Growing up in the 70s and 80s my first haunted house experiences were the typical haunts with rubber snakes, peeled grapes, wet pasta and the notorious black plastic walls. Haunts have come a LONG way since the 70s and 80s with Hollywood style set designs, elaborate characters and life like props. But, even with all of this evolution in the industry, people that don’t frequent modern haunts still think haunted houses are full of black plastic walls and silly boo scares. Why is this? Surely everyone knows by now how much haunted attractions have changed, right? They have seen the Travel channel specials, right??? No. The people watching those shows are already fans of Halloween and Haunted Attractions. Everyone else just doesn’t care…unless you give them a REASON to care. This is where advertising and branding can not only help your local haunt, but the entire haunt industry as a whole. This means more customers and of course the coveted sponsorships. Haunt owners can create the most elaborate and detailed haunt in the world, but if it’s not branded correctly, they might as well build it with black plastic walls.
The haunt industry must rethink the image of the Haunted Attraction in its advertising and branding.
1) We have to stop using the pitch changer and the “scary voice” on your radio and TV! (for those that are not familiar with the pitch changer, it’s an effect producers use to slow the pitch on a voiceover to create a demonish voice). First this voice effect is WAY overused in haunt commercials, second it’s hard to understand the information given in the spot due to the effect. The image you are trying to portray and the information are the most important aspects to your commercial. Sure, your commercial sounds like the devil on steroids…but what good is that going to do you if your customer can’t understand any of the info??? A little pitch changer is ok if used in moderation.
2) We need to stop using the radio/TV ads to SELL the attraction. An advertisement is a lure only and should drive customers to the website for more information. When was the last time you saw a horror movie trailer, that had a bunch of information about the movie in the spot? “We are the scariest movie EVER”, “Opens this Friday at 4:30pm, 8pm & 10:30pm at 6 movie theaters across the city at these addresses…”, “We have an amazing twist at the end”, “For more information on this scary movie go to www.www.net.com/movie/tickets or call 555-616-3825…or like our Facebook page and twitter for half off movie tickets”. Who can remember all that?!?! This meaningless babble cheapens our industry and effects our public image, in turn making it harder to attract new customers and sponsorships. Major brands like Six Flags and Disney don’t market their amusement parks this way, so we shouldn’t either. A good example of how to market your haunt would be that of a horror movie trailer. Horror movie trailers create imagery that scares us on an emotional level with only a few words “It lives under the bed…” and visuals from the movie that leave us wanting more.
3) Keep it simple, but creepy for your branding campaigns! Scary to me is creepy…scary is NOT a radio DJ trying to sound “scaaarrrryyy” by making himself sound like he has a head cold and running his voice through the pitch changer at -9 with the some wolves howling and creaking doors in the background. Creepy gets inside a person’s head and messes with their reality and sends chills throughout the entire body. Think of that throaty “death sound” from the movie The Grudge or the “Ree, Ree, Ree” kill scene score from Psycho, or “kill, kill, kill” from Friday the 13th. We know those sounds/scores and what movies they are from. The branding for your haunt should do the same as the movies. Each and every year your haunt hits the radio/tv/youtube etc… with your branding it should be the same recall every single year on all your media. Take a listen to these little girls singing the jingle for The Fear Experience Haunted House to the tune of “London bridges falling down” for a good example… https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/82449495/TFE-Little%20Girls%20Duet-15.mp3 We made this for those guys for the 2013 season, here’s what they had to say…
“We had a commercial made by Fear Worm Hauntvertising for our 2013 radio campaign and it had a bigger return than anything we did last year. A lot of our customers came into the haunt singing it! We plan on using it in our TV and all our media for 2014.” The Fear Experience Haunted House – Nick Francis
In closing, I would like you all to hear a great example of what a Haunted Attraction radio commercial should sound like. Matt Valentine and I co-wrote and produced this commercial while working with the House of Torment in 2008. This spot features a REAL movie trailer voiceover artist by the name of Leif Anders; you might know him from the original Ironman movie trailers among others. The image this ad portrays for the House of Torment is EPIC and rivals any movie trailer and major brand theme park commercial out there. In the spot you will notice the recall House of Torment uses every year to establish continuity and frequency from year to year (little girls singing). We don’t spend time SELLING the House of Torment with “We are the scariest Haunted House”. We use the haunts storyline to create and image of destruction and chaos in the spot. We have a few important details at the end like, “the call to action” and the location of the haunt by using a landmark. Take a listen… https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/82449495/HOT08-60-1-OPENS%20SEPT%2018.mp3
To top it off all the graphics, billboard and TV had the same storyline, voice and image. It’s VITAL that all your media matches, otherwise people will not know it’s the same Haunted Attraction.
Image is everything! Start by planting the seeds of perception in to the minds of your customers in all your media, before they ever step inside your haunt and harvest the results of new customers and sponsorship.