This is a busy time for brands and marketers. The calendar is full from now until the new year with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. All of these are big business for brands looking to cash in with sales and limited offers.

But it all starts with Halloween. Everybody’s rushing out to get the perfect costume, an invite to the best parties, and a mountain of candy. And brands rush to keep up with them, offering hot new products and marketing campaigns to match.

So we took our favorite social listening tool for a spin, so see what people were talking about in the build up to the big day tomorrow. We wanted to find keys trends for Halloween 2017, and see what’s got consumers excited.

Here’s what we found…

General Halloween conversations

We’re going to look at some specific topics shortly. But first, we wanted to see how popular Halloween is in general.

The answer: it’s very popular, especially in the USA.

Over the last week, the word “Halloween” was used online nearly 2 million times. And of all those mentions, more than a quarter of them were in the USA:

halloween mentions map usa

America makes things famous. And while in other parts of the world Halloween is just a bit of fun for kids (and adults who still feel like kids), in the US it’s serious business.

There were also significant numbers of mentions in the United Kingdom (nearly 100,000) and the next country (France) wasn’t even close. So even if it feels as though Halloween is everywhere, it’s still a work in progress in much of the world.

Here’s another interesting graph:
halloween-2017-mentions-volume

For some reason, Halloween mentions had a massive spike on Monday October 23. And what’s most interesting about this is that we can’t figure out why.

Usually when you see a spike like this, one or two posts went viral. As you look through your mentions list, you see the same posts occurring again and again, retweeted by hundreds or thousands of people. (There’s an example of this soon).

In this case, there’s no such viral post. Which means that we have ourselves a real Halloween mystery! It seems social media users just got really, really excited about Halloween more than a week early. Spooky.

Aside from tracking the term “Halloween,” we looked closely at a few key trends this time of year. Let’s take a look now.

Candy wars

Halloween is all about the candy. It’s also a time for weird new products, strange flavors, and endless marketing. And every year, both of these meet head-on.

Name-brand candy companies have a golden opportunity every year. People have to buy candy (in case neighborhood kids come to the door), and nobody wants to become known as the person who hands out the cheap stuff.

And with Halloween 2017 set to break spending records, the big brands pump serious money into their holiday products. Candy companies create seasonal offerings to give a limited-time appeal, even if their classics are popular this time of year as well.

We wanted to know how these candy wars play out on social media. Do people actually talk about these new products much, and are all those marketing efforts worth it?

The contestants

We watched conversations about three Halloween-themed products over the last month. To keep things simple, we only chose candies that were created for Halloween. You can’t just put some orange on your candy wrapper. Not in our books.

So here are the three we chose:

Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

reese pumpkin halloween

Reese’s could probably do nothing special for Halloween. Their classic packaging is already orange, and supposedly Reese’s Cups are the most popular candy in the USA. But these pumpkins count as a Halloween-specific product, so we’ll see who’s talking about them.

Halloween Kit-Kat

kit kat halloween

These wafer treats are orange and white chocolate flavored. As long as they’re still fun to snap into individual fingers, that sounds fine to me.

Cauldron Skittles

Skittles made a splash during game 5 of the ALDS (clue: baseball) with the above ad. It’s super creepy, and also has nothing to do with candy. But it shows that they’re all in for Halloween.

Cauldron Skittles let you taste the rainbow in new flavors like Lurking Lemon, Petrified Pear, Twisted Tangerine, Bogey Berry, and Gripping Grape. (Seriously, “Bogey Berry?”)

The data

The first thing we saw immediately, is that none of these products seems particularly popular online. Since October 30, only 19,412 mentions were posted across all social media.

That seems incredibly low. If you’re going to pour all this money and energy into releasing new products for Halloween, you’d hope that people would actually talk about them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Halloween was definitely a failure for these brands. They’re all bound to do massive sales, and perhaps they don’t care too much about the social media conversations. After all, it’s sales in stores that really matter.

But for businesses of this size, with so many potential customers online, this has to be underwhelming.

Of those nearly 20,000 mentions, almost half were about Reese’s:

candy halloween share of voice

So it would appear that Reese’s Pumpkins won this minor battle. And certainly people seem to get excited about this seasonal offering:

Overall, however, it seems that these specialty products haven’t made much of a dent on social media this year.

My favorite part about all this: all of these candies put together were easily beaten for popularity by the humble candy corn:

candy-corn-halloween-social-media

Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.

Pumpkin spiced everything

I had my first pumpkin spice coffee…….AND HOLY HELL IT WAS DISGUSTING HOW CAN SOMEONE ACTUALLY LOVE THESE I KNOW EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN TASTES AND OPINIONS BUT HELL IT WAS LIKE A THE UNICORN COFFEE 🎃☕️🤢🍂. #frappuccino #starbucks #basicbitch #unicornfrap #pumpkinspice #pumpkin #spice #gross #pumpkinspicefrappe #pumpkinspicefrappuccino #why

A post shared by Becca (@beccasapphire) on

As we said above, this is an especially potent holiday in North America. I was in the United States in late September, and Halloween marketing was already in full swing.

