Are Tech Companies’ “Hallowemails” an Effective Marketing Strategy?

If you’re anything like me, your inbox has been flooded the past week or two with Halloween-themed emails from businesses trying to make the most of this bewitching holiday.

But in much the same way that some costumes turn out to be spectacular while others are duds, these Halloween marketing messages are not all cut from the same cloth.

Let’s take a look at some of the “Hallowemails” sent by tech companies this year and examine their tactics and effectiveness.

1) Dropping a Single Halloween Product into a Standard Email

In this first category, companies sent standard marketing emails featuring a handful of products where only one was Halloween-themed.

One example is the message I received earlier this week from Living Social. From the format to the copy to the images, every element was consistent with a typical email from the daily deal company. The only aspect that was Halloween-related was that one of the dozen or so discounts featured was for tickets to the “Halloween Party of Your Choice.”

LivingSocial email

I got a similar email from iTunes a few days ago. It was the standard weekly newsletter with typical format, copy, and images. The only element that was tied to Halloween was a small section featuring “Halloween TV Shows for Kids,” which was located at the very bottom below new releases and editor’s top picks.
iTunes email

Of the various types of Halloween marketing messages I’ve received, this category was the least effective. The Halloween tie-in was so small as to barely be noticeable (much less memorable), and there was essentially no value provided to the customer beyond that contained in any standard email from these companies.

2) Taking Things to the Next Level with a Halloween-Themed Email

Similarly, in this second category companies sent messages promoting a Halloween product. But instead of dropping that product into a standard email alongside a handful of other non-holiday offerings, they highlighted the Halloween product in a standalone email that was fully costumed to fit the theme.

Pinterest sent me a great example of this type of marketing message. The format was similar to their standard weekly newsletters of recommended pins and boards, but all other aspects had been customized to fit the Halloween theme, starting with the subject line: “Monster mash potatoes, mummy dumplings and more.”
Pinterest email

Another example came last weekend from the delivery service Postmates, which was featuring a special promotion where customers could order costumes on-demand in the week leading up to Halloween. Again every element of the email was wrapped in a Halloween theme, and the company even managed to earn some extra tech brownie points by highlighting another startup in their copy: “Whether you’re dressing as Buster Posey or a Lyft driver, we’ll bring you the goods faster than you can say boo.”
Postmates email
These marketing messages were more effective than those described in the first category. By featuring the Halloween-related product in a standalone email that had been fully customized to fit the theme, the companies helped to ensure that their message would stand out and be memorable.

3) Kicking It Up a Notch with a Discount

This next category builds on the one directly above — with companies promoting a Halloween product in a separate and fully-themed email — but then kicks it up an extra notch by offering some type of discount.

Shutterfly, which offers photo printing and makes it easy to turn pics into books and other gift items, did this with an email titled “So good, it’s scary.” The company incorporated Halloween into its marketing message with images of costumed kids and this copy: “Jump start your Halloween…Add your photos right from the Halloween parade.” Then Shutterfly sealed the deal by offering free photo prints and discounts on other products with the promo code “MONSTERSALE.”

Shutterfly email 2

The on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service Washio took a similar approach. Featuring an animated gif of a dog dressed up as a male sheep, the email tied Washio to Halloween by promoting that it can help you take “that old Halloween costume out of storage and get it nice and clean for the monster mash.” Then it offered the appropriate “BADCOSTUME” promo code for $5 off.

Washio email

Similar to the second category mentioned above, this type of marketing featured a Halloween product and made the message fun and memorable with a fully-themed email. But this category was ultimately more effective because the marketing provided tangible value for the customer by offering a discount.

4) Incorporating Contests and Social Media

In this final category, companies took a different approach by incorporating contests and social media into their Halloween marketing.

TaskRabbit did the best job of executing on this approach based on everything I’ve seen. In an email it sent last weekend titled, “There’s Nothing Spooky About Outsourcing Halloween Tasks,” the company tied its core product offering (a marketplace where individuals and companies can hire people to do errands and other tasks) to the holiday by suggesting that “taskers” can “make hand-made costumes to your specifications” or “set up a spooky Halloween yard display.”
TaskRabbit email

If the email had stopped there, it would have been a great example of the marketing described above in the second category. But instead, TaskRabbit added the additional components of a contest promoted via social media: “Tell us how you’re living smarter by taking advantage of TaskRabbit’s Halloween help; tweet your task to @TaskRabbit with #TaskOrTreat. We’ll feature our favorite on the blog and hook you up with a nice treat.”

Of the various types of Halloween-related marketing emails I’ve received, this was definitely the most effective. It managed to incorporate the best elements of the other categories — the company connected its core product offering to Halloween, created a standalone email that was fully customized for the holiday, and provided tangible value to customers through the possibility of winning a prize —but then went a step further with the addition of social media, which provides additional exposure for the company and serves to amplify the effects of its email marketing.

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