Why has the pumpkin spice latte obsession grown exponentially year by year?
It’s that time of year again where crazed consumers go absolutely bat shit for the pumpkin spice latte. Yes, that drink flavour Starbucks created 11 years ago will be dominating beverage taste buds yet again.
Sure, the drink may be delicious, but does it deserve this much yearly recognition? I mean, Starbucks has called it the, “harbinger of the season.” So why has this drink, that has achieved meme status, continued to be an obsession among consumers?
The pumpkin spice latte can only be attained after Labour Day and is eventually replaced by an onslaught of winter and Christmas-themed drinks. The term, “limited time only,” immediately triggers our brain to become motivated to get the item before it’s gone. Basically, the more important the choice is to us, the stronger we’ll react when we know it will no longer be attainable. Marketing teams have known this for years. Psychologists call it, “reactance theory.” That’s why products offered for a “limited time only,” work. We might actually prefer to drink a regular latte, but knowing that the pumpkin spice is only around for a few weeks makes that choice more appealing.
Starbucks jumped on the social media bandwagon. For lack of a better pun, Starbucks has brewed a strong social media regime.
They have 15.4 million followers on Instagram, 11.9 million on Twitter, and 37.6 million on Facebook. That doesn’t include YouTube or other platforms such as Pinterest. To put that in context, Canada has a few more than 36 million people. The Starbucks website boasts 3,000 Tweets per day with the #PSL during the fall season. Think about it. A simple hashtag like #PSL with your favourite fall beverage is just free marketing for Starbucks.
Psychology has a term for this called “social conformity,” which is a smart way of saying we like to feel like a part of the group. Pumpkin spice lattes have almost become an unspoken way to feel part of society.
It’s All In Your Nose
Eighty percent of flavour and taste is actually smell. A PSL doesn’t actually have any pumpkin in it at all. We have nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice. These are very appealing to the nose, especially on a cool fall or winter day. Starbucks has trained the human body to develop an anticipatory response, and crave it. Just when you thought you were in control …
Sugaaarr. Oh, Yeah Baby
The grande size pumpkin spice latte with whip is loaded with 50 grams of sugar—without the option of caramel drizzle.
It’s no secret that the human brain is wired to respond to the taste of sugar and carbohydrates and the pumpkin spice latte can be the perfect way to achieve a well-deserved sugar high.