As a non-American, I was immediately struck by the number of signs I saw celebrating,  mocking, or simply referencing “pumpkin spice.” Starbucks’ once-a-year calorie assault is such a part of the culture, it even has its own Instagram:

www.instagram.com/p/BYgRh6ljB6V/

So naturally, I wanted to know what people have been saying about the pumpkin spice phenomenon this October. Here’s the pumpkin lowdown.

The fans

Social media has a reputation for being a sarcastic space, especially towards things with mainstream appeal. With such saturation of all things pumpkin, I would expect to see a ton of negative messages. In fact, the numbers show quite the opposite.

In the build-up to Halloween, people seemed to be getting into the pumpkin spirit:

pumpkin spice sentiment

[A quick reminder: Social sentiment is always mostly neutral, just like most language we use on a daily basis.]

Significantly more positive social comments were posted than negative. So it would seem that the oversaturation hasn’t yet turned into backlash.

first pumpkin spice latte this season ! ☕ ⊹ #pumpkin #spice #latte #yum #warm #autumn #fall #cozy #coffee #beautiful #break #photo #photography #l4l #f4f

A post shared by ! 🌙 ! (@pogpungie) on

The haters

Despite what we just said, it’s not all (pumpkin spiced) roses. Plenty of people can’t stand the sight or smell of it anymore:

This is more like what I was expecting – backlash to all the marketing money poured into this particular flavoring.

Then there are those who just don’t know how to feel:

Pumpkin spiced news

Likely due to the never-ending promotions, pumpkin spice was a big deal on social media in October. The phrase was used more than 350,000 times!

pumpkin spice halloween social media

As you can see, it’s also fairly consistent throughout the whole month – with one massive outlier. So what is that spike on October 5?

Brace yourself, it’s hilarious:

Cristo Rey high school had to be evacuated after a strange smell was detected (not funny). It turns out that the suspicious odor came from a seasonal pumpkin spice air freshener (very funny).

The above tweet was retweeted more than 82,000 times! Which explains that insane spike above, and also proves that pumpkin spice is unavoidable this time of year.

Stranger Things

One of the creepier TV shows in recent years, Netflix’s Stranger Things saw its sequel released on October 27. Aptly named Stranger Things 2, the new series was hotly anticipated. So it should be no surprise that the volume of social conversations about it went way up upon its release:

stranger things 2 halloween social media

But interestingly, responses weren’t all positive. A large minority of social comments were negative, even if the overall reaction leaned more towards the good.

stranger things 2 halloween social sentiment

[Neutral sentiment has been removed.]

This was also how many of the bigger reviewers saw the new series. While still clearly an exciting series, it’s no longer shiny and new. And Vox, among others described even the first season as good, but not great: “the hype machine quickly put a spotlight on its (mostly forgivable) flaws.”

Many social media users had similar things to say:

But those lukewarm reviews aside, it’s hard to deny the popularity of the show. More than 100,000 social comments were posted from Friday to Sunday. Netflix clearly nailed the timing of this release, despite it coinciding with a busy sports calendar featuring an exciting World Series.

And even if there were plenty of negative responses, the happy fans won out in the end.

I just finished Stranger Things Season 2! It was phenomenal from start to finish just like the first season in my opinion. If you haven't started watching this season or even the series from the start then you should do yourself a favor and watch it. Stranger Things is truly one hell of a show.-@JTReviewsPlus #strangerthings #season2 #two #2 #eleven #11 #jane #008 #8 #eight #netflix #original #show #series

A post shared by The Fando® (@thefandohq) on

Celebrities showing off

Aside from candy and pumpkin, Halloween is about the costumes. For most of us, it’s a chance to get creative and party with our pals. But for Hollywood stars, they dress up knowing that a good costume will immediately go viral, and a bad costume will likely do the same.

Let’s take a quick tour around some of the finest efforts from our famous friends.

Kim Kardashian West

It would be wrong to talk about social media and not include one of its biggest stars:

Nas

Queens rapper Nas pulled off an uncanny resemblance to Richard Pryor circa 1982:

Richard Pryor LIVE ON THE STRIP 📸 @thegcode

A post shared by Nasir Jones (@nas) on

Gwyneth Paltrow

Apple’s mom showed that her self-serious reputation may not be deserved:

🎃

A post shared by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow) on

(It’s a reference to her film Se7en. Also a spoiler alert.)

Stephen Curry

The Golden State Warriors’ sharpshooter turned up to the team’s Sunday night game in costume. And it’s spooky.

[Insert “Halloween MVP” joke.]

Soon-to-be stars

While these kids aren’t celebrities (yet), their flawless rendition of the film Friday was a huge social media hit:

But nothing wins online like cute kids and dressed-up animals:

And speaking of animals in costume:

Although for us content marketers, nothing will ever beat this extraordinary effort from 2016:

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

We used Mention’s social listening tools to find and analyze the posts above. You might like to do the same for your brand, your competitors, and your industry.

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Patrick Whatman is Head of Content at Mention. He lives in Paris, loves music, and writes his own brand of cultural criticism for fun. Tweet him @mrwhatman where he mainly talks digital marketing, American sports and New Zealand trivia.

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