I can trace my family line back to the Witches of Pendle, so I have always enjoyed, what some might say is, an unhealthy interest in Halloween.

But it’s no longer just me.

The board of ‘Halloween UK’ must be delighted with their brand performance in recent years. Just over a decade ago, consumer spending on Halloween in the UK amounted to £12m, but it is now a £300m+ industry. 2012 showed a 12% rise in growth from the previous year.

Personally speaking, I can say that close to 300 kids visited our front door last year. I swear they were being shipped in from all over London. We went through three cauldrons of sweets. Though I did have to draw the line when I opened the door to see two 25-year-olds standing there. Six-foot pumpkins typically do not have children inside them.

Halloween is now bigger than Mother’s day and Valentine’s Day.

So, we love Vampires and Ghosts more than our mums and partners? This may well be true but we were still keen to understand what has underpinned this amazing growth.

Why have we heavily embraced a celebration so strongly associated with America, one so close to Bonfire Night, one that is over and done in an evening and one that doesn’t even come with a day off work or school?

All things any ‘brand or insight consultancy’ working with the ‘Board of Halloween UK’ would describe as significant barriers to success.

What are some of the key insights that could explain why, as a nation, we have ‘fallen in love’ with Halloween?

As with all investigations into behavior change we need to look at both internal and external drivers of influence.

But before we do, as a little context, here are some interesting facts to consider…

In 2013, Polling company YouGov stated, 52% of people polled in the UK said they believe in the supernatural and found that one in five claimed they had some type of paranormal experience.

This is contrasted with figures that range from 30-45% for a belief in God from various studies conducted over the last few years, including the Institute of Education, University of London.

These belief-in-God statistics are lower amongst younger audiences. In a different study by YouGov of 18-25 year-olds only 25% say that they believe in God.

Almost a quarter of seven to 16-year-olds do not know Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, according to exam revision service Education Quizzes.

Since the release of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, on 30 June 1997, the books have sold about 500 million copies, making it the best-selling book series in history, and has been translated into 67 languages The last four books consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.The series also originated much tie-in merchandise, making the Harry Potter brand worth in excess of $15 billion

IMDb reports the Vampire Genre as being the most popular of recent years with over 30 vampire-related franchises including Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy, Angel, Being Human…

So why do The Forge think ‘Brand Halloween UK’ has been so popular of late?

Here are some thoughts for your consideration…

We believe Halloween is exploiting a large emotional gap in the UK festivities market. The increasing secularizing of Christmas and Easter has left a vacuum that requires filling. People want to believe in and celebrate things with meaning and relevance.

All ‘brands’ have an idea at their heart. A bigger thought to buy into as well as products to buy.

Despite the increased secularization, in the UK Christmas still has the idea of ‘family’ firmly at its heart. This is likely to always be the case and probably why another big American celebration – Thanksgiving – has failed to gain any traction here. There’s simply no differentiation.

But what about Easter? There is clearly a product to buy: eggs. But where is the idea? The deep emotional side of Easter has clearly fallen away resulting in something more akin to a chocolate eating completion.

This creates space for a celebration that genuinely delivers against people’s needs. So what does Halloween give us? We think there are 5 key things.

Halloween is fun. For all its origins and associations, at the heart of Halloween is a simple enjoyable experience where people get to indulge in consuming nice foods, dressing up, and decoration of their homes. It comes at a pertinent time of the year when the memory of summer has faded and we are steeling ourselves for winter.

Halloween is naughty. Do the traditionally reserved UK people relish the excuse to embrace their slightly darker side? And to often do this under the anonymity of fancy dress? There are not many points in life where active mischief is encouraged and you are allowed to do such un-British things as knock on a stranger’s door and demand chocolate with menaces!

Halloween is inclusive. Halloween has shed its reputation as a holiday for kids. Both parents and children can join in on a more equal footing. Both can dress up and join in, indulge and play games. There certainly isn’t the provider vs. receiver situation that shapes Christmas.

And because modern Halloween for the majority is a ‘religiously neutral celebration’, it’s something everyone can buy into; a community cultural coming together – either through generosity of giving or excitement of receiving treats. In many ways, far from being the scariest night of the year, it actually feels like the safest night of the year. There’s something comforting in knowing that, no matter what their background, kids will be equally terrified by an 8ft deluxe ‘Alien’ costume.

Halloween is focused. We think the fact that Halloween is one single evening helps its popularity. It enables people to focus their full energy and attention on a finite & manageable period.

Kids love Halloween.  There is something magical about the themes of Halloween. They drive the imagination of children. When this is coupled with access to large amount of confectionery you have something amazing. What parent doesn’t want to be generous about something that drives such excitement?

So we believe that Halloween is targeting an inherent need in people – children & adults – for a certain type of celebration based on fun, naughtiness and indulgence.

Then consider the power of the ‘proposition’ that is addressing that need – the world of the supernatural. The statistics say this is an area we are inherently intrigued, fascinated even motivated by.

Then support this ‘proposition’ by making nearly every other book, film, cartoon or TV show about showcasing that territory. That’s some marketing horsepower.

And for good measure, add in the fact that businesses & brands are increasing their efforts to cater to this celebration, through products and experiences.

Suddenly ,it’s not hard to see why the spell of Halloween has the UK completely captured! As Harry Potter might identify we are all strongly under the influence of the potion Amortentia

Still, we have a long way to go till we reach the magic of US proportions.


With thanks to Wildcat Dunny for the image