Halloween tricks bring marketers treats – making the most of seasonal opportunities using detailed audience insights

Steve Beszant

Steve Beszant: Halloween is a great opportunity for marketers – if they use the right insights

Halloween spending in the UK last year was estimated to be £442m and a large part of this spending (34 per cent) was on costumes.1 But judging by their recent online behaviours, Britons are on track to spend even more this year.

Using Experian’s Hitwise® online intelligence tool we looked at searches around Halloween to help marketers better understand the season’s overall trends as well as the audiences seeking costumes and what they’ll be wearing.

In 2014, searches for Halloween costumes began to increase week ending 20th September, however this year, consumers got an even earlier start and interest is, thus far, tracking ahead of levels observed last year. In addition, with searches continuing to grow until Halloween itself, there’s still plenty of time for marketers to capture the Halloween spirit in their digital campaigns.

Variations of ‘Halloween costume’ searches

Week ending 5th July 2014 – 1st November 2014 vs. week ending 4th July 2015 – 10th October 2015
haloween costume searches

 Source: Experian Marketing Services


Who is dressing up?

In the US Halloween is mostly thought of as an occasion for the young to dress up. However, in the UK adults are equally—if not more likely—to take part. In fact, last year, during the peak costume search period, searches for costumes or fancy dress for kids (ranging from newborns to teenagers) made up an average of 45 per cent of weekly search volume among variations that mentioned the age of the intended wearer. Meanwhile, searches for costumes for women made up roughly a third of weekly search volume—a rate that held fairly constant from week-to-week.

Men, on the other hand, accounted for an increasingly large share of weekly searches in the run up to Halloween. Specifically, during the week ending 11th October, 2014, costumes for men represented 14 per cent of demographic-related searches. The week ending 25th October, that share had risen to 22 per cent and by the week of Halloween itself, costumes for men accounted for 29 per cent of searches. Clearly men tend to search for costumes later than women – perhaps in a last minute panic?

Marketers need to remember this pattern in order to make their campaigns relevant to the changing demographics of the audience each week.

Share of costume searches accounted for by key demographic groups

Week ending 27th September, 2014 – 1st November, 2015
Who is searching?

 An analysis of search variations of over 3,600 specific costumes reveals that superheroes and comic-inspired characters are this year’s top choices for costumes with ‘Harley Quinn’ being the most searched for costume in the UK for several weeks running. (Harley Quinn is a character in DC Comics and is a common foe of Batman. The interest is likely due to the fact that the character is making her live-action cinematic debut in the film Suicide Squad scheduled for release in 2016.) Several other Batman characters are also in the top 10, including Poison Ivy and Catwoman. Superheroes and other fictitious characters aside, ‘80s fancy dress’ comes in at number five overall this year and is the most popular period costume, although ‘70s’ and ‘90s fancy dress’ are also common.

Top specific costume/fancy dress search variations

Week ending 10th October 2015

1  Harley Quinn costume
2  Maleficent costume
3  Stormtrooper costume
4  Poison Ivy costume
5  80s fancy dress
6  Mad Hatter costume
7  Zombie costume
8  Morticia Addams costume
9  Superhero costumes
10  Catwoman costume

Obviously, not everyone has the same taste in costumes and an additional analysis leveraging Experian’s new AudienceViewTM platform reveals that affluent consumers (those who earn ₤55,000 annually) are less likely to be seeking out the most common costumes overall. Rather, they want something a bit more ‘unique’, something ‘his and hers’ or even a costume for their ‘pet’.

Costumes more and less popular among affluents

4 weeks ending 10th October 2015

Affluent searches
In order to create successful campaigns that are relevant and engaging, marketers must better understand the interests and behaviors of their unique audience. That goes for Halloween as well as the other 364 days of the year.

AudienceView combines demographic data with website browsing behaviour for superior consumer insights and targeting. Click here to find out more.

1Statista 2014