There’s something magical about the fall. The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and football season is in full swing.

But perhaps what people most look forward to during this change of season is pumpkin flavored everything. And by far, the darling of fall is Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte.

Since it debuted in 2003, Starbucks has served over 600 million pumpkin spice lattes. Affectionately shortened to as #PSL on social media, the pumpkin spice latte isn’t just a fall favorite — it has a loyal following of unapologetic super fans.

Every year, it creates a fall frenzy. In fact, some people believe the day that Starbucks drops the PSL is when fall actually begins. This year, it dropped on August 30th.



The #PSL Impact on Social Media

PSL super fans are able to celebrate its return every year on social media. The drink even has its own verified Twitter account with over 100,000 followers. And as of fall 2022, over 2.3 million Instagram posts are tagged with #PSL.

Starbucks recognized just how Instagram-worthy the pumpkin spice latte really is, in 2018, they created PSL-themed nail decals to complement every photo, which they sold in the United Kingdom.

But the social media party doesn’t end on Twitter and Instagram. On Facebook, Starbucks launched a group called the Leaf Rakers Society which unites people who love anything and everything about fall and celebrate it year-round. The group has over 43,000 members. 

The PSL is proof that brands can create community around anything your audience may have in common. It’s a powerful thing when you can share what you love with other people. This is where Starbucks makes it about more than just sales, and they recognize this opportunity to bring people together.

And when you create a community like this, your customers are no longer just customers. They become loyal brand ambassadors. Building relationships like this is the best type of marketing strategy! 

While numbers indicate that Starbuck’s PSL is the most popular seasonal beverage of all time, people are in investing in anything pumpkin every fall. According to Nielsen, annual sales of pumpkin-flavored products in 2019 totaled nearly $512 million.

The PSL Marketing Takeaway

Aside from building community, I think the big lesson brands can take away from the pumpkin phenomenon is that seasonality helps create demand.

One of my favorite authors, Sally Hogshead, added a bit more structure to this idea. Sally is New York Times best-selling author, hall of fame speaker, and former advertising executive who has worked on campaigns for Nike, Godiva, and countless other big brands.

Sally created what she calls the 7 triggers of fascination, which speak to how brands can make their messages and products irresistible to their audience.

One of those triggers is “alarm”.  When something is only available for a short amount of time, like the pumpkin spice latte,  you create a sense of urgency for your audience. They feel like they’d be missing out if they didn’t have it, and that they have to have it now.

In turn, people are also influenced by the consequence of inaction. In this case, if you don’t buy your favorite pumpkin flavored items, you’d have to wait an entire year.

 So as a company, ask yourself how you can tap into seasonal trends, or create a seasonal campaign of your own to influence your audience through the alarm trigger?

But better yet, how can you do more to build a community around what you already offer?  When you do this right, you’ll have your fans doing your marketing for you.

READ MORE: Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled