How many of you can remember what it was like when you were growing up and you went out to Trick or Treat on Halloween? Things have certainly changed over the years, at least by my recollection. I remember growing up in St. Louis, throwing some sort of costume together as an excuse to get out of the house as soon after dark as possible, and meeting up with my friends to scour the neighborhood for this year’s stash of candy and treats. With any luck, this treasure trove would last us until Christmas – certainly until Thanksgiving.
Parents breathed a sigh of relief that we were out of the house for at least a couple of hours. What a bummer when you went to a house where the adults insisted on inviting you in so you could perform your “tricks” before they would give you any treats. “Wait a minute!” you were thinking. “This is all backwards – you people should be giving me treats so I will NOT pull any pranks, like soaping your windows or kicking over your jack-o’lanterns!”
Besides, they were wasting our precious TIME. You couldn’t spend more than a minute holding open your brown paper shopping sack from Famous-Barr department store at each doorstep if you hoped to cover all 150 houses in the subdivision before curfew. This was all before cell phones, and I certainly didn’t have a wristwatch, but we all somehow knew about how late it was getting, and when to be home. One clue was when the streets started to empty about 9:00 pm, it was time to head home.
If we were really ambitious, we would plan our route so it would loop back by home about halfway, so we could empty the first load of our stash before lighting out again at double-time pace. Do you remember getting the home-made treats? Nobody wanted yet another Rice Krispies ball or cookies that would promptly turn to greasy crumbs coating everything in the bag. There was no telling what was in the hand-twisted, wax-paper-wrapped wad of whatever, but it was sure to pale by comparison to a York Peppermint Patty or a Milky Way. And forget about hitting the houses that were giving out healthy stuff like apples or oranges – are you kidding? We were out for the good stuff, and we compared notes to get it. The dentist’s house was avoided at all costs because all he ever gave out was pennies and toothbrushes. Who can forget finding out about the old lady on the corner who was giving out WHOLE HERSHEY BARS?! We made sure every kid knew to hit that one – more than once, if we thought we could get away with it. Even though we had reinforced the handles on our paper sacks, inevitably someone would have a blowout, and then it was free-for-all time. No honor among thieves for us.
Speaking of thieves, the inevitable gang of older kids would try to intercept little ones and swipe their goodies. We would alter our route, or travel in packs to foil them. The only constraints that limited the number of rampaging teens on the street were the disdainful looks they got if they tried to innocently go up to one of the doors and ask for candy. There was an unwritten cutoff age of about 12 or so, where no one condoned Trick-or-Treating for anyone not obviously in the pre-teen years. It was back in the day when kids could actually be shamed into a modicum of good behavior by any adult with just a strong disapproving look. I remember being asked just once, “Aren’t you a little old to be Trick-or-Treating?” That was enough for me.
So where are the memories being made today for this generation, this October? Parents of young children, even newborns, feel an obligation to escort their children around the neighborhood, or to just a few friends’ houses where the ritual can continue. Sometimes their own neighborhoods are considered so unsafe that they cart their kids to “safe” suburban developments or gated communities, and pick them up at the end of the next block.
What used to be an innocent excuse for kids to dress up like goblins and witches and scare each other has become something to be actively avoided. Some Christian churches have recently tried to “cleanse” the holiday of any potential connection with Satanists by holding it on some other day than October 31, and they have tried to make it “safer” by holding it on church grounds in broad daylight, holding “Trunk-or-Treat” parties with clowns, slides, and games. Witches, brooms, black cats, ghosts and goblins are noticeably absent. All the goodies are safely dispensed from open car trunks, each candy piece thoroughly wrapped and inspected, lest there be hazards lurking among them. A sign of the times is that hospitals offer their x-ray machines to worried parents so the goodies can be scanned for foreign objects. Another sign of the times is the way that adults have seemed to take over Halloween. Who has not stepped into their favorite bank to find all the tellers in ghoulish costumes? Maybe these folks didn’t get the holiday out of their systems when they were little.
Whatever the motivation, Halloween presents an opportunity for young and old to have fun, just in different ways than in the past. For example, today’s hugely popular Haunted Houses present an opportunity to raise money and awareness for different causes, and can be appropriate for even the youngest children when properly set up. If people didn’t like to be scared and a little out of control, where would horror movies be?
There are opportunities during this Halloween to promote your business, getting into the spirit of the holiday while consistently burnishing your corporate image. Besides the obvious Trick-or-Treat bags, custom imprinted with your business information, here are some other marketing ideas you might consider:
- Chattering teeth. These can be wind-up operated, and make great promotional giveaways for dentists and orthodontists when imprinted with company info.
- Glow in the dark stickers and glow sticks. Self-stick highlights can be put on any costume, making it easy to spot after dark. Sticks can be carried to enhance visibility at night.
- Halloween Stress Balls. These can be excellent for handouts in your business, and will be a hit with the adults as well as kids.
- Novelty ears, lips, and teeth. By supplying just one item for a costume, you make an impression, and get customers’ creative juices going. Each one would be imprinted with your information.
- Solar-powered animated figures. These are attention-getting and put your business info on display in a variety of locations.
- Banners, feather flags, motion signage. All of these can be tailored to a Halloween theme, getting your customers and employees into the spirit of Halloween.
- Logo-imprinted candy. Let your customers know how much you appreciate their business by giving them some custom-wrapped Trick-or-Treat candy to take with them at checkout. For sales calls, M&M candies imprinted with your message or theme make great conversation starters and “thank yous.”