on orange background with shapes and bat silhouettes
Wonder how your favorite Halloween treats might stack up this year?
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There’s no hocus pocus in America’s favorite candy brands’ digital advertising strategies this Halloween. Mondelēz, The Hershey Company, and Mars, Inc. are getting in the spooky spirit for one of their busiest seasons of the year.

Hershey’s sweet approach to Halloween

The Hershey Company is all-in on a Halloween marketing campaign that has the company partnering with the newest Addams Family reboot. A visit to Hershey’s website illustrates its robust marketing efforts: from a contest to win movie tickets and Halloween candies to trivia to a contest to find out which Addams family member you relate to.

hershey's halloween ads

The company’s copywriters surely had fun with the campaign. Ad messaging includes fun phrasing such as “scary good,” “trick-or-treat yourself” and “running out [of candy] is spooky.” A majority of the ads focus on Hershey-brand chocolates as well as Reese’s, which depicts where the company finds the most success during the fall holiday.

a screenshot of hershey's social ad

Hershey has spent an estimated $2.8 million across 205 unique creatives in the first half of October alone, according to Pathmatics analysis of the company’s ad data from Oct. 1 through Oct. 17. That’s just shy of the $3.3 million the company spent on 87 creatives during the same period last year. The discrepancy comes from the fact that the company opted to slash its desktop display ad spend ($642,000 in the first half of October 2018 to $300,000 in 2019) as well as its mobile display budget ($431,000 to $24,000) and mobile video ($18,000 to $0). Still, Hershey’s has kept its social ad spend constant, at $2 million.

Let the ghoul times begin with Mars

The company behind M&Ms, Twix, Snickers, Milky Way and more is taking a slightly different approach from The Hershey Company. Mars has spent just over $810,000 on digital ads in the first half of October, with heavy ad spend promoting its NFL campaign. In fact, outside of Facebook, Mars has had the second most ad spend on the NFL website, at $135,000.

m&m's walmart halloween ad

However, the company is focusing recent advertising efforts on how consumers can save on Halloween candy. While the NFL campaign heavily features Snickers, Halloween ads focus on the company’s M&M characters and customizable candies. Similar to Hershey, the majority of Mars’ ad spend is in social, at $548,000 for the first half of October.

m&ms in a vampire cape for halloween

With ad copy around getting the deal before it disappears and calls to action including shop bulk, Mars is marketing itself as a one-stop-shop for candy buyers. The company also pushes candy buyers to visit big-box retail sites like Walmart and Amazon to allow for easy online purchases through trusted retailers that ship faster than you can say trick-or-treat.

Mondelēz uses a sour strategy

Mondelēz International, the brand behind snacks like Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Swedish Fish, is only promoting Halloween-type ads for Sour Patch Kids this Halloween. This comes as no surprise given how dominant Mars and Hershey are in the Halloween candy market. That, and the Sour Patch Kids tagline “First they’re sour, then they’re sweet” aligns well with trick-or-treating.

treats over tricks with sour patch kids

Following in Mars’ footsteps, Mondelēz also promotes its sour-sweet candies using Amazon as an easy purchasing method. The company has spent nearly $259,000 on just eight creatives in the first half of October, signifying a targeted advertising approach that has the company spending $162,000 on Facebook.

trick or treats in the bag ad for sour patch kids

Mondelēz spent only $16,500 on five creatives in the first half of October 2018, so the brand clearly sees value in advertising their star Halloween candies.

Halloween candy ads are a treat

Candy brands are undoubtedly busy curating digital ads that inspire consumers to purchase their candies for the princesses, zombies, ninjas and other kid-sized characters who are soon to come knocking on their doors. Using a mix of wordplay, promotions and newly introduced purchasing methods, this could spell scary-big success for Hershey, Mars and Mondelēz.

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