Who Cares About Pumpkin Spice Lattes?

starbucks pumpkin spice latteStarbucks appears to have cornered the PSL market (that’s Pumpkin Spice Latte, if you’re a devoted fan), and the world’s obsession with the intoxicatingly-spiced drink is showing no signs of slowing.

If you do the math, pumpkin spice lattes cost an average of about $45 a gallon. That’s a lot of cash for hot water over coffee beans and a splash of pumpkin-hued magic, but we’re willing to pay for it, and the 200 million cups of PSL sold from 2004-2015 reinforce that assertion.

Rounding up to $4 gets you 12 ounces of the number one selling seasonal drink of all time – not a cheap drink by any stretch of the imagination. However, spending a few minutes studying the marketing tactics and customer engagement levels around pumpkin spice lattes can help businesses of all types, a value well above $4.

Let’s look at some of the marketing philosophies behind the PSL, and unique ways businesses can hop on the pumpkin spice bandwagon to boost revenues.

Be Trendy

The PSL has its own Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles, and tens of thousands of followers. The same individuals who love their PSLs are also those who show a proclivity toward using social media. Businesses of all types can create excitement around their brand by simultaneously integrating pumpkin-flavored or themed items and ideas into their offerings while using social media to spread the word.

Embrace Scarcity

Some businesses may not experience true seasonality in their operating cycle, but one of the key drivers of the pumpkin spice latte success is the notion that it is transient, only “in town” for a short while, and makes customers feel like they’ve been given access to something exclusive. Year after year, people ask, “When do pumpkin spice lattes come out for the season?” Scarcity drives sales, in many cases, because people don’t want to miss out.

Take Risks

Not everyone loves the flavor of pumpkin. Not all people love coffee. In fact, some people truly despise the flavor of both. Then, sprinkle in a bunch of “holiday” spices and charge $4 for a 12-ounce serving and you’re bound to find a significant segment of the population that is simply not interested. However, even the people who don’t enjoy the drink often still talk about it. Negative word-of-mouth has helped boost the popularity of a simple drink with a little bit of pumpkin spice.

Starbucks took a calculated risk and released the drink without much fanfare. People responded positively, Starbucks acted swiftly and supported their new fans with light-hearted, fun ad campaigns, and the rest is history. The moral here? Businesses can act like Starbucks and take risks with a product line. Adding a new flavor while ensuring their tried-and-true menu remained intact allowed Starbucks to test the waters without undue risk.

Yes, the PSL has 110,000 Twitter followers, $80 million in annual revenue is attributable to the hot spiced drink, and nearly 11 million Facebook users report the Pumpkin Spice Latte is one of their interests – but the advertising tactics and social media marketing examples related to the PSL make interesting fodder for any business owner looking to create and sustain a massively successful marketing campaign.

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