It’s about that time of year when blade signs on sidewalks outside Starbucks coffee shops drive customers inside to purchase the company’s limited-time Pumpkin Spice Latte. But street signs aren’t the only way that Starbucks is pulling in its customers this year.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL as it’s colloquially known, is entering its 11th year at Starbucks. Over 200 million PSLs have been sold since the drink’s inception, making it the company’s most popular seasonal beverage.
There are several imitators, most notably Dunkin’ Donuts, which is going into this fall with over half a dozen pumpkin-flavored items on their menu. But few of these imitations have been met with the same craze as Starbucks’ creation. What exactly makes people so loyal to this autumn-exclusive beverage?
Maybe it’s the drink itself, a flavorful blend of nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin, which seems like the perfect way to herald in the arrival of the season. Or maybe Starbucks is better at making their lattes. But it’s likely that the PSL’s success relies on Starbucks’ carefully crafted brand loyalty campaign.
Starbucks opened its Pumpkin Spice Latte season strong this year by creating a Twitter page for the fan-favorite beverage (@therealPSL) which engages with customers by referencing popular internet memes and posting