Gen Z Insights

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Why Gen Z brands shouldn't overlook Halloween, even in 2020

by Christina Germano
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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    Will a global pandemic stop Gen Z from celebrating their fave holidays? Unlikely. One of Gen Z's key characteristics is their love for micro-moments, like Halloween. It might look a little different this year, but marketing to Gen Z during Halloween should be a priority nonetheless.

    In a survey of over 1 million verified U.S. students on the UNiDAYS Platform, 30% said that, in the few months left of the year, they'll be trying to "make something good of 2020". So you can bet that they'll be pulling out all the stops for Halloween—even if it's a socially-distant, mask-clad, trick-or-treating-free one.

    When it comes to holidays, there are some key differences in Millennials vs Gen Z. Sure, Millennials love all things Halloween. So much so, in fact, that they’ve created entire Halloween sub-genres, such as Elevated Halloween (thank you, Etsy), and Halloween-related spending is at an all-time high

    But move over Millennials, because there’s a new ghoul in town: Generation Z. As it turns out, Gen Z also has an affinity for Halloween, although they celebrate it differently than their predecessors. In years past, Gen Z’s taste in Halloween celebrations has been a lot like their taste in retail—epicly experiential, and fueled by social media. So, what will Gen Z's Halloween celebrations look like in 2020? 


    Even outside of the holidays, Gen Zs are a creative bunch, and Halloween happens to be a prime time of year for their creative expression. Given that Zs revel in the many ways they can define and express their selfhood, it stands to reason that Halloween would be a moment for celebrating their lesser-shown sides in spectacular ways—especially when they might be restricted from celebrating in more conventional ways.

    This year, we should expect many budget-strapped Gen Zs to make their own costumes, as they've done in years past, and to turn to social media for their Halloween costume inspiration. Marketing to Gen Z on social media this Halloween will be more important than ever, as 60% of adults ages 34 and under have increased their social media use since the onset of the pandemic in March. So if you're wondering how to reach Generation Z this Halloween, look no further than your smartphone.

    Smart brands can capitalize by stocking their own social feeds with creative fuel for costume design-making, so that Gen Z’s Halloween garb is a true expression of individuality, in all its glorious forms.


    In many ways, Gen Zs’ taste in spooks mimics their taste in retail. Gone are the days where young people craving fright-filled evenings would settle for a bowl of grapes as a stand in for eyeballs. Instead, Zs crave higher quality, visual experiences that make for great Instagram fodder. Prior to the pandemic, mini halloween-themed escape rooms, ax throwing competitions and virtual reality horrors were all on the rise.

    So, how can you reach the experience-craving Generation Z in the midst of a pandemic? You have a few options here. The first would be to take your experiences entirely digital. Host a virtual haunted house, provide costume-making tutorials, host a Zoom party. Another option is to host a socially-distant Halloween event or in-store experience—but proceed with caution. And while you're at it, why not capitalize on mask-wearing by providing spooky Halloween-themed masks for all your Gen Z shoppers?


    Shots from last night’s hauntings are not the only thing you can expect to find their way to Gen Z Instagram feeds. In fact, almost 40 percent of Gen Zs have admitted to making a Halloween purchase purely for use on social media. And, since social media is on the rise this year, you can expect Gen Zs to be looking to their favorite platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, for Halloween inspo.

    Some experts also expect that Gen Z's Instagram use, as a whole, will become "weirder and uglier" vs Millennials', due to Gen Z's "messier and more unfiltered vibe". So, even if they aren't out trick-or-treating this year, you can still bet your broomstick that Halloween—especially in 2020—will be a peak time of year for Instagram weirdness.


    Like it or not, Zs also have an influence on how the rest of us celebrate Halloween. Gen Z’s strong emphasis on inclusivity and diversity is driving a cultural shift that has not left Halloween untouched. The Teal Pumpkin Project, for example, strives to make Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies. And inclusive costumes are on the rise: Last year, Target rolled out a line of adaptive Halloween costumes, meeting a real need for many shoppers. And, both gender neutral and gender affirming Halloween costumes for all ages are also growing in popularity.


    Whether they’re crafting their own costumes or tuning into a virtual haunted house on Instagram Live, you can expect that Gen Zs will be all-in on a Halloween that’s both frightful and fun this year.

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