Though trick-or-treating and large-scale parties are arguably cancelled due to Covid-19, beauty brands are still making Halloween happen.

Masstige brands Milani and BH Cosmetics, who have never created special Halloween collections before, are venturing headfirst into the holiday despite the pandemic. Major retailer partners have been inked — Walmart for Milani and Ulta Beauty for BH Cosmetics — but the two brands’ individual digital prowess is unlocking success, including product sell outs and increases in organic search.

For its part, Milani has launched its 12-piece Alter Ego collection, designed to create two Halloween looks: “Fairy Tale” and “Beautiful Nightmare.” The collection, which is a both a Walmart and exclusive, ranges from $7.97 to $11.97 and promises the quality and pay off of Milani’s main line. Even though the health crisis is putting limits on what Milani could do from an activation standpoint, Aminata Tall, vp of integrated communications at Milani, said the brand’s site has seen a 50% increase in traffic since launching the collection on October 2. Additionally, two Halloween palettes and a face gem set have already sold out.

“We crowdsourced our audiences asking, ‘What do you want to see from us next’ over the summer, and every answer was related to Halloween. We knew Halloween could be cancelled at any moment, so we wanted to associate ourselves with Halloween creators who were going to celebrating no matter what. We shot the campaign in July all over Zoom with Mia [Anjelica Martinez, @mianjelica] and Katie [Cole, @fancyflute], and it is what you see all over Walmart and our site,” said Tall.

She added that for creators like Martinez and Cole the work of a Zoom shoot was more laborious for them because they were responsible for acting as talent, doing hair and makeup on themselves and helping their partners shoot the images. The shoot was art directed by Milani over Zoom.

Like Milani, BH Cosmetics had plans for Halloween well before Covid-19 hit. The company’s Drop Dead Gorgeous collection, complete with a “glitter blood,” is the first launch to come out of the new executive team, which started in October 2019, said CEO Yannis Rodocanach. While the products themselves did not change over the year, the marketing execution did.

Alison Romash, deputy CMO and head of sales at BH Cosmetics, said that in July the company assumed the Halloween position of: “Go big or go home, even though you’re staying at home.” Thus, the brand’s site is replete with looks from influencers like Karla Jara, otherwise known as @therealkarlaj, and Megs Cahill, the makeup artist founder of Get Stonned, who created a custom Halloween gemstone collection with the brand. And product copy on reinforces the holiday with descriptions like, “Lil’ Bit Psycho,” “Killer Queen” and “Full-On Crazy.” The company also launched its first TikTok program.

“We were inspired by all those bombshells like Jessica Rabbit, Bond girls and the attitude of zero fucks given with looks to kill,” said Romash.

Alisha Kapur, lead beauty industry consultant at SimilarWeb, said BH Cosmetics’s Drop Dead Gorgeous collection was the number one “standout beauty company,” garnering organic traffic online under the search term “Halloween makeup ideas” this October. Last year, the term garnered 630,000 searches in the month of October and has picked up steam in the last 28 days, she said. Interestingly, Kapur said cost per clicks [CPCs] are much lower for “Halloween makeup ideas,” clocking in from $0.00-$0.48, so beauty marketers would be smart to jump on the search term. And they should act fast: According to Twitter’s first-ever beauty insights report, “The Beauty in Twitter,” the highest month of beauty tweets between July 2019 and July 2020 was October 2019, proving the holiday’s digital traction.

But Rodocanach emphasized that physical retail will still be important. BH Cosmetics is one of four brands dominantly displayed in Ulta’s Halloween towers in stores. Additionally, in line with the company’s larger sustainability goals, the brand fortuitously removed outer cartoons from packaging, so customers are able to see the shades in eye palettes, even though they can’t test and try in stores.

Over at Walmart, the retailer has created a dedicated Walmart Beauty Halloween page on, with tutorials from industry experts and influencers, alongside ready-to-shop product lists, said Amanda Fenske, Walmart beauty merchant. And with social distancing guidelines in place, Walmart has also tweaked its summer Drive-in Movie series, and created Halloween Camp by Walmart in parking lots at 140 locations. Families can not only trick-or-treat, carve pumpkins or participate in curbside pickup, but can also get their beauty fix. Milani is one of four beauty brands participating.

“The holiday sparks so much creativity and opens the door for customers who might not wear makeup on a day-to-day basis, to experiment and try new items. This year, since social distancing measures are top-of-mind, so we’ve made sure to bring the beauty shopping experience to our customers who are choosing to shop online or in the app more,” said Fenske of the omnichannel strategy.

Tall added that this kind of flexibility makes sense for Milani’s 18-34-year-old customers. “The drive bys allow our customers to feel safe in the comfort of their car, but still celebrate, whether they are alone or with their families.”

Though it’s too early to tell how Halloween will fare industry-wide, Tall is expecting to see a big lift. “2020 has been so bad for so many people — they basically had everything taken away — they don’t want to give up their holidays and we can’t expect them to,” she said. “I think that’s going to be a key learning between now and the end of the year.”

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