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Franchises Get Into Halloween Spirit Roto-Rooter says it ain't afraid of no ghosts. Meanwhile, Baskin-Robbins and Party City jump on the Halloween hay ride.

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Spooky noises keeping you awake? Wishing you could call Ghost Busters?

Roto-Rooter, one of several franchisors embracing Halloween as a marketing opportunity, suggests you contact one of its plumbers to take on those things that go bump in the night.

As part of this year's campaign, the company says "crashes, clanks and bumps" are rarely caused by other worldly things…even when heard by homeowners in notoriously haunted cities like New Orleans, Savannah and Gettysburg.

Ghost stories are nothing new to Roto-Rooter, whose ranks include Jason Hawes, plumber-turned-host of the SyFy Channel's Ghost Hunters. He's been seen in Roto-Rooter uniform on the show, and the company promotes Ghost Hunters on its website.

"Most of the time, these unexplained, strange noises are actually a sign of plumbing problems that can, in most instances, be fixed," Rhode Islander Hawes says in an article on the company's site. (Roto-Rooter says Hawes remains an employee, doing commercial plumbing work between TV shoots "which now take up most of his time.")

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, Roto-Rooter is also offering the free book, Chilling Tales from the Porcelain Seat, on its site. The text recounts wacky plumbing stories, including do-it-yourself "disasters" and accounts of items such as prosthetic eyes and creatures in drain pipes.

Roto-Rooter has long used Halloween as a marketing opportunity, going back to this Edgar Allan Poe-themed commercial in 1979. But it's not the only franchise to jump on the Halloween hay ride.

Baskin-Robbins recently resurrected its Trick Oreo Treat ice cream as October's flavor of the month. The special Halloween edition blends vanilla ice cream with orange creme-filled Oreo cookies and Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy pieces.

The holiday is particularly well suited for costume retailers like Party City, which recently cited a National Retail Federation statistic showing that Americans spent $2.21 billion on Halloween costumes last year.

Party City, which claims to be the country's largest Halloween retailer, issued a press release naming the big trends in costumes this year: superheroes, Mattel's Monster High, fairies, sci-fi glamour, Disney princesses, solid color themes and Gothic romance.

Is your business using Halloween as a marketing opportunity? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has covered business, politics, healthcare and general news for wire services, newspapers, blogs and other publications.

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