Waivers are an Ingenious Haunted House Marketing Tactic

Oct 15, 2019

What’s so scary about signing a liability waiver?

In the pursuit of bigger scares and greater word of mouth this Halloween season, more and more haunted houses are turning to a clever marketing tactic that couldn’t seem to be more mundane. They’re asking attendees to sign insurance waivers.

Haunted houses and other haunted attractions today are big business. What began decades ago as local fundraisers for community groups has burgeoned into a $300 million industry. Companies put a lot of effort and money into making their attractions stand out. There are agencies devoted solely to marketing haunted houses, and social media budgets can run as much as $50,000 a year.

The marketing makes sense. Haunted houses have to constantly reinvent themselves to keep up interest year after year and promise bigger scares than the competition. This leads to new technology, new experiences, and major marketing efforts. Haunted houses are leaning into the third S of Joe Pine’s The Experience Economy by surprising customers with a customized experience. Haunts like 17th Door as well as Eastern State Penitentiary here in Philly allow guests to select the experience they want. Guests wearing a special glow stick “may be grabbed, held back, sent into hidden passageways, and even temporarily removed from their group.”

Why do Haunted Houses Make You Sign a Waiver?

To have those experiences, participants are required to sign a waiver to enter the house. That task, along with other tactics like coming up with a safe word, adds to the theatrics of the experience. The documents may be legally binding, but they’re typically more about slips and falls than they are about the risk of being scared to death. Nevertheless, they send a powerful marketing message that creates word of mouth and media coverage.

There’s a lesson here for all marketing efforts that have a recurring element, whether it’s drumming up coverage for an annual fundraising event or getting customers excited about an incremental product update. In addition to fighting against what your competitors are doing and whatever else the media could cover that day, you’re also competing with yourself and what you’ve done in the past.

Long story short: Look at the entire experience you’re providing for marketing opportunities to resurrect interest in events, announcements and initiatives that are in danger of becoming stale.

Forward at your own risk.

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