The first reference to what we now know as “pumpkin spice” can be traced back to 1796. That’s the year Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, often regarded as the nation’s first cookbook. In it she includes a recipe for “pompkin pudding,” a pie made with stewed pumpkin and spiced with ginger and nutmeg. It represents a sense of goodness, natural abundance and old values that people think are good. Which is why pumpkin spice lattes bring equal parts devotion and disdain.
More importantly pumpkin spice delivers a powerful marketing punch every fall. According to Nielsen sales of pumpkin-infused foods and drinks are up 79 percent since 2011. It’s now a $361 million dollar business. Social media intelligence technology provider Infegy even released a report that uses social media data to explain the widespread success behind this bestselling seasonal flavor options and explains how it can be used to better understand consumers, brand loyalty, purchase intent and more.
The pumpkin spice latte now means more than coffee spiked with pumpkin and cinnamon. What started as a drink has now come to represent a certain fall-centric lifestyle thanks to IMC heavyweight Starbucks. The company created official Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr accounts for the pumpkin spice latte in 2014 and has dedicated manpower and resources to fill these accounts with pictures of an anthropomorphic pumpkin spice latte wearing sweaters and sunglasses on what appears to be a college campus. The officlal PSL Twitter account currently has 112,000 followers. This year, Starbucks used Twitter and Tumblr to create the “#PSLFanPass” which gave big fans early access to the drink via a secret code released on social media.
The Starbucks team carefully crafted the pumpkin spice latte social media personality. For example, the team decided to treat the PSL as a celebrity after noticing people who followed the drink also followed more celebrities than the average social media user. They also decided that the PSL would tweet in first-person. And there are further brand extensions as well. Because there are only so many pumpkin spice lattes a person can handle, Starbucks has decided to mix up its autumnal menu a bit with its first new fall flavor in four years. The Toasted Graham Latte is available at the chain’s locations in the U.S. and Canada.
It’s been four years since the last time that Starbucks’ drinks were updated for the fall, as their Pumpkin Spice Latte has become a classic in the season and altogether one of the most popular fall menu items in any chain. What about you – are you a devotee or disdainful of this fall tasting trend?