A Very COVID Halloween

Kathryn Slater I’m an Associate Creative Director specializing in brand strategy and copywriting, and my approach relies on empathetic leadership, close collaboration with designers, and a knack for getting straight to the heart of a brand with storytelling and stand-out creative. I gain most of my inspiration from New Yorker cartoon captions and believe that all first drafts should be burned with actual fire.

All of a sudden, it’s almost Halloween again. How is that possible? It seems like yesterday we were packing up our desks to start working from home (THAT WAS MARCH). It feels like three minutes ago we were experiencing the 4th of July (celebrating seems like a strong word this year)… but that was over three months ago. 

So here we are, in what feels like the weirdest version of Halloween season we’ve ever experienced. And while New Englanders like us are used to challenges this time of year, in general, that’s been due to snow or ice or something of that nature. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never experienced a widespread cancellation of Halloween festivities due to a global and deadly pandemic. 

Halloween is a very important and serious holiday for many people across the country. And these die-hard fans have not taken the change in plans lightly. The city of Los Angeles banned trick or treating this year before almost instantly reversing their stance due to public outcry. New York City has flat out refused to ban the activity, with governor Cuomo stating that he would not ban the traditional Halloween house visit. 

Whatever the stance your city or state has made, it feels pretty clear to us, that Halloween is different this year. So how are brands dealing with this change of plans? Which companies, known for their Halloween campaigns each year, have been able to pivot, using the odd circumstances to their advantage? 

Let’s take a look at how some brands are changing their plans to accommodate a weird year.

Hostess Brands 

This year, Hostess launched the “Bring Hostess Halloween Home” campaign, urging consumers to keep their celebrations uber local (inside the home). The brand rolled out recipes for tricks (the Twinkie cemetery) and treats (Vampire donettes), suggesting that you can have JUST AS MUCH FUN at home. To round out the fun, Hostess has used social media to amplify the campaign, with spooky takes on their traditional favorites and influencer goodie bags to inspire your holiday.

Photo: Amazon.com

Mars Wrigley

According to a survey by Numerator, 52% of consumers report that they will buy less candy this year. So how has candy megagiant Mars Wrigley responded to this data point? They’re gone digital, of course, with their “Treat Town” app and website — promising “Virtual Tricks, Real Treats.” The app boasts digital trick-or-treating, and candy credits that can be purchased, shared, and redeemed at retailers. 

Photo: Mars


Ok, Reese’s made a robotic, COVID-friendly candy dispenser in the shape of a door that dispenses KING-SIZED peanut butter cups to delighted (we’re assuming) candy lovers. According to Ad Week, “The candy brand will send the remotely controlled, and thus socially distanced, door around to consumers who can convince them they are true Halloween fans on Instagram using the hashtag #ReesesDoor. The mobile activation can be controlled from up to 5,000 feet away, meaning its operators don’t have to get close to children who engage with it.”


Photo: The Hershey Company


This year, Dunkin’ partnered with Spirit Halloween stores, launching a pair of “coffee and doughnuts inspired costumes.” Yep! That’s right! You and your friend, your significant other, or your mom (why not?!) will be all set to go as the perfect breakfast combo. But you better hop to it. Halloween is just a few days away, and we don’t want you to be stuck buying that one costume at the store that no one else wanted. Live it up! Be the doughnut/coffee combo (as you sit at home dreaming of Halloweens past).

Photo: Dunkin Donuts

SO, there you have it — a few of our favorites from an unprecedented Halloween. Clearly, the classic Halloween brands have figured out the pivot. What are you planning for Halloween 2020 tricks and treats?


View our work.