What will Gen Z get up to this Halloween?

The spooky season is upon us. Find out what Gen Z will be up to on October 31, and make sure your Halloween marketing is good to go.

As kids, Gen Zs hit their local neighborhoods for trick-or-treating. They grew up watching Mean Girls and Scream, very different films famous for their celebration of the spooky season. So now they’ve grown up, it’s not surprising that Halloween is a tradition that 16-24-year-olds still embrace wholeheartedly.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll find the average college student heading out trick-or-treating, the spooky season represents a nostalgic time in Gen Z’s lives – and college is a perfect outlet for partying, dressing up and more…

Scary movies are on the agenda

At some point in late October, you’ll find Gen Z settled in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn; 62% of Gen Z watch scary movies to celebrate Halloween, and it’s the favorite activity for a quarter of them. College students have grown up with the likes of Paranormal Activity, Final Destination and Friday the 13th. More importantly, they’ve had horror at their fingertips, with on-demand TV and digital streaming services shaping their media consumption habits.

A bowl of popcorn

For college students, horror movies are less about scaring themselves silly, and more a nostalgic reminder of the scary movies that shaped their teens. If you’re a food and drink brand, it’s time to get your Halloween campaigns ready: students will likely be looking for takeaway and delivery options to see them through their spooky movie nights, especially with COVID affecting plans to head out.

Trick-or-treating is off the menu

It won’t come as a surprise that trick-or-treating is being actively discouraged in a number of states because of the COVID risk. But even in pre-pandemic times, Gen Zs weren’t really on board with it anymore; just 6% of Gen Zs said it was their favorite Halloween pastime. Your Halloween campaign should focus more on meeting up with friends, dressing up, and celebrating in other spooky ways – a trick-or-treating centered campaign won’t fly in 2020. 

It’s a great chance to party…

Yes, the older members of Gen Z might have outgrown trick-or-treating. But they’ve certainly not outgrown Halloween costumes, spooky snacks and pumpkin carving. College party culture lends itself particularly well to Halloween: it’s a strong theme with plenty of fun opportunities to dress up, and campuses across the country are likely to embrace October 31st – lockdown regulations permitting.

Girl dressed in witch costume.

 Just under half (49%) of students usually celebrate with a Halloween party, and it’s the favorite Halloween activity of ⅕ of students. 60% of Gen Zs will also dress up, so fashion brands should pay close attention to imagery and messaging in the build-up to October 31st. Gen Z have come up with some of the quirkier Halloween costumes of recent years, and social media creates the opportunity to go bigger and better every year. So make sure you’ve got your Halloween discounts primed and ready to go.

…but going out is out

If trick-or-treating is something that Gen Zs are starting to outgrow, heading out to bars and clubs isn’t a tradition they’re ready to embrace. Just 13% regularly celebrate by heading to a bar or club night, and this is the favorite Halloween pursuit of just 3% of Gen Zs. Bear in mind that a lot of college students will be underage, so such celebrations aren’t really an option for them anyway. But even among over 21s, it could be a long time before Halloween is established as a night out.

There will be healthy doses of nostalgia

Gen Zs have grown up with a full range of spooky activities to delve into every October. Now that they’re college students, they’re not ready to leave the nostalgia behind; expect costumes, pumpkin carving, Halloween-themed snacks and crafting to dominate campuses come October 31st.

A Halloween party setup with confetti and banners.

Especially during COVID-19, Halloween is a low-key event that Gen Zs can embrace safely within small groups. Make sure your Halloween campaign messaging speaks to their nostalgia and support them with lots of deals to create their perfect spooky experience at home.

Whether it’s the spooky season or the height of summer, we’re attuned to what students are celebrating. Access our case study pack to see how we could help you to win over Gen Z.