Marketing Strategy

The Secret of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

How does Starbucks’ signature drink leave such a mark every year?

Source: monticelllo / iStock Editorial / Getty

Starbucks is known for its customer service, mermaid cups, and wide variety of drinks. But it’s signature autumn beverage, the pumpkin spice latte, isn’t just a seasonal offering. It’s an event.

The brand has made $100 million from the pumpkin spice latte throughout its lifetime and over 100,000 people follow the drink’s Twitter account, @TheRealPSL. Not only has Starbucks utilized the latte to grow its own brand, but it even inspired the onslaught of pumpkin spice flavoring that other snack foods have embraced. So, how is Starbucks able to make the drink not just something to sip but something to celebrate?

Embracing the Seasons

The pumpkin spice latte isn’t available year-round. In fact, it’s around for a relatively short amount of time, just a handful of months as the leaves start to turn and the weather gets chillier. That builds up the drink and lets people get excited about it. The thought of putting the drink on the menu year-round may be tempting for the chain, but it knows that holding it to a specific season entices people to buy.

Building Up the Launch

Starbucks announces when the pumpkin spice latte will be available ahead of time, giving people time to get excited. It makes the launch of the latte feel like a much bigger deal than a simple new flavor.

High Quality Aesthetics

Starbucks always features brightly colored advertisements and social posts. The pumpkin spice latte visuals are no exception. Its curated brand photos of crisp leaves and snuggly scarves get people in the mood to celebrate all things fall. Since they’re excited about the changing seasons, why not celebrate it with a beverage?

They Celebrate Nostalgia

When the pumpkin spice latte was first being developed, Starbucks realized that the Millennials it was aiming to turn into customers was a generation that really celebrated their childhood and liked to see it reflected back to them. The pumpkin spice latte evokes feelings of belonging, visions of Thanksgiving, and the importance of family gatherings. Starbucks made its product into more than a beverage; it became a true token of memories past.

What Can You Learn?

Starbucks embraced a seasonal setting, beautiful visuals, and the importance of nostalgia to create a holiday-infused product that set the world of coffee on fire. It turned a drink into a must-have of the season, and laugh as we may, it’s turned into millions of dollars for the chain. How can you do the same within your industry?