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How Starbucks Made Pumpkin Spice a Marketing Success

Digital Advertising

Do you automatically think of Starbucks when you think of the best coffee brand? Their reputation as producers of the finest coffee in the world has helped them build a global empire.

However, Starbucks' success is due to more than just its delicious coffee; the company is also well-known for its innovative use of holiday digital marketing campaigns.

In fact, it was thanks to one seasonal drink in particular that they gained even more notoriety. The Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL as it is commonly called, is the beverage in question.

Since its introduction nearly 20 years ago, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) has become an annual tradition and the most eagerly anticipated seasonal beverage.

Want to know the secret to this flavor's success? Don't worry! Our Florida SEO marketing experts have compiled the spices responsible for making this season's most popular beverage.

Four Keys to Pumpkin Spice's Commercial Success

1. Be daring and experiment with your products.

Starbucks' pumpkin spice products
Photo from Starbucks

Pumpkin spice isn't for everyone, and Starbucks was aware of that when they introduced the PSL. Pumpkin, however, was something unique in the eyes of Starbucks' product manager, Peter Dukes.

There wasn't much pumpkin flavor in coffee then, so he and the other developers regarded it as a unique ingredient.

Once the list was complete, a survey was given to Starbucks patrons to find out what seasonal latte flavor they would be most interested in purchasing. The pumpkin spice latte was surprisingly not among the most popular options, but Dukes and his team included it.

Dukes' decision was a gamble, and he suggested that her boss take a chance on him. Dukes included pumpkin flavoring because he wanted to make a flavor that stood out from the crowd.

And presto! Duke's bold move paid off handsomely, as the flavor drink quickly sold out and earned more than $200 million in its first year on the market.

One important lesson we can learn from PSL's origins is not to be afraid to experiment and have fun with your products. This also demonstrates that, even with data in hand, companies and businesses sometimes know their audience better than they know themselves.

2. Understand your target audience's preferences.

People searching for Starbucks pumpkin spice on Google
Photo from Statista

Target market identification is just as crucial as having a great product. Why? Given that they will likely determine your company's success or failure, it is imperative that you focus on them.

Starbucks has done an excellent job of gauging customer preferences, which is essential to any business's success.

Millennials are mainly responsible for PSL's success, so Starbucks has managed to retain this demographic by catering to their interests with artistic and visually appealing posts.  

Because millennials prefer things that excite and interest them, visually appealing content is the best option. Another factor that has contributed to the PSL's colossal success is social media. Millennials enjoy socializing about their PSL experiences.  

As a result, the company has reached and acquired new customers, which has contributed to PSL's enormous success.

In other words, if you know your target demographic and the things that interest them, you can appeal to a broader range of people. This a promising sign that business is booming for your organization.

3. Interact with your audience.

Starbucks barista giving a PSL order to a customer
Photo from Starbucks

So many people talk about their experiences with PSL on social media that it is unclear how Starbucks will interact with all of these people.

Instagram was beneficial in this regard because most of its audience shared their experiences using hashtags, which increased online sales. This increased their overall sales.

Starbucks' response to and interaction with its customers ensured that the company remained true to its founding value: connecting with its customers.

Customers can be engaged in a variety of ways, but if you want to do it the PSL way, consider these two engagement strategies:

  • Engaging with negative comments in a positive manner can be beneficial to your brand. In the case of PSL, it established a stereotype as a type of drink that white girls drink in the fall while dressed in typical UGG® boots, yoga pants, and a jacket. Starbucks responded by posting about the yoga retreat and making fun of the negative comments. This is an excellent example of a positive response.
  • Celebrate with your customers by acknowledging their posts. Starbucks used the hashtag #PSL to recognize their customers' posts and testimonials. Of course, with their customer's permission. This is a great way to build relationships with your customers by encouraging them to tell a story about your brand, allowing more followers.

4. Provide a storytelling experience.

Peter Dukes, director of espresso Americas for Starbucks
Photo from Starbucks

Don't you just love it when a product gives you a good feeling? And it would be even better if it brought back a memory!

Fortunately for PSL, it has successfully created a sentimental feeling, as one sip of this drink brings back memories of fall.

People have strong emotional attachments to pumpkins, typical winter squash in the United States. According to Johns Hopkins University research, the spicy scent of pumpkin brought back fond and emotional memories.

So, you might want to include this in your marketing plan because stories help people feel connected and, as a result, are likely to increase the lifetime value of your clients.

Make a Brand That Will Last Like Starbucks' PSL

The Pumpkin Spice Latte has become the drink that customers look forward to the most each year as part of Starbucks' holiday marketing—elevating its status to one of the most highly regarded beverages of all time.

And, if you want your brand to last a lifetime, consider working with SEO marketing experts in Florida who are the most knowledgeable in the industry and can assist you in establishing the reputation you desire.

At Digital Resource, we have digital marketing experts who can help you develop a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that will allow you to build a solid reputation for your company and establish an online presence.

To learn more about our offerings, please contact us right away. We’re always excited to speak with people about the power of marketing!

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