Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Swapping sweets for Reese’s

Hershey launched a vending machine outside Washington Square Park in Manhattan where trick-or-treaters could trade in candy for Reese’s. Why should you care? We think this is brilliant. Obviously, this creates great brand awareness for Reese’s, but that’s not why we love it. First, it may be a gimmick, but it actually solves a problem for their consumers by allowing them to enjoy trick-or-treating and not worry if they get candy they don’t like because they can trade it in. Second, they turned a stunt into a lucrative behavioral study where they can see both what their fans don’t like and the candy they prefer over a Reese’s. [USA Today]

2. A costume for your business

Nickel City, a bar in Austin “dressed up” as Moe’s Tavern, from The Simpsons, for Halloween. Not only did the exterior undergo a makeover, but all of the menus and materials were rebranded as “Moe’s”, the menu featured Simpsons-inspired cocktails and the bartenders dressed like Moe. Why should you care? If earned media across major networks and viral social media were their goals, it worked. While The Simpsons is an iconic choice, the press from this transformation is poised to increase brand awareness ahead of future pop-ups like the “Santa on a vacation” tiki-inspired holiday bar (Miracle), featuring cocktails like “Grinch Grog” they have planned for December. But this wasn’t what inspired the owner, who said, “Seems like everyone’s arguing on Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to kick back and have some fun.” With just under a week to go for midterm elections and with polls characterizing “us” as more stressed out and anxious than ever before, maybe the popularity of this pop-up was due to fulfilling a simple need – carefree fun.  [Los Angeles Times]

3. Trick-or-treating twist with Skittles

This week, a Halloween-themed tiny house on wheels was roaming the neighborhoods of Toronto dispensing candy, via zombie hand through a mail slot, to anyone who rang the doorbell. Why should you care? There are certainly fun, mysterious and quirky elements here that could draw the right kind of attention on social media, align with their summer campaign and accomplish Skittles’s goal of “twisting the predictable”. It seems to have been successful in Canada, but kudos to them for not trying it in the US. Campaigns can rarely be taken from one country or region and directly applied to another. In the US, this campaign may have drawn attention via PSAs as this activation masterfully combines all the things we grew up with our parents cautioning us to avoid: strange and unknown vehicles with van-like storage capacity slowly circling a neighborhood and using candy as an enticement to approach. [Adweek]

4. What would you do for season passes to Six Flags?

As part of “Fright Fest”, Six Flags’ Halloween celebration from late September through late October, contestants competed for prizes ($300, two season passes, and other theme park prizes) by laying in a coffin for 30 hours from October 13-15. Why should you care? This was originally only supposed to be a contest at the Six Flags in St. Louis, but there were so many entries, they expanded it nationwide. If people want to engage with your brand, the last thing you want is to stop the conversation by cutting a promotion short, something Domino’s recently faced after offering free pizza for life for those who got a tattoo of the logo. Brands should plan for unexpected success in ways that further the conversation with fans and don’t underestimate what people are willing to do for free stuff. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

5. Carving pumpkins with a side of champagne

Patrons of the High Line Hotel in Manhattan can enjoy sipping on champagne having their portrait carved into a pumpkin on Thursday and Friday nights in October (and Halloween). Why should you care? Champagne and pumpkin carving form a unique Halloween combination that is novel and upscale. While different, the target audience for an event like this isn’t obvious to us. Would hotel guests consider this a good souvenir with an experience to remember and a story to share? Is this an event targeted to adults seeking a relaxed night out where they can try something new? Or was the intent to create a special ambiance where guests interact with an artist through an approachable medium with a classy twist? [Lonely Planet]

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