Falling in Love with Pumpkin Spice Lattes

psl-starbucks.0.0Pumpkin is the flavor of fall. Products that offer limited edition seasonal pumpkin flavors and scents include pumpkin beer, pumpkin M&Ms, pumpkin spice marshmallows, pumpkin candles, pumpkin scented shampoo… and according to testers at the TODAY Show pumpkin spice Oreo’s are “especially tasty”.

But no one does it better than Starbucks and the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes first appeared on the Starbucks menu in the fall of 2004. This is the beverage that kicks off their holiday seasonal drinks, even though it comes out in late August. The creamy pumpkin pie sensation mixed with a subdued coffee flavor created a taste that consumers immediately latched on to. One sip can bring you down memory lane, sharing an evening with your family, exchanging laughs and stuffing your bellies.

Along with scarves and sweaters, sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte has become a new fall accessory. The drink option reminded loyal customers why Starbucks was their brand of choice and offered incentive for potential new customers to engage in their products.

Seattlemet.com states that in October 2004, just one month after releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte,  Starbucks noted an 11 percent spike in their company sales compared to the previous year. It was official…the brand had struck orange.

In 2013, forbes.com reported that Starbucks has sold over 200 million pumpkin spice lattes and generated a revenue of over 80 million dollars.

But popularity has a price. The seasonal drink got so popular that it seemed to reach a tipping point. Last year in 2014, some consumers were losing their sense of identity from feeling too conformed by the Starbucks pumpkin spice fad. Customers became critical of the product and and found some weak spots to pick on. The beverage’s ingredients did not actually include pumpkin and did include caramel coloring. These two things were enough to start an anti-PSL movement. This movement grew to such a size that Starbucks revisited its IMC plan.

tumblr_nu0dm5sSD81tg0kfio1_500After 11 years with the same successful recipe, Starbucks reformulated to accommodate disgruntled customers. In addition to adding real pumpkin, the company devoted a large IMC effort towards branding this product. They have created a tumblr, an instagram, a twitter, and an entire brand identity just for one drink. The real Pumpkin Spice Latte now takes selfies and interacts with its audiences. Starbucks Efforts include having its own trending hashtag (#PSL), offering an iced version for warmer weather, and even a password that allows people to buy the drink earlier than it is official release date.

Will Starbucks be able to revive the pumpkin spice latte trend once again? Or will the PLS critics find some other problem to cling to?

Love Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Use the #PSL on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to gush about your love for this hot beverage. Or leave us a comment below and let us know what you think!
Watch Starbucks 2015 Campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=112&v=la-h1sE3igs

-Aki Suzuki, Lexie Trimnal, Carey Shetterley, June Wilkinson, Carey Poniewaz