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The Halloween Candy Buyback: A public relations grand slam!

Oct. 1, 2008
Are you ready to have everyone in your town buzzing about your brilliant promotion?
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By Chris Kammer, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Halloween candy, public relations, promotion.

Are you ready to have everyone in your town buzzing about your brilliant promotion? Well, get ready for the day when your practice (and hopefully, someday the entire dental profession) takes back the dreaded sweet-treat holiday of Halloween by putting a unique spin on it. Welcome to the win-win world of the Halloween Candy Buyback. This promotion has the potential to be the biggest public relations event that your practice has ever been involved in. It can be the most fun too.

Here's how it works ...

Your office offers to pay trick-or-treaters one dollar per pound for their excess uneaten, unopened Halloween candy. The children also receive a flashing Dr. Fresh Firefly toothbrush and a coupon for a kid's meal at a local restaurant. The candy is then shipped to our troops in Iraq, allowing them a moment or two of enjoyment in support of their efforts.

Here's why this promotion is such a winner ...

1) Less candy is consumed by children. Mothers will love you because you are the dentist with the most well-thought-out plan to deal with the excess amounts of candy regularly consumed by children for days and days following Halloween. Who needs to eat a shopping bag full of candy? No one, so let's do our part to get it off the streets!

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It's no secret that decay among children is on the rise and that the childhood obesity rate is at an all-time high. Dentists can now take a creative stand against these problems without becoming the Halloween Grinch. You see, we're not talking about banning trick-or-treating. Are you kidding? Children will always be excited to do that, so don't even go there. However, we are giving kids an alternative use for their excess candy that they can feel good about.

2) Collected candy supports the troops. No one likes war, but everyone says they support the troops; unfortunately, most of the time that's just lip service. The Candy Buyback promotion is a great opportunity to get children involved in a charitable act to truly show support for our brothers and sisters risking their lives. It is easier for children to part with their candy when they know it cheers up our troops overseas. The children's letters that accompany the care packages are huge morale boosters as well. In fact, your office can even create an oversized card to accompany your candy delivery, and all the kids can sign it when they bring in their treats for the cash.

3) Media response to this event is unparalleled. I continue to get excited about new ways to reach the public with the modern dental message. Believe me, I've done some rather "out there" stunts to promote dentistry that most dentists would never even consider. So anyway, a couple of years ago when my public relations people, The Creative Company, sent me their idea for an October press release, I just wasn't very enthused. It was written with the same old message that warned "candy gives you cavities." Come on, people! Everyone already knows that, and I just didn't think that the well-worn message would ignite a firestorm of activity in the media. So from that feeling of frustration came my motivation to steer my PR team in a different direction. We needed something fresh.

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I had heard about other offices across the country paying kids money for their Halloween candy, so I told them to run with that. The PR team took off on that and also added the idea to send all collected candy to the troops overseas. From there, the Candy Buyback grew beyond my wildest expectations.

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Every year, the media expects to do its share of Halloween stories, and reporters are always looking for a new angle as the holiday approaches. Well, this angle was overwhelmingly embraced! A TV station came out to our office, previewed the event, and interviewed some team members. They returned during the actual Candy Buyback event to do a very sweet follow-up story. Radio stations and newspapers from throughout the state also did stories previewing our special day. Months later, our local newspaper even printed a story when we showed them the pictures from Iraq of the soldiers receiving our candy-filled care packages.

The buzz on this baby just kept on building. Friends and people on the street were all complimenting me on this great Candy Buyback idea. Everyone had heard about it from the unbelievable media exposure we received.

4) It's an incredible team- and practice-building event. We scheduled the buyback during a two-hour period after school on November 1. The staff wore their Halloween costumes, and a vibrant party atmosphere was prevalent throughout the office. A steady stream of parents and children filed into our office the following day.

One team member worked the scale and called out the official weight. Another held a stack of crisp, new dollar bills and peeled them off into the hands of excited children with words of congratulations. We also thanked the young ones for supporting the troops. Another team member wore a tooth costume and handed out the "light saber" Dr. Fresh Firefly flashing toothbrushes. An additional team member handed out the kid's meal coupons (all of which were donated by local restaurants) to the children. Parents received office fliers with special promotional offers inviting them to join our practice.

It's a good idea to raffle off an iPod or a fine dining experience at a local ritzy restaurant for the parents. This is an excellent way to collect contact information if you want to continue to communicate and/or market to your event participants.

This year, Halloween is on a Friday, so you might want to open your office for the Candy Buyback that next day on Saturday. This would make it even easier for parents to bring their children to your office for the buyback.

So now, you have to be getting pumped up about this promotion! I guarantee your office will have the most enjoyable Halloween season ever by holding this event. Last year, I voluntarily guided 200 offices through every detail of the Halloween Candy Buyback. This event is just too special to keep it a secret; it has now become my mission!

If you would like to get involved this year, you can register (no charge) at www.DentalProshop.com/halloween, and then you'll have access to the step-by-step instruction on the Web, which includes the press release you can use, toothbrush ordering specials, candy shipping information, and much more. We also send out occasional HCBB e-mail news updates with great ideas from participating colleagues across the country. We have the only nationwide source for the general public and the national media to locate the dental practices involved.

The majority of your press will occur during the week leading up to Halloween, so you could actually start your PR campaign as late as mid-October and still pull off an amazing event.

A U.S. organization called Operation Gratitude (www.opgratitude.com) will collect your candy here in the states and ship it overseas. You are responsible for getting the candy to them, but they'll do the rest to package it for the troops and send it overseas. The head of the organization, Carolyn Blashek, was thrilled with last year's dental response, calling it the best promotion they had ever seen.

A last word of advice regarding your collected candy: Hurry up and ship it! If you wait for any length of time, I guarantee that the pile will mysteriously dwindle. I discovered that my staff was constantly checking the candy for "safety" reasons. Hmm ... Happy Halloween!

Dr. Chris Kammer is founder of the Masters of Progressive Dentistry lecture series (www.DentalProShop.com), which features Dental Ozone, Advanced Mini Dental Implants, "Gums of Steel" Hygiene Transformation, and Dental Media Power training. He is a founding member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and a partner in Lime Technologies. Contact Dr. Kammer at [email protected].

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