Halloween smells awesome!

By Shawn Robare

I spend a lot of time writing about branding and marketing, and I suppose in a way I’m sort of an amateur semiotician trying to understand pop culture.  A large chunk of my interests, the toys, television shows & cartoons, books, and various related merchandise and pop culture that I grew up with has sort of hard to deconstruct in the past few years because of the resurgence in popularity of a lot of that stuff.  The re-launches of franchises, big budget movie reimagingings, new cartoons like the ThunderCats, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, the unlimited stream of new merchandise (T-Shirts, retro packaging, masterpiece and “classics” toylines), all of this stuff makes the landscape murky and hard to keep in focus.  I mean, when I have to qualify my thoughts on the Smurfs to friends when talking about the cool new book I read, illustrating how interesting I thought two-thirds of the covered history was while trying to ignore the long chapter on the recent film, I start to feel a little weird.  On the whole I really don’t care much for the regurgitation of 80s era franchises we keep seeing these days, yet I also feel a little uncomfortable with the curmudgeonly, old-fart role that sort of casts me in.  “This junk doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff from back in my day…”  I’m not that guy, or at least I don’t want to be.

This is really just my long-winded attempt to rationalize why I find it so refreshing and comforting when the calendar gets closer and closer to Halloween.  Because I really wanted a strong concept when creating this site I’ve found that I’ve painted myself into a corner a bit when it comes to content.  Halloween is the one main exception, the time of year when I tend to stray away a little from nostalgia and I open the door to more contemporary pop culture commentary.  This past year has been a bit rough, and right now all I really want to do is jump feet first into a pool of Halloween-y goodness.  Thankfully I’ve been running into more and more, early, seasonal fun.  For a lot of you it might be too early for the orange and black, but I think I’m going to indulge a bit and share what I’ve found so far…

Traditionally the early adopter market consists mainly of the hardcore target audience for products and services.  If this holds true for holidays as well, then the target audience for Halloween is apparently women ages 15 to 60, who spend a lot of time trying to make stuff smell nice.  Well, that’s my guess after watching two mall chain stores, Bath & Body works and Yankee Candle, wheeling out their Halloween displays at the beginning of August, three full months before All Hallows Eve.  I’m finding it both hilarious and comforting in a very weird way.

I’ve never really been a “candle guy”, though I did spend an inordinate amount of time buying and burning incense in my later teen years (a time I’d like to thankfully forget.)  So needless to say I don’t find myself browsing though the insane collection of scents at my local Yankee Candle very often.  At the end of July though, while walking through the mall with the wife, we saw a sign for what appeared to be a big Halloween-themed release party for their new wave of Boney Bunch candle holders.  We joked that we’d be the first couple in line that next weekend and I promptly forgot about it.  The next week we just happened to be in the mall again when I remembered and we figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

To our surprise there were quite a few people lurking around the store that afternoon, and we’d even missed out on the official Boney Bunch party hours, so I’m guessing that these holders are pretty popular.  I have to admit that there’s a certain Tim Burton-esque charm to the character designs though I found intriguing, and before I knew what was really happening I was in line with a box of tea lights and a corresponding holder.  Though we really get into the holiday, we haven’t really build up a sizeable collection of holiday knickknacks, so I guess we’re starting.

The collection basically consists of a series of skeleton people in a few different themes.  There’s a harvest farm set (featuring a pitchfork wielding undead farmer), a romance set (with a some husband and wife skeletons, as well as some dating skeletons rowing boats and the like), and Santa Skeleton set.  The figural candle holders are cute, but there’s a macabre humor running through the series that involves a lot of beheading and chainsaws that I find fun.  I couldn’t imagine picking up too many of the pieces though as collecting these feels a little too close to starting a collection of Hummel or ceramic clowns.

Our other adventure featured a trip to our local Bath & Body Works since the wife was getting low on hand lotion and shower gel.  If there’s one time when I act like a typical man it’s when we set foot in this place, and I basically turn into a voodoo style zombie man servant that just hold her purchases and pays for them at the end.  I was already to zone out when I spotted a table full of Halloween soap and suddenly I was more excited to be in this place than my wife.  It was kind of sickening actually…

We got a small taste of the B&BW Halloween offerings this past year while stocking up on small bottles of hand sanitizer we planned to give out at the Up! Fair.  They still had a bunch of discount bottles left over from the season at the time so we bought a ton of Vampire Blood (plum) and Candy Corn scented hand sanitizers.  Since we caught the display early this year I was curious to see what other sorts of spooky soaps they carried…

Unfortunately, B&BW isn’t known for their cheap prices, so I’d suggest waiting for a sale to pick up some of this stuff, but there was a lot of cool stuff worth waiting for.  In particular we liked the scents and label designs on their foaming soap dispensers, but there was a ton of different stuff that was pretty cool.  The little bottles of hand sanitizer were pretty cool too, featuring varieties like Zombie Tonic, Scary Cats, Bones, Skulls, and a trio of scents with neat glow-in-the-dark labels.  Unfortunately the scenes on these little guys are pretty hit and miss.  Not sure if it’s just me, but I prefer hand sanitizer to be unscented, or in some form of citrus that just smells clean.  I tried the Zombie tonic, which is marshmallow scented, and my hands smelled like I molested a bag of cookies for the rest of the day.

So far these instances have been enough to tide me over, but I can feel the itch for Halloween browsing growing and I hope Target doesn’t decide to roll out another year of “discount” Halloween.  I’m really in the mood to be blown away this season…

  • YES! So exciting! I LOVE the Yankee Candle stuff. I have the sweetest, huge black wire tree from a few years ago from the store.

  • Yay!! Halloween stuff! I usually buy a couple of autumn candles from Yankee as well as one of the Halloween ones. It won’t be too long now before Target should be rolling out the goods. And I HOPE it’s not another ‘Halloween on the Cheap’ year. I want another 2003 year from them.

  • Halloween lasts over a month for me- I can’t get enough! Moe! More!

  • These are awesome. Target usually does the best job with their Halloween-y branding, but these offerings are really cool looking.

  • It’s never too early for Halloween. I love this stuff, and can’t wait to see what the great retailers unleash on us this year.