The rise of ‘Horror Lite’ marketing

With Halloween done and dusted for another year, it’s worth taking a look at just how ubiquitous horror - or ‘Horror Lite - marketing has become in 2010.

Halloween naturally gave everyone an excuse to dabble in a spot of monster based mayhem, whether its Sears re-skinning its digital retail destination to cater for Zombies , Nike going running across Japan in Zombie makeup (pictured below) or the AMC  network taking over 28 cities with Zombie hordes to promote TV series ‘The Walking Dead’.

Halloween is the prime time for brands to break out of their comfort zone and try something slightly bizarre with a relatively limited chance of it tainting the core brand positioning. However, it’s not just resigned to October 31st any more, in fact the Horror Lite surge has been with us most of the year.  Whether it’s Virgin Trains 'Don’t Go Zombie’ campaign, Tango effectively sponsoring Halloween or even zombie’s jumping red lights in New Zealand to promote energy drinks.

So why the relatively sudden surge in interest in death? Well it could be due to a study from the Journal Of Consumer Research in 2008, which stated that “exposure to death?related stimuli can increase consumers’ amounts of purchasing and consumption”. However, it’s far more likely that marketers are scrabbling to find an advertising touch point that effectively mimics the popularity of the Twilight phenomenon.

One of the more notable campaigns under the Horror Lite genre, which caught our attention, was the recent promotional push by Malaria No More UK, which used the well-established cinematic elements of a horror movie to aid its quest to end deaths from malaria by 2015.

The charity created a 90-second trailer for a faux horror movie ‘The Hunting Moon’, featuring British students traveling in Africa fighting for survival against a mysterious invisible killer.  The trailer for the movie was promoted as if an actual film across The Sun and Sky Movies websites, while an accompanying website offering both the faux movie trailer and a ‘reveal’ version uncovering a series of Malaria related facts. It’s a highly effective campaign, which positions a serious issue within a medium a youth audience can immediately relate to.

With plenty of undead mayhem still in the pipeline, from a reworking of Michael Jackson’s Thriller into a movie to the forthcoming cinematic version of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, we should see the use of Horror Lite marketing continuing well into next year.

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