Candy, Costumes, and Closers: Marketing Lessons from Halloween

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Trick-or-treating is a Marketer’s paradise. Each carefully selected costume is an advertisement. Each adorably humorous attempt to siphon more candy from you into THEIR bucket vs their friend’s bucket is a funnel. Each tactically planned route through the neighborhood, based on recommendations from older siblings of where the candy was REALLY GOOD last year is (what else?) market research.

Yes, my friends, to learn marketing, you must study the Batmans (Batmen?), princesses, assorted animals, and Minions that will be flocking to your doorstep on Tuesday evening.

In fact, theres so much to be learned from these little entrepreneurs that I’ve created this post specifically to highlight three of their most valuable lessons (and also because sometimes, the most timeless advice comes from 6-year-olds).

1. Know Your Market

Is there a veteran trick-or-treater alive who is not intimately familiar with the neighborhood they visit each year? These Titans of the Twizzler know each house, each potential client in their domain. They know the tactics to employ to ensure the greatest possible ROI at each doorstep. Watch them eyeing the moving van suspiciously, already calculating how this new resident will fit into their game plan for Oct 31st. See them slip smoothly past the houses of the fitness buffs: they know there’s nothing for them there, not their target niche. Indeed, we could all take a lesson from the entrepreneur next door: Don’t waste time on the houses without the lights on. Surely that’s attraction marketing 101: your time and energy are always better spent pitching to a receptive audience than cold-doorbelling a crowd of apathetic, raisin-giving, antisocialites.

2. Have an MVP with an upsell waiting

Did you think Tinkerbell and the Lion King just happened to not only be adorable but also were ready with the first three lines of “Uptown Funk”? That was was planned for sure my skeptical friend. They brainstorm for Halloween for months in advance. They know that, maybe 65% of the time, just sheer cuteness will be enough to get the goods, but they’ve also got the upsell waiting, ready to go in case of stubborn customers or the promise of greater reward. Never go into a sales or marketing situation without having fully thought through both your threshold offer and what you’re going to keep in reserve.

3. Consistent messaging is key

Remember that one kid who always seemed to give up and go home halfway through the trick-or-treat route? Various complaints were given but it always boiled down to essentially the same thing: he/she wasn’t getting the amount of candy they thought they should. Their personal Halloween ROI was too low, so they cut their losses and went home to eat the candy their parents hadn’t yet given out.

What none of us, at least that I can remember, were able to tell this kid is that the reason his pumpkin was a little lighter than everybody else’s was that his messaging was all wrong. Ask, as the ancient wisdom goes, and ye shall NOT receive on Halloween. The most successful trick-or-treaters are the ones who give first, either in cuteness, or a joke, or something, then are rewarded with the candy. The kid who just walks up to the door with bucket outstretched is presenting a message of entitlement and expectation.


I hope you’ve had a little fun reading this, and thinking through the old ways of doing things in a new light. If so, consider clicking that clapper or sharing so others can read it, too!

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Writing about life, leadership, money and business.

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