The Sledgehammer

Bewitching Brand Marketing

October 27, 2022

We’ve all seen too many examples of the usual Halloween marketing recipe: take a brand, wrap it in some orange and black, slap a couple of ghosts and goblins on it, and call it a night.

Well, we think that’s terrifyingly boring.

What marketers should be thinking when All Hallows Eve comes creeping into our calendars is that it’s a golden opportunity to treat a uniquely interesting holiday as a legitimate touchpoint. If a brand can move beyond the uninspired ads and rote redesigns to provide some real value to customers and support the novel aspects of this singular customer experience, they might be onto something frightfully fun.

How might that play out? We’re glad you asked. To get into the Halloween spirit, let’s consider some scary struggles folks face on this especially spooky night, and how some brands possessed with the ol’ Challenger spirit have stepped in to exorcise the demons.

Heinz Ketchup

If you’re recreating a costume from your favorite slasher flick, a key ingredient is bound to be fake blood. Unfortunately, dealing with it can be a real pain.

Image Credit: Heinz, via Food Network, October 12, 2021, “Your Ketchup Bottle Is Getting a Creepy Halloween Makeover

Heinz knew that their ketchup product was often used as a substitute for blood in gorier Halloween costumes. So, the brand decided to embrace this alternative use by offering customers a limited-edition Tomato Blood Costume Kit. The kit not only contained a bottle of Halloween-themed ketchup, but also a makeup palette, brush set, sponge, dropper, rhinestone sheet, tattoo sheet, vampire teeth, and spooky eyelashes to make blood-soaked DIY costumes easier to craft. They also created a live experience in Los Angeles where guests could buy costume components and begin decorating them at interactive “drip stations” in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Urban Decay Cosmetics

For anyone trying to dress up as a Moon Goddess this Halloween, they may find that their makeup game is a little lacking when creating that otherworldly glow. Luckily, Urban Decay has them covered.

Not only did they offer their own Halloween how-tos (which, quite honestly, is table stakes for a cosmetics company), they tapped into the people their customers already look to for makeup advice and instruction: social influencers. Urban Decay partnered with the hottest makeup influencers around to create a series of YouTube videos featuring effective yet easy-to-replicate Halloween looks — using all Urban Decay products, of course. The influencers included links to all products used in the videos and gave customers the confidence that they could replicate the looks due to the ease of the designs, seriously bumping up sales.


When your kid’s trick-or-treating window is limited, it’ll be a horror scene unless you help them maximize their cavity-generating potential. That’s where Reese’s Treat Map app can save your night, even if it negatively impacts your children’s teeth!

Image Credit: Nextdoor, October 1, 2021, “Nextdoor’s annual Treat Map is here to help neighbors celebrate Halloween

Already known for their novelty Halloween ads, Reese’s went further to ensure the ultimate trick-or-treater experience when they partnered with Nextdoor, a hyperlocal social networking service for neighborhoods. Instead of showing local services and items for sale, the Treat Map guides savvy trick-or-treaters to the best candy or the sweetest Halloween decorations around town.


And speaking of ruining teeth with an abundance of sweets, Crest fights the urge to be the oral hygiene killjoy with an idea that perfectly plays both sides — protecting your candy and your chompers.

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A post shared by Crest (@crest)

The mouth care company took a close look at their customers’ Halloween journey and saw an opportunity to play a role in the frightful festivities. For parents who often have to stow their kids’ candy stash to prevent a month-long sugar craze in November, the brand created a competition where customers could win a limited edition Candy Safe. To enter, participants had to post @crest on Instagram and use a series of hashtags (#BringOnTheCandy, #Sweepstakes) that amplified the brand’s reach. It was a win-win for customers, Crest, and kids’ teeth everywhere.

So, what devilishly clever lessons can we learn from these monster marketers?

  1. Understand your customer’s journey end to end. Learn their frustrations and challenges. Pay attention to each little annoyance along the way and let them serve as inspiration. Then you’ll be in a position to find the hacks that your customers are using to navigate the issues they face. Those pain points will be the building blocks of your best work.
  2. Make customers’ lives easier. Urban Decay not only appealed to their makeup-loving audience with beautiful designs, but they made sure they were accessible to the makeup novice. Heinz could have just created a Halloween-themed ketchup bottle, but they added in the tools and accessories to aid with application and fill out the horror ensemble. The Treat Map helps parents plan their route to maximize candy collection and minimize frustration of the evening. Once you find an issue, create a solution that reduces friction, solves a frustrating situation, or otherwise improves the process.
  3. Employ influencers your customers already rely on to deliver your message. Building a following and credibility from scratch is hard. And while celebrity spokespeople create buzz, it’s microinfluencers who have become the trusted category experts that customers turn to at various points in their journey. In today’s connected world, this applies not only to patients but to HCPs as well — find the digital opinion leaders in your therapeutic area or disease state and find a way to partner with them to reach your audience more effectively.

To further bring these points into the world of healthcare, consider a great example of innovation in the cystic fibrosis space. Sadly, kids with CF spend many tedious hours using vibrating vests to break up congestion in their chest. Woojer, a haptic technology company known best for gaming vests, realized that they could make this process suck less by incorporating music for the kids to listen to and crafting a vest that moved to the beat. Sick Beats, the world’s first music-powered Airway-clearance vest, was born.

Don’t get spooked if figuring out the right move for your brand starts to feel like an unsolvable mystery. Knowing your customers’ journey like the back of your hand and, more importantly, where the opportunities might exist to smooth out the sticking points, is a great way to conjure up killer ideas and make your marketing efforts come aliiiiiiiive! 👻🧟‍♂️🧛🏽‍♂️

At any given time, there are hundreds of actual sledgehammers floating around the Heartbeat office and resting on shelves in Heartbeaters’ homes. To celebrate their first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge — a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way — here comes The Sledgehammer.