Halloween search spend unmasked: Disney dominates US costume hunts

Oct 27, 2014 | Search engine marketing, USA

Halloween has become big business in the US, and getting to the top of Google searches for popular costumes is hugely important. New data shows how Disney is the trick or treater’s brand of choice for 2014. The research, from search marketing intelligence database AdGooroo, examined 1,128 Halloween costume keywords for Text Ads and Product […]

Halloween has become big business in the US, and getting to the top of Google searches for popular costumes is hugely important. New data shows how Disney is the trick or treater’s brand of choice for 2014.

The research, from search marketing intelligence database AdGooroo, examined 1,128 Halloween costume keywords for Text Ads and Product Listing Ads on US Google AdWords Desktop/Tablet from August to September this year.
The study indicates that 31% of all Paid Search spend for the keyword group was for a Disney-owned character. (Mobile Search was not included.)
Breaking it down, of the total $2.9 million spent across all keywords during the period, $720,000 was generated by keywords for costumes that fall under the traditional Disney brand (Disney Princess, Mickey Mouse), and another $168,000 was spent on keywords related to Marvel superheroes (Spider-Man, Captain America) and Star Wars (Yoda, Darth Vader)–properties that The Walt Disney Company acquired in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
A look at the Top 20 Costumes by Paid Search spend, which includes no less than 13 Disney properties, offers a glimpse into the extent to which Disney has a hold on American popular culture in 2014.
Other Disney-owned characters/costumes in the Top 20 are Maleficent from the 1959 animated film “Sleeping Beauty” and the 2014 live-action film starring Angelina Jolie, longtime Marvel comics characters Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Widow and Iron Man (all of which have appeared in recent Hollywood films), Minnie Mouse, and Alice in Wonderland from the 1951 animated film and 2010 live-action film.The list also includes the catchall costume categories Star Wars, Disney and Disney Princess, all of which include general keywords such as ‘disney princess costume’ or ‘star wars costumes’ as well as keywords for specific characters such as “disney jasmine costume’ and ‘stormtrooper costume’.
Hall(oween) Has Frozen Over
Costumes related to Disney’s 2012 film “Frozen” dominate the list, accounting for $550,000 in spend or 62% of total spend on Disney-related keywords and 19% of total spend on all costume keywords. Notably, #1-ranked Elsa appears to be the far more popular than her Frozen sister Anna, ranked #6. In fact, 14 Elsa-specific keywords generated $385,000 in Paid Search spend during August and September, compared to only $55,000 generated on 3 keywords for Anna, who may just be shaping up to be the Jan Brady of animated characters (“Elsa, Elsa, Elsa!”). Another $110,000 was spent on general terms related to the film such as ‘frozen costume’ and ‘disney frozen costume’.
Halloween is Ladies’ Night?

Speaking of Disney family rivalries, Minnie Mouse (ranked #15) generated $24,000 in spend on 5 costume keywords during the period, while her male counterpart and Disney brand icon, Mickey Mouse, tallied only $5,500 on 3 costume keywords.
This brings up the interesting fact that there are 11 female-specific costumes in the Top 20, compared to just 4 male-specific costumes and 5 costumes that offer options for either sex (Pirate, Star Wars, etc.).
What’s more, the top 4 costumes are geared towards females: Elsa, Wonder Woman, Malificent and Frozen. While the latter could very well include the snowman character, Olaf, it more than likely relates to one of the Frozen sisters—see the screenshot above (or try typing ‘frozen costumes’ in Google yourself and see what comes up).
I’m Too Sexy for This Costume
We most often think of Halloween as a time for scary things, like ghosts and haunted houses. However, as celebrated in late 19th and early 20th century America, Halloween was actually a holiday centered more on romance, where young people would engage in divination games to predict their future spouse.
Judging by Paid Search spend on ‘sexy’ costume keywords, that romantic tradition may be continuing on in a different form today, as revelers presumably look to dress in costumes that will allure prospective mates. In fact, in August and September $67,000 was spent on keywords containing the word ‘sexy’, and an additional $42,000 was spent on keywords for costumes traditionally associated with sex appeal such as French Maid (in the Top 20), Playboy Bunny, Bond Girl and Jessica Rabbit.
For comparison, only $41,000 was spent on keywords for scary Halloween costumes like Witch, Vampire and Zombie (and even some of those keywords contained the adjective ‘sexy’).
The Least Popular Costumes
For those who are looking for a costume no one else will be wearing on Halloween night, you may want to reference some of the least popular costume keywords we found based on Paid Search spend from August to September.
These include a 1990s British TV character (Mr. Blobby), one of our nation’s founding fathers (John Adams), a Spider-Man villain that would likely require a cumbersome outfit (Dr. Octopus), a creature that may inspire curious inquiries (Worm), and the U.S.’s own 1990s TV character, Xena, Warrior Princess.
For comparison, these costumes were less popular than costumes such as Osama bin Laden ($7.50), Shera, Princess of Power ($5.40), Samuel Adams ($4.04) and Homewrecker ($3.47).
Top Costume Advertisers Lagging in PLAs?
What AdGooroo research would be complete without a ranking of the top search advertisers? The following chart includes the Top 10 advertisers based on Paid Search Text Ad and Product Listing Ad spend on U.S. Google Desktop/Tablet from August to September 2014 on the 1,128 Halloween costume keywords in this study.
Based on this keyword set, CostumeExpress.com ($322,000) is far and away the biggest spender, followed by Target ($237,000), BuyCostumes.com ($232,000), WholesaleHalloweenCostumes.com ($209,000) and Oriental Trading Company ($177,000). The bottom five advertisers in the ranking are HalloweenCostumers.com ($157,000), Amazon ($153,000), CostumeSuperCenter.com ($137,000), SpiritHalloween.com ($118,000) and Kohl’s ($114,000).
Notably, the chart reveals that the Top 10 advertisers spent 58% more on Text Ads ($1.3 million) than Product Listing Ads ($546,000) during August and September, which may seem counter-intuitive considering the visual nature of costumes. Upon closer examination, the seasonal specialty costume retailers that make up the majority of the ranking are driving this statistic, averaging $146,000 in Text Ad spend and only $50,000 on PLAs. In contrast, the only advertisers who are committing more budget to PLA than Text Ads are two large brands, Target and Oriental Trading Company, which are likely better-versed in PLAs than the smaller retailers and can readily employ the medium in their sales of seasonal merchandise such as Halloween costumes. The outlier among major brands is Kohl’s, which only devoted around 15% of its search budget to PLAs. Amazon reportedly does not sponsor Product Listing Ads as a policy.

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