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What You Can Learn From the Pumpkin Spice Marketing Phenomenon

by Shayna Santoro

As marketers, we always admire creative, unique and engaging branding campaigns. It may seem like the bigger brands with even bigger budgets have all the fun. But don’t let the big brands have all the fun – jump aboard and learn as much as you can and how you can apply your favorite marketing tactics to your own branding campaigns.

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte branding campaign has truly changed the CPG marketing landscape, spawned a multitude of product launches, and created a fall phenomenon around, of all things, a fairly basic spice blend. Starbucks has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice lattes (most commonly referred to as a “PSL”) since the beverage first came out in 2003. It is their number one selling drink of all time. This year’s big news: the introduction of actual pumpkin to the recipe and the beverage will have no caramel coloring.

The huge branding campaign behind the “PSL” prompted many of the big CPG brands such as Kellogg’s©, Pepperidge Farm©, and Mars, Inc. among many others to jump on board to launch any item they could possibly think of that would pair well with pumpkin. There seems to be more questionable product pairings than perfect matches: pumpkin spice Peeps©? Pumpkin spice yogurt? Pumpkin spice hummus? Pumpkin spice pasta sauce? Who knows what will still be around come the fall of 2016!

The PSL branding campaign stretches across all mediums, in-store, print, and online with some of the most talked about elements of the campaign being the social media profiles that Starbucks created last year and continued to ramp up again this year. They gave a true personality to the beverage creating a celebrity-style profile on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. And folks are completely into it, liking and retweeting and interacting with…a coffee cup. Essentially, their fan base is compounding all their marketing efforts – viral marketing in its greatest form!

What we enjoy about Starbucks marketing around the pumpkin spice latte is that every piece plays off of each other and it hits you from all directions, forcing you to take notice and go to the café and order one!

The takeaways here are to always keep your message to the consumer consistent, understand your target audience and where they are most likely to really hear your message, and inject personality into your brand. A brand personality can take the form of witty writing or stylistic and unique photography and imagery. Start brainstorming with your team today and generate your next big marketing idea!

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