Stranger Things happen – Engaging customers over Halloween

Stranger Things premiere lifts engagement 74 per cent for brands targeting its global audience, as Mailjet test centre reveals how brands can stay safe from marketing peril this Halloween.

The spooky season has arrived in style this year as horror films and TV shows hit the right spot with audiences. This year’s Stephen King adaptation, IT, is now the highest grossing horror film of all time, trick-or-treaters are out in force and hit Netflix original show Stranger Things has just been released. Much to be excited about, but are British customers tired of Halloween? and are pop-culture references the way to get them interested?

A global study conducted by email service provider, Mailjet, reveals engagement for this year’s spook fest is peaking around the second season of hit Netflix show, Stranger Things.

Conducted via a series of direct marketing tests using Halloween themed content among Mailjet’s database of over 25,000 subscribers, research finds engagement, measured by email open rate, was 74 per cent higher where Stranger Things was directly mentioned in the subject line.

In the UK a more modest but notable bump of ten per cent was measured across some 1,335 respondents, with more than a quarter of respondents (27 per cent) opening messages promising content relating to the show, proving its transatlantic appeal.

Despite this, Halloween itself remains a very US based calendar event. Simply by inviting the subscriber base to ‘Celebrate Halloween with us’, a brand can achieve a 68 per cent increase in open rates for its US based marketing effort. By contrast, open rates dropped by at least a seven per cent across Europe (UK, France, Germany and Spain) using the same tactic.

Pumpkin spice and all things nice

One brand that has managed to excite both UK and US consumers is Starbucks. As the brand re-introduces its line of pumpkin spiced beverages, tests carried out in the UK prove the value of seasonal product marketing with email open rates rising ten per cent in instances where the popular flavouring is mentioned.

In the US, email subject lines mentioning pumpkin spice generated the highest open rate, a staggering 90 per cent higher than the open rate for a regular email sent around the same time to the regional subscriber base of 11,000 respondents.

Josie Scotchmer, UK marketing manager at Mailjet comments, “It’s easy to assume the success Starbucks sees is testament simply to the quality of the product but this overlooks the marketing effort behind the scenes. Starbucks has a brand personality that comes through in every email, with content integrated across every channel. As a matter of best practice, tailoring your content in this way and being responsive to what engagement rates are telling you is essential in keeping your brand relevant and appreciated.”

Don’t ‘trick’ your subscribers

Of course, what works in one market can have scary consequences in another. The data re-enforces marketing superstition around Halloween in Europe as drops in engagement were universal in Spain and Germany with Halloween themed content.
Looking at the results thematically, many of the poorer engagement levels are from content related to perhaps the least popular aspect of Halloween – trick or treat. Even in the US, less than a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents chose to take a look at an email pertaining to the childhood activity. This dips to just 19 per cent in the UK.

On the other hand, the research suggests consumers are receptive to Christmas content this early in the year. By combining festive themes of both Halloween and Christmas, in particular, playing off the cult film ‘Nightmare before Christmas’, open rates rose to 25 per cent in the UK and 28 per cent in the US.

Scotchmer concludes, “Taking your marketing in a new direction to jump on growing seasonal opportunities such as Halloween can be a daunting process. Audiences are fluid and trends change. Keeping up with their likes and dislikes means not only paying attention to insights your direct marketing provides, but being able to spot the moment it’s time to change tack accordingly – this is where automation enables the marketer to react far more quickly than ever before.”

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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