Marketing Lessons from the Pumpkin Spice Latte You Can Sip On

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Fall is officially here and you’ve already felt the effects of fall fever. You have moved your sweaters to the front of your closet, you passed a pumpkin patch on the way to work, and you are anticipating the slew of fall festivals on your calendar. Pumpkin spice has taken over this season and it isn’t slowing down.
There are pumpkin donuts, bagels, hamburgers, chips, beers, liquors, wines, yogurts, salty snacks, cheese and even toothpaste. In 2017, America’s pumpkin spice obsession is bigger than ever. Sales of pumpkin products have grown by 79% since 2012 and have grossed $361m compared to $201m five years ago.
Most of us are not buying pumpkins and serving up slabs of it for dinner, so why are we so obsessed with the pumpkin spice flavor? Pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, not pumpkin itself. Profound psychological reasons underlie your innate craving for this flavor. This flavor evokes positive associations like cool breezes, piles of leaves, crackling fires and the cozy togetherness of the upcoming season. Combining this with successful marketing makes pumpkin spice “taste like fall.” Our sense of taste is 80% smell, therefore, it’s the cozy smell of pumpkin spice that evokes fall nostalgia more so than the taste. Take the aroma of pumpkin spice, combine it with sugar and the consumer immediately has a warm, homey and nostalgic digestive experience that is arguably addictive.

The pumpkin spice trend started in 2003 when Starbucks’ espresso brand manager noted that there was nothing pumpkin flavored on the market and created the pumpkin spice latte. One of the key factors behind the pumpkin spice craze is the fact that it is a limited time offer. Tying an LTO to a season or a holiday associated with indulgence conjures up excitement for the product, creates enthusiasm around the product, and drives consumers to purchase the product before it’s gone.

All companies have very carefully planned marketing strategies when it comes to their seasonal product, especially Starbucks who has a verified Twitter and Instagram for the pumpkin spice latte. The posts are amusing, creative, and visually appealing as well as diverse. Starbucks has remained current by evolving their brand and products through storytelling marketing mainly by making the PSL a character that directly communicates with their audience.

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