The Horror! How Brands Are Using Spooky Aesthetics To Appeal To Younger Consumers

If spooky season is among your favorite times of the year, you aren’t alone. Studies show that Millennials and Gen Z love to celebrate Halloween. Not only that, but younger generations are more likely to spend higher dollar amounts in the days leading up to the holiday.

Horror fiction has seen a resurgence as well, with more major horror films hitting the box office this year than at any time in the last two decades. Brands big and small are keying in on the fascination that younger generations have with the aesthetics of the season to drive eye-catching creative campaigns and new specialty offerings to consumers.

We collected three of our favorite terrifying campaigns below.

Ford Goes Grindhouse with Their New Truck Ad Spot

Scary Fast, the new ad spot for the Ford Raptor R, shows off the 2023 production truck on a run through the desert as a supernatural creature pursues the driver.The aesthetics of the ad spot are evocative of the grindhouse horror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, complete with film grain, over-warm color temperatures and jump cuts.

“Whenever a brand can latch onto something timely, it’s great. And Halloween is no exception. The Raptor spot is a fun take on the horror movie trailer, with a bit of a Stranger Things vibe to boot.” – Meredith Schwinder, Group Creative Director at Brownstein.

The Ford Raptor R has a starting MSRP of nearly $110,000, a price almost as terrifying as the campaign. Still, the founding automotive brand has consistently succeeded with bold and different creative for decades, staying top of mind with the American consumer.

Heinz Delivers Scares Right to Consumers’ Doors

Heinz ketchup has been used as fake blood in Halloween costumes and horror films for decades, and this year, the king of condiments has leaned into it as a new way to sell their product.

Heinz is now selling ‘Tomato Blood’ and ‘Tomato Blood Costume Kits’ to consumers online, giving fans of the brand an affordable way to create a Halloween costume.

“The universal appeal of Halloween makes it a perfect opportunity for brands like Heinz to leverage an insight about the interesting and unconventional use of their product as the bloody “pièce de résistance” of their costume this time of year, since Heinz is a brand that is also embedded in American culture, just like Halloween. This makes it a perfect complement (or condiment) for a uniquely American fall holiday season.” – Brett Samuels, Senior Account Planner at Brownstein.

The brand has also stocked its online store with more options for Halloween costumes and even opened a pop-up shop in Los Angeles to stock its wares.

NJM Shows Off the Haunting Side of Insurance

Brownstein client, NJM, launched their newest ad spot, ‘Haunted House,’ at the start of October to coincide with the spookiest season. The new creative features the ghosts of insurance mascots past and is creeping into homes throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

“Advertisers are always on the lookout for new events or venues to exploit — holidays especially. In recent years, big brands have jumped on Halloween because it’s still relatively uncluttered. Still, more importantly, it affords them a chance to create buzz by flexing their creative muscles and delivering clever, more eccentric campaigns for their audiences.”  – Chris Grenier, Group Creative Director at Brownstein.

The newest spot highlights the horrors of the modern insurance marketplace and leans into the aesthetics of the season.

Brands Are Having a Scary Good Time with Horror-Inspired Marketing

While brands have long embraced the holiday season in December, the newest trend in marketing sees them leaning into a time of year that younger generations resonate with. Brands should continue to experiment with new aesthetics and cultural crossovers that capture the attention of Millennials and Gen Z.

Our Brand Longevity Research found that relevance was the second-most crucial factor to a brand’s continued success, only behind profitability. As brands navigate new trends in marketing, they must also adapt their strategies for their messages to truly achieve long-term resonance with their audience.

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