October 28, 2015 | Rachel Vaughn

Horrible Puns to Avoid in Your Halloween Marketing


It’s that time of year when the leaves start to turn, the air grows crisp, and a fine, fragrant dusting of pumpkin spice stubbornly layers over everything in sight– baked goods, lattes, parked cars, unattended children, etc. As one of the year’s most anticipated holidays,Halloween is undeniably a great time to launch new marketing material. Enveloped in no less than seven full yards of knitted wool and delirious on roasted marshmallows, you might even think that it’s a good idea to engage your buyer personas with a few groan-worthy puns to emphasize the festive tone of your email, blog post, or CTA content.

And frankly, I’d agree with you!

I’m of the personal opinion that every terrible pun is a treasure of wordplay that must be cherished—even the spooktacularly bad ones that have been awkwardly shoehorned in to reinforce how corny they are. Brands like Chipotle, Oreo, and Trulia have used them in their Halloween marketing to great results. Prevailing wisdom and industry experience, however, tend to fall on the side of moderation. Still, if you’re determined that they're the way go this upcoming holiday, consider the following puns to avoid and don't make any grave (yes, nailed it!) mistakes.

Puns That Have Already Been Exhausted

No customer (or unrepentant pun enthusiast, for that matter) wants to see the same tired play on popular Halloween themes. Everyone expects at least some variation on “Don’t be tricked by [this product], treat yourself instead!” Equally overplayed are lines about “scaring up business” or “frighteningly good deals.” Although each is still a precious linguistic gem, they’re both so commonly come by now that their worth has radically diminished.

Puns That Aren’t Trying Enough

Every clever pun that sees the light of day is a triumph of jokesmithing (like blacksmithing, only with jokes). However, when attempts are less than masterful, downright ungainly, or nonsensical, they fall short of the mark. These puns will only make your copy look poorly planned, which won’t win any points with your audience. There’s a difference between a bewitching offer and a beghouling one; the first illustrates championship level pun implementation whereas the other is a nice try, but basically gibberish.

Puns That Go Too Far

It should go without saying that puns that are unnecessarily gory, violent, or bleak won’t resonate well with your audience. The best part of holiday-themed punning is the inherent whimsy. Halloween is a time for awful puns that make people giggle, not those that make them feel marginalized or upset. With that in mind, avoid phrasing that could be construed as insensitive or appears to make light of a tragic event (which is a good practical rule for the rest of the year as well).

Generating new content ideas for Halloween doesn’t have to be a grim affair. Puns have a long and noble history in holiday marketing, and it’s one that we proudly uphold today. It’s easy enough to avoid common pitfalls that will keep your puns from being effective—so get creative, enjoy some refreshing pumpkin spice beef jerky, then meet up with your vampire friends for a game of casketball.

Puns are the least of our shameless writing sins here at VIEO Design. If you like our style, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our blog for updates!

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Rachel Vaughn

Rachel Vaughn

As a content marketer for VIEO Design, Rachel Vaughn brings serious research chops and boatloads of personality to everything she writes for VIEO and our clients. In particular, she spends her time writing blog posts, website pages, workflow emails, and other marketing materials designed to engage readers and help them connect with VIEO and our clients.

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