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For many people, Halloween is the best holiday of the year. Here is what marketers can learn from it.

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Ah yes, Halloween. A time for kids to get cavities from lots of candy, homeowners to be blackmailed for treats, and an excuse for women to be dressed in as revealing outfits as possible. What’s not to love?

But in the real world, if you’re listening to this, you probably have a real job, possibly in digital marketing, and that can be scary!

But never fear, if you pay attention, I’ll give you:

6 marketing lessons you can learn from Halloween:

Lesson 1: Be current
If you’re dressing up as the cast from Madmen, an Avatar Warrior, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga, you’re jumping on a pop culture phenom and you’ll be fine.

If you love the Jersey Shore, and identify with Snooki or have the abs to pull off The Situation, by all means this is the year to do it. This is reality TV people, they could be off the air next season or Pauly D could become mayor of Newark. You never know how it’s going to turn out, so jump on it now.

But if your idea of something cool is the cast from Lost, Joker from Batman, Sarah Palin, or a baby-wearing bearded guy from the Hangover, you’re about a year too late. Don’t be that guy.

Same goes for your marketing plan. Are you staying current, watching new trends, and staying ahead of the pack? Or just rehashing your ideas from 2007? Call a brainstorming meeting of your best and brightest, and update your creative.

Lesson 2: Be classic
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go as something in the past. In fact, the classics will always be in vogue.

Does your group of friends resemble the gang from Scooby Doo or the Wizard of Oz?  Do you look badass in a vampire costume? Did you always want to be Elvis or Wonder Woman or a 10 gallon hat wearing cowboy? Go for it.

There are also tried and true lessons in marketing:
– Start with a great plan
– Put out a great product
– Target your audience
– Excel at customer service
– Test test test
– Readjust as you go
– Have fun

Lesson 3: Sex sells … sometimes
OK, I know for some of the women out there, this is their one time to have fun and let loose. Maybe you’re deciding the following costumes: Sexy nurse, sexy prison guard, sexy schoolteacher, sexy cop, sexy devil, or sexy department of motor vehicles employee. We get it.

Just make sure the costume matches your personality. If you’re a confident person with the physique to back it up and a bit of a wild streak in you, by all means go for it. Have fun with it. Just know that you might get a lot more attention that you’re used to.

The same goes for your brand. There are certain industries that have historically pushed the envelope — underwear, perfume, and alcohol immediately come to mind. When I talk about Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, or most any beer ad, I’m sure young, scantily clad men and women with toned bodies come to mind. Like it or not, this is how they’ve always pushed their message, and people are used to it.

But let’s take a look at two non-traditional advertisers, GoDaddy.com and Carl’s Jr.

For GoDaddy, even though the product isn’t that sexy – website domain registration – they use a sex sells campaign. It’s controversial and attracts attention, but they don’t back down. Go to their website right now and you’ll see trainer Jillian Michaels with just a sports bra on.

It also works for them because it is backed by their aggressive CEO Bob Parsons.  In fact, the frontpage promotes Bob’s blog with the title: 6 facts YOU MUST know when dealing with ANY problem, plus a smoking hot blonde.

Meanwhile, Carl’s Jr took a lot of heat in 2005 (has it been that long) with a sexy campaign featuring Paris Hilton. Why use Paris Hilton to sell burgers? I guess it definitely caused some buzz, but it doesn’t seem in line with their overall brand.

Lesson 4: Be Authentic
This goes hand in hand with the last point. Don’t try to dress up as something you’re not. If you’re 5’7′ and weigh 148 pounds, don’t try to be Arnold in the Terminator, no matter how much you like the movie.

And with social media marketing, it’s all about being authentic. There are enough case studies out there to support this, so check the blog for those.

Lesson 5: It’s all in the details
The details of a costume are what really set it apart. For example, I somehow obtained a mustard gold sportscoat, which easily became a Century 21 real estate agent costume a few years back. All I needed to do was throw on a tie and you get the picture.

But I then went online and got the Century 21 logo, enlarged it in Photoshop, printed it on the color printer, and made my own name tag. All I was missing were Century 21 coworkers — and lots of awards.

Then, I stopped by an apartment broker here in New York and asked them for some floor plans of Manhattan apartments. So when someone came up to me, not only would they say, ‘Hey, real estate agent,’ I then took out the papers and said, ‘I’ve got a real nice junior one bedroom on the upper east side that you need to see… exposed brick with new appliances and laundry in the basement for just $2200 a month.’

Once again, the same holds true for marketing, whether it’s double checking all your written copy, verifying that all your banner ads are tracking correctly, or bringing a copy of your presentation on a thumb drive just in case the one you emailed to the event coordinator gets corrupted.

Lesson 6: Join the fun
There’s nothing worse than the standoffish person at the party that refuses to dress up. I get it, you’re shy. But c’mon push your boundaries a bit. Even worse is the person that waits until the last minute and shows up with the total cop-out costume.

You know who you are… the guy or gal that throws on the devil horns or cat ears on the way out the door, the ghost with a sheet on, or the snarky tshirt that says ‘this is my costume.’

The same goes for marketing. It’s not a process that you do once per year at the last minute. You need to build your brand and fight for it every day, and when there’s a chance to have fun, be creative, and celebrate with the world, plan out the details and shoot for the moon. The full moon.

Feel free to comment, write, or tweet me what you’re going to be.

– Comment below
– Email at MarketingGuy [at] wired.com
Follow me twitter.com/hopkinsonreport

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