Don’t Be Scared

There’s a lesson to be learned on Halloween that applies to Millennial Marketing all year long


Halloween – the one day of the year when we take all the things we know are good for us and ignore them, tuning them out like the nutrition label on a package of candy corn.

Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t wear black walking around at night. Don’t talk to that guy dressed like a 6-foot Minion.

What’s good, common sense advice the other 364 days of the year somehow, on Halloween, carries less weight than a marshmallow Peep. The holiday itself is almost a dare to do the opposite of how you know you should behave.

But there is one valuable lesson that Halloween teaches us every year, something any parent who has ever tried to squeeze a kid into a store-bought costume surely has figured out.

One size does not fit all.

No Frozen princess dress or Iron Man mask is going to fit everyone. And you know? There’s nothing wrong with that. Cinderella’s slipper should only fit Cinderella. Halloween costumes and traditions should feel original and personal and unique. We don’t need everyone in the local ragamuffin parade draped in the same Yoda robes. Halloween should be a celebration of self-expression, a monster mash-up of whatever we each find truly harrowing, whether it’s a life-sized deflated football or a Donald Trump fright wig (if we just solved your costume conundrum for this year, you’re welcome).

This is a lesson we should all remember throughout the year, especially as it pertains to Millennial marketing. Too often, we succumb to the convenience of putting any specific demographic in a box. We forget that while a product might appeal to campuses from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, our approach to introducing it to a market isn’t necessarily universal.

The key to connecting to an on-campus community is recognizing what makes that community different. Every student body, for example, celebrates Halloween; they just don’t all do it the same way.

The party at Ohio University, for example, spills out onto the streets of Athens, where this year they are preparing for up to 25,000 visitors to town (which is substantial for a city of 23,000 people). At Georgetown, of course, much of the frightening focus is fixed on the “Exorcist Steps,” the spooky stairwell adjacent to 3600 Prospect Street that was used in the filming of one of the all-time horror classics.

At MIT, tradition holds that on the last Saturday of October (which this year, of course, is Halloween night), the residents of First West – the smallest residence hall in the Green Building – test the laws of gravity and physics with their annual Pumpkin Drop.

The celebratory nature of each event is universal. The specific details are unique from campus to campus. And that’s important for us to always remember.

A recent article in Marketing Magazine examined reasons why Millennials resist being pigeonholed as some like-minded, lock-step, homogenous generational block. Sometimes, they are mistakenly portrayed that way, by everyone from Millennial marketers to political pollsters. In truth, they are as varied and colorful as the candy haul in a fourth-grader’s trick-or-treat bag.

Fortunately, our experience working on campuses across the country over the past 11 years is a constant reinforcement of this important perspective. The hundreds of on-campus programs we’ve run often have had to be tailored and tweaked from campus to campus. Student bodies are as different from one school to the next as the spaces where we hold our events. The challenges are different on every campus, and so are the opportunities. As a result, we remain mindful of how to maximize our connection and, whenever possible, customize an experience for a particular audience.

One size does not fit all.

David Seigerman’s latest book, Take Your Eye Off The Ball 2.0 (Triumph Books)
will be released this fall. Follow him at @dseigs18.

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