When American consumers think fall, what comes to mind? Scarves, boots, football games—and pumpkin spice. Last year, a whopping $361 million was spent on pumpkin products, a figure that grew 79% since 2011. But when did American consumers start going crazy for pumpkin? Some attribute the hype surrounding pumpkin spice to the successful marketing of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte perhaps inspiring other brands, such as Oreo, M&M, and Eggo, to also jump on the seasonal flavor hayride. Although it is among their most anticipated menu items, Starbucks doesn’t take the popularity of their Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) for granted. This year’s re-launch campaign capitalized on key components of Starbucks’ branding: an engaged social audience, and a dash of humor to build excitement about the coffee drink in early September. What’s their strategy?
1. For seasonal products, re-launch campaigns are key: Since the drink’s origin in 2003, Starbucks has sold upward of 200 million pumpkin spice lattes. This year, Starbucks built an expertly crafted re-emergence campaign on social media even before temperatures took a dip. Starbucks personified the product, giving PSL a voice via its own Instagram profile, verified Twitter account, and sponsored hashtag emoji. Through creative and humorous storytelling, the brand’s social following skyrocketed on every platform. The coffee giant also refreshed its messaging in its re-launch campaign, appealing to Millennials looking to stay away from too much sugar and doing away with caramel additives, substituting “real pumpkin.”
2. Social Media: Engagement Equals Brand Loyalty: In just a few weeks, the PSL campaign racked up more than 10,000 tweets, 99% of which were replies to its 114,000 followers. Beyond awareness and goodwill, follow-though via timely responses is critical for brands. Researchers found that 90% of people have used social media to communicate with a brand and 89% of those messages are ignored. Further, if consumers feel they are being ignored, one in three said they are willing to go to a competitor!
3. Know Your Audience: Millennials represent 40% of Starbucks sales and they’ve done an unmatched job of reaching out to this audience. Through its social media campaigns, Starbucks shows similar values to its target audience, with posts that capture the Millennials’ “seize the day” mentality. Content includes GIFs, celebrity endorsements, user-generated images, and trending topics to keep Millennials engaged.
But Millennials aren’t only interested in living in the moment—they’re committed to making the world a better place and eager to support businesses that share this philosophy. Earlier this year, Starbucks Corporation issued a $500 million U.S. corporate bond aimed at paying for sustainability projects that include support programs for farmers in coffee growing regions and last fall, Starbucks committed to planting a coffee tree for every bag of coffee purchased through the end of 2015. Aligning their brand with the values and priorities of their audience has made Starbucks a leader in their industry and ensured future customer loyalty.
4. Create Exclusivity: The nostalgia of leaves changing and fall returning is a great marketing tool for PSL, and Starbucks capitalizes on the limited-time offer quality that comes with any seasonal commodity. Despite pleas from fans, Starbucks has held fast to PSL only being offered during the fall months, which has created a level of urgency that gives the product a must-have-now quality.
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Sources: Alist Starbucks Pumpkin Spices All the Things In Their New Marketing Campaign, September 2016, Jemully Media 6 Marketing Lessons From Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, Tidal Marketing Campaign Mega-Success: The Pumpkin Spice Latte September 2015, Sprout Social, Shunning Your Customers On Social 2016 Sprout Social Social Index, Fortune, Here’s What Starbucks Gets Right About Appealing to Millennials, May 2016