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What You Can Learn from the Pumpkin Spice Marketing Phenomenon

by Kavya Sebastian

Since 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has taken the world by storm. A seemingly ordinary seasonal drink now floods social media feeds, advertising, supermarket shelves, and more weeks before autumn sets in.

The pumpkin spice latte, also affectionately known as the “PSL,” has a Twitter account with 86K followers. Talk about world-famous.

What’s essential about the pumpkin spice latte phenomenon is that it rapidly rose to fame due to innovative marketing techniques.

Like the diamond becoming a symbol of forever or carrots supposedly improving eyesight, pumpkin spice marketing has introduced a new way to resonate with consumer senses. After all, Peter Drucker said it best, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Since the pumpkin spice latte is synonymously related to Fall, customers anticipate the limited edition flavor each season.

Every year, more and more food products try to claim their stake in the seasonal craze with the pumpkin spice seasonal flavor. The influence of the popular latte caused Nissin Foods, a CPG brand infamous for Cup Noodles, to add a pumpkin spice flavor to their flavor index. Nissin Foods’ strategy to refresh its 50-year-old brand was a successful marketing tactic that appealed to Gen Z audiences.

Why did pumpkin spice lattes become so popular?

In case you are wondering how pumpkin spice lattes became an anticipated crowd-pleaser across multiple demographic cohorts, it’s fair to say it’s all in the senses.

The pumpkin spice latte’s popularity is credited to a well-executed strategy of Sensory Marketing. Far from a simple pumpkin flavor, the blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and spices creates an aroma that helps those who indulge transcend time and places.

The delicious smell and taste offer our brain a nostalgic feeling that creates a happy memory. Incorporating sensory marketing into your content plan means making content that appeals to your audience’s sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste.

The mastery of the pumpkin spice latte showed how to craft a whole mood for customers. Every sip brings drinkers to pumpkin picking, beautiful colored falling leaves, and channels the ultimate fall mood regardless of location.

In 2003, Starbucks launched the trial flavor in 100 stores in Vancouver and Washington D.C. to test the taste and quickly learned that it was a tremendous success.

The decision to make the flavor limited added to its craze. Associating the Pumpkin Spice Latte with a season made it even more desirable because of the limited availability. Starbucks even created packaging designs to embody the autumnal aesthetic.

Starbucks incorporated specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound goals to get its audience excited each time the fall season approaches. You can’t amplify Sensory Marketing without being SMART.

Through social marketing, creatives, and word-of-mouth social proof, Starbucks created ethical FOMO for anyone who did not try the latte flavor. They even analyzed non-coffee drinkers and introduced the Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte and other cold beverages to appeal to those. That’s the epitome of SMART marketing.

4 Things We Can Learn from Pumpkin Spice Marketing

1. Show, don’t tell your story

Visual storytelling is a vital component in building out an effective marketing campaign. Starbucks did a phenomenal job attaching a lifestyle to the product. For example, using fall leaves and cozy images made customers want to create that feeling for themselves. The use of that imagery helped to brand Pumpkin Spice Latte as the drink of the season.

Use visual imagery that ties emotions and memories to your product to help build a connection with that ideal customer that could be interested in buying.

2. Resonate with your audience by painting a picture, not calling them out

Starbucks used a combination of sensory marketing and SMART marketing strategies to crown the Pumpkin Spice Latte as a Fall sensation. They built word-of-mouth buzz by providing a platform for their customers to share their thoughts via social media.

Starbucks took it a step further by personifying the drink, creating its social media profile, getting people engaged, started FOMO for existing and potential customers. They didn’t have to say, “You should be drinking this latte,” the community they created around the drink made people believe they should. That’s how you resonate without pushing beliefs.

Instead of explicitly describing your audience, demonstrate that you have the same values, interests, and preferences. Show them that you get it.

3. Keep your message to the consumer consistent

Having an understanding of your target audience is the foundation for consistent messaging. Once you map out the persona of your audience, you can deliver your message strategically.

Starbucks realized that Twitter benefited its marketing campaign because of the way its customers used the platform. It happened to be where all conversations were happening about PSL on the social landscape when it first came out.

Creating the Pumpkin Spice Latte Twitter profile helped Starbucks to circulate witty facts and incredible imagery while also building a loyal following.

When it comes to your brand messaging and content strategy, know who your audience is and where you can reach them.

4. Build a strong brand personality

Finally, feel free to create a personality for your brand. A brand personality can take the form of witty writing or stylistic and unique photography and imagery. The pumpkin spice marketing phenomenon says that out-of-the-box thinking can be successful if you stay true to your brand. Positive feedback and interaction can be a great stepping stone to letting your creativity wild.

Market your business successfully online with Champ Internet

With the right strategy, your brand could be the next pumpkin spice marketing phenomenon. Our team at Champ Internet has decades of combined experience in the digital marketing landscape.

We’ve helped over 100 brands establish themselves in their space with thoughtful, data-driven tactics. Invest in web design and development, search engine marketing and pay-per-click ad campaigns, social media marketing, search engine optimization, photography, videography, print and packaging design, email marketing, and/or branding services for your business.

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