Whenever August comes to an end, the talk in many of my circles centers on one thing: the pumpkin spice latte (commonly referred to as PSL) from Starbucks. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but whenever I hear about it or see advertisements for it, I know that fall is right around the corner.
It doesn’t just have to be a seasonal Starbucks drink for fall. If you’re in the US, you know that the dog days of summer are coming when the bright yellow shipping containers full of fireworks appear in every parking lot. There’s also the empty big-box stores that become Halloween stores, only for those to become empty once the holiday has passed. Or when parking lots become Christmas tree shops right after Thanksgiving.
Some organizations and brands have marketed their product or service so well that those items almost become synonymous with the season itself.
Pumpkin spice latte (PSL): How did they do it?
As mentioned at the top of this blog, you are probably aware that the PSL is back into the Starbucks rotation of drinks. Before writing this blog, I didn’t know too much about the history of the PSL, but this Forbes article from 2013 covers it well. The Forbes story also points out that other brands have followed suit with various pumpkin spice products in response to the new trend that was set by Starbucks many years ago. That trend is still happening in 2021, and presumably will continue in the years to come.
While there are various theories listed in the Forbes article about why it’s been so successful, I believe the popularity of the PSL is a result of its limited availability and flavor profile — combined with those ingredients that make the season notable: pumpkins and warm drinks. Combine this product with a stellar marketing strategy, and you’ve got a guaranteed trendsetter.
What can I do to make my seasonal product marketing effective?
The reality is that it’s unlikely your product or service will become as impactful as the PSL: that kind of market frenzy is rare at best. That does not mean that you should just give up hope and not take advantage of effective seasonal marketing. Let’s get into ways your company can effectively market its product/service (no matter the industry) to match the trends of the season.
With fall right around the corner, see what deals you can offer your customers that fit into the season. Or if those deals do not align with the season, you might be able to piggyback off of Starbucks’ marketing through humor. Of course, you may not be able to offer pumpkin spice software (PSS as it’s known in the software world). But maybe you could have an annual fall sale, or summer sale, or whatever season/holiday that best fits with your product or service. Along with providing deals that will have customers coming back, consistency is key — you want your customer base to know that when it’s close to fall, for example, you’ll be having your annual sale where they can get some of their favorite things for less.
Look at where you’re attracting new business and cater your marketing to that channel. If you get a lot of traffic from social media, make sure that channel is the first one to promote the seasonal deal.
Market your seasonal product or deal effectively and you’ll start making it known to your audience that when it’s time for [insert season/holiday here], a good deal is on the way.
Unlikely combination unlocked
If you were to ask me about the PSL when I was much younger, I would’ve said, “Is that a tea flavor?” It never struck me as a winning combination until the PSL madness really took off in the 2010s.
Try to identify some combinations that maybe haven’t been explored before. I know that is vague advice, but try taking a step back to think of some potential ways you can market your product or service in combination with an underutilized/uncommon aspect of each season. For example, one of my favorite candle shops offers a bomb pop candle during the summer. It’s fun, it smells good, and they always have me coming back to get multiple candles when May hits. I would never have thought that would be a potential candle scent, yet here I find myself wanting to leave my house to go buy one as I write this. Unlikely combinations can lead to some stellar products and have customers raving for more.
Your effective seasonal marketing does not need to be as notable as the pumpkin spice latte, or even as seasonally relevant: if it works for your customer base, that’s a great place to be. No matter your industry, your product, or your service, taking advantage of seasonal marketing opportunities can lead to some great results. Not sure what your customers are into? Dive in! This could be the tastiest market research you ever conduct!