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Opinion and Insight

This Halloween’s Tasty Creative Tricks and Treats

Iris WorldWide, 1 year, 10 months ago

Restaurant industry hits and misses from iris Atlanta Senior Creative, Joseph Szala

This Halloween’s Tasty Creative Tricks and Treats

Something wicked this way comes, and I’m not just referring to the Halloween holiday. The wickedness is the poor attempts at using Halloween to market brands, and it seems to be an issue running rampant in the restaurant industry specifically. I’ve taken the liberty, and a little bit of guts, to point out who’s tricking and who’s treating with this year’s Halloween creative breakdown.



Trick! The perfect example of what not to do is with Applebee’s attempt at Halloween marketing. Applebee’s swings and misses with a lackluster promotion that offers free kids’ meals on Halloween. That’s it. It’s a nice gesture, but does nothing to differentiate the brand nor does it integrate with the holiday in a memorable way. It’s a perfect example of a weak attempt that seems to be the modus operandi for Applebee’s overall.

Trick! The doughnut icon Krispy Kreme has racked their brains and came up with this promotion: A free doughnut when you wear your costume to their storefront. Not exactly glazed with creativity, is it?

Treat! IHOP takes their creativity to the next level with their Halloween promotion. Yeah, they’re giving away food to kids 12 and under, but not just any food. They let the kids make their own ‘Scary Face Pancakes’ for free all day on October31st. This gets the real decision makers in the family interacting with their food and the IHOP experience in a new and fun way.


Treat! Burger King sparked major buzz with the introduction of their A.1. Halloween WHOPPER. The black bun burger broke the mold with creativity in the kitchen, a place where most of our minds rarely go when developing new ideas. 

The brilliance of this limited time offer is the correlations between the brand’s ideals, the Halloween opportunity, and the execution of the campaign. Many departments worked in unison to unleash something that included Burger King in the conversation naturally, and the results are clear: Burger King is a brand worth talking about right now. 


Treat! What’s better than an all black burger that turns your number two Pantone 378? (That’s Dark green in case you don’t have your color books memorized.) Answer: A brand that’s been a staple in the Halloween game for decades. Reese’s is upping their Halloween dominance by reinforcing their correlation to the holiday. Who doesn’t love getting peanut butter cups every October 31st? 

Their latest out of home campaign features a tongue-in-cheek story of The Headless Horseman’s anatomical pitfalls. The mix of humor, good nature, the product, and the holiday make this a memorable piece of content worth sharing.


Treat! I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Chipotle’s Halloween angle. True to form they reinforce their brand passion and promise with their Boorito campaign. They set the hook with hand-drawn typographical additive words illustrated in the shape of a jack-o-lantern. “Unnecessary additives in fast food are creepy” sets the tone for the brand’s position. Chipotle pushes it further with a video demonstrating how one customer experienced an “Unnece-SCARY” nightmare where Chipotle was just like every other fast food joint. Consumers can then get involved with the brand via a discount offer for “unnecessary additions” to their costumes. Chipotle’s campaign drills home their food promise while getting the consumer involved. It’s fun, memorable, and aligns with them perfectly. 


Halloween, like most holidays, offers up excellent ways for brands to be a part of the conversation with consumers. The key to creating fresh ideas that naturally break through the clutter is in understanding the foundations of the brand and having some fun scaring up some groundbreaking ideas for your clients!


Joseph Szala is a Senior Creative at iris Atlanta