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Marketing Lessons We Can All Learn From Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte…
24/09/2018

Pumpkin spice and all things nice - that’s right we’ve hit the beloved PSL season!

The sweet autumnal sugary goodness is truly a gift from above, or maybe just from the Seattle headquarters, but either way the PSL Gods created a storm when they invented the seasonal drink that sent everyone wild. But how did this one orange, sugar induced cup create it’s own SEASON and become one of the biggest annual traditions of the decade? 

Facts + Figures

• The pumpkin spice latte is the #1 selling seasonal drink of all time.
• Over 200 million cups of this drink was sold in the first decade. That’s a roughly-estimated 16 million cups a season, or 175 thousand cups a day from September to the end of November.
• Starbucks earned an estimated 80 million at least in revenue each season.

1. Be Exclusive
How did Starbucks create ‘PSL Season’? Well, by being exactly that, a season. The drink is exclusively available between the months of September - November, meaning if you want some pumpkin spice you need to get it NOW. Despite pleas from it’s many fans to make it a year-round fixture, Starbucks know a good thing when they’ve got it. Keeping it seasonal and exclusive makes it feel VIP, it’s a now or never situation. Even if you weren’t planning on going to Starbucks - you may just go now to make the most of PSL, after all it’s a whole year till their back! 

2. Social Media
Not only does the hashtag PSL get over 3,000 tweets A DAY throughout the season, the pumpkin pal has his own Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr accounts too. He has 110k followers on Twitter and 37k on Instagram… yup a latte has more followers than any of us will ever have. The personified latte, who wears a pair of orange sunglasses, has mastered social media engagement. The PSL team only post a few things, but what they are great at is replying to customers. They've created a faux friendship between consumers and the latte, and creating a stream of conversation. Any questions, complaints, or complements are answered making the latte, and Starbucks look trustworthy and building brand loyalty massively. Plus, obviously increasing PSL sales.  Not only does the PSL have it's own social media accounts, but it is also promoted on Starbucks accounts with some very blogger/Instagrammable style posts - again fitting into this idea that buying a pumpkin spice latte means you'll instantly be in an autumnal wonderland, surrounded by colourful leaves, bonfires and hedgehogs.

3. Gap in the Market
Seasonal drinks work so well because people attach a sense of nostalgia to them. Whether it’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte in autumn, a Gingerbread Cappuccino at Christmas or a glass of Mulled Wine, there is some kind of emotional attachment to the drink, that idea that drinking it will ignite some great autumnal memories. Christmas is obviously a marketing gold mine, from gingerbread to eggnog there are so many associated flavours and scents, and you know they are Christmas flavours because as soon as it gets to November every candle is infused with them or every coffee is flavoured and so on. But as for Autumn/fall, it’s slightly less obvious - until Starbucks pushed pumpkin spice. Now, we find ourselves in October with pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. Consumers love an association to get them in the spirit, whether its hot cross buns at Easter; candy canes at Christmas… or a pumpkin spice latte at Halloween. Starbucks saw the gap and grabbed it with both hands, PSL = good times.


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