Trick or treat? Our top five PR Halloween horrors!

Posted on 7th October 2020 by Rebecca Brown

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Halloween will feel a little different for the Skout team this year due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown measures. Our spooky office decorations will have to stay in storage and pumpkin carving will have to wait until next October. However, this doesn’t mean that us PR pros can’t get involved in this annual event in other ways. It is a great opportunity to get involved with the ‘haunting’ and ‘scary’ themes of the festivities and use it as a fun approach to content and campaigns. You’re probably already aware of how some companies use this to their advantage.


In 2019, for example, some of the biggest brands treated audiences to some Halloween treats. Who remembers the Skittle Zombies that went ‘horribly viral’ (in a good way)? The sweet company released five flavours including Boogeymen Blackberry and Mummified Melon – the consumer only knew what they were eating once they experienced a terrifying taste. Or, how about when Burger King trolled McDonalds with a frightening rendition of Ronald McDonald. Using social media to promote the event, the fast-food chain used the hashtag #ScaryClownNight to engage customers while offering freebies.


Horror stories aren’t just reserved for Halloween


While getting into the Halloween spirit can be a great way of increasing brand awareness for a company if done in the right way, it doesn’t stop businesses making their own horror stories throughout the rest of the year! As always, we keep a close eye on what’s going on in the media, and we’ve spotted some PR nightmares that are bound to keep even the heaviest sleeper awake at night. Here are our top five PR Halloween horrors:


  1. Proud Boys misappropriation of Fred Perry logo


Clothing brand, Fred Perry, recently withdrew one of its polo shirt designs as it became associated with a US neo-fascist group Proud Boys. The yellow and black jersey, displaying the wreath logo which originally symbolised inclusiveness and diversity, has been adopted by the far-right extremist group to wear in politically violent rallies. Subsequently, Fred Perry issued a statement to express its frustration and denounce the movement.


  1. UK Government Covid-19 communication efforts


We all know how confusing the messaging is surrounding the rules and regulations of the pandemic, so this has got to be in our top five. Masks to no-masks, ‘return to work’/’return home’, the U-turn on school meal vouchers and exam results – there are many examples to choose.


  1. Pure Gyms ’12 years a slave’ Black History month campaign


To celebrate Black History Month, the gym network compared one of its workouts to slavery naming the exercise routine ‘12 years a slave’ after the movie. Originally posting it on Facebook (which has now been deleted), this epic fail was slammed for being offensive and inappropriate.


  1. Xbox failing to name its new product correctly


Microsoft decided to name its newest Xbox product line ‘series x’ which unsurprisingly confused many parents placing orders for the latest console (it’s very similar to the Xbox One X). This caused sales for the older product to surge by 747 percent.


  1. Burger Kings vegan blunder for Veganuary


During vegan awareness month, Burger King released a plant-based burger to help cater for its vegan customers and compete with their other fast-food rivals. However, it turned out that the soybean burger was cooked on the same grill as meat products, completely defeating the point. The fast-food chain quickly changed its messaging to say the meat-free burger was for flexitarians.


There are plenty more haunting tales to tell and we could be here until next Halloween writing about them all. Let’s hope that next year will bring more treats than tricks!


Happy Halloween.


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