As we fast approach the “silly” season, a gamut of marketing opportunities await.
From Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s a time for businesses of all shapes and sizes to reap the rewards of a year of hard work.
But why wait until November to get the party started? There are numerous excuses for running campaigns and contests in October that can extend that holiday feel and drive awareness (and sales) for your brand.
Here are 7 winning October contest ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
#1. Connect with your community
What are your customers most passionate about? What type of contest can you run that connects with that passion?
For example, the first of October is World Vegetarian Day. If your target customer, or even a segment of your audience, is vegetarian and cares strongly about this way of living, think about making the most of this event by running a contest.
You could partner with organizations that align with the values of your vegetarian customers, give away bundles of your products partnered with uniquely vegetarian add-ons, or simply coat your landing pages and marketing collateral with a vegetarian brush.
For example, vegan chocolate brand Wei Chocolate partnered with a range of other brands that have similar values to put together a giveaway bundle. This kind of contest would be perfect for World Vegetarian Day.
Instagram giveaway example
Another October event that is driven by culture and community is Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest Volksfest held annually in Germany, famous for its big beers, iconic dress, and joyous parties.
Unfortunately, the official Oktoberfest has been canceled in 2020 due to the global pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create some Oktoberfest cheer of your own with a themed contest or giveaway.
Beer company Samuel Adams even has Oktoberfest as the primary call-to-action and marketing video on their homepage – they know that their customers love this event, and they could run a contest to elevate its power even more.
Samuel Adams leveraging Oktoberfest
#2. Spread joy and be human
What better time to humanize your brand than on World Smile Day, the first Friday in October, and National New Friends Day, the 19th of October.
These two lesser-known events may not make it onto the corporate calendar, but they can certainly find a spot on your marketing agenda.
Spreading joy and creating new and meaningful connections with your audience is more important than ever given the year we have experienced. Not to mention the expectations of customers when it comes to brands dropping their guard and being vulnerable. Your customers want to deal with humans, not bots and corporate runarounds.
One way to spread joy is with an instant win giveaway. This contest format allows you to award prizes or distribute unique coupon codes to winners immediately after entry, and then remarket to them.
ShortStack’s Instant Win Giveaway Template
#3. Do something foody
Even if your brand doesn’t sell food-related products, you can still find a way to leverage the many food-inspired days in October.
Partner with a complementary food brand or give away a one-of-a-kind food bundle to capture your audience’s attention.
Why food in October? Well, there is an almost endless list of themed opportunities to take advantage of. For example, October 6th is Garlic Lovers Day, the 7th is National Frappe Day, the 14th is National Dessert Day, the 17th is National Pasta Day, and the 21st is the International Day of the Nacho.
Hatch44, a popular Metuchen cafe in New Jersey, used a combination of National Frappe Day with the fall-theme of pumpkins to promote a new drink. They could’ve taken this to the next level by encouraging customers to share photos of their “Not Too Matcha Pumpkin” experience for the chance to win a prize.
Food-related Instagram giveaway
Believe it or not, I’ve actually left out numerous other food-related days from this month. My personal favorite? Eat a Pretzel Day on the 22nd of October!
#4. Think outside the box
The theme or style for your contest doesn’t need to be straight out of a textbook. Instead, you could do something out of left field to entice action from your customers.
For example, National Fossil Day is on October 14th. It doesn’t necessarily sound like the most exciting event, however, it’s only as interesting as you make it. You could brand a digital “fossil” find with interactive questions and tailored prizes, for example. Or, for something simpler, just get your audience to dress up as Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and submit photos!
Think outside the box and you’ll catch the attention of dormant business prospects.
#5. Get creative
Of course, you’ll likely ‘get creative’ with any contest you run this October, but one particular day screams for creativity more than any other. The 25th of October is National Art Day.
Submission-based contests, be that a photo, video, or another form of user-generated content as entry, are perfect for tapping into your audience’s artistic side and capitalizing on National Art Day. This style of contest is always excellent at capturing user-generated content which you can use as social proof for your brand.
ShortStack’s Photo Contest Template
#6. Get your claws out
Love cats or think that your customers do? National Cat Day on the 29th of October is prime for a social media giveaway. And, as you know, cat videos can go viral like nothing else, so why not a cat-themed contest!
There are all sorts of ways you can draw inspiration from cats to run a contest. From simply having a cat featured in your marketing content to giving away a year’s supply of cat food. Whatever it is, get your claws out this October!
#7. Be spooky
Arguably the most famous event in October, and popular as a contest theme, is Halloween.
Many brands structure entire campaigns in the lead up to Halloween as a means of tapping into the excitement that this event invigorates in people across the world. For example, you may run a Halloween-themed flash sale in conjunction with a giveaway to drive leads and sales for your brand.
Halloween contest ideas are only limited by your creativity. You could run an interactive digital trick or treat contest on your website, a decorative photo contest for the best-looking pumpkin, or an out-of-this-world makeup contest for the scariest makeover.
Entice Cosmetics, for example, ran a photo contest encouraging entrants to use their products to create a unique Halloween makeup look:
Halloween contest example
Halloween is especially good at enticing user-generated content and participation because people can dress up as an alter ego or someone (thing) they wish they could be.
Alternatively, if you want to do something a bit different, you could do a quiz or some other form of interactive content instead of a contest. Here is a cool idea from the Supreme Source, where users can automatically generate a dog costume idea for Halloween:
As you can see there are numerous contest opportunities for your brand if you’re willing to get creative - and it’s not all about Halloween.
Given the year we have had, why not “make Christmas come early” by ramping up marketing efforts in October.
You could pick a theme that best suits your brand and structure a month-long campaign to raise awareness, convert leads, and close sales. That theme could be about Halloween or any number of other intriguing events that take place in October. Such as Eat a Pretzel Day!
Be sure to include social media giveaways in your strategy as they can act as an accelerant for campaign lead generation, especially when you are engaging an audience to submit user-generated content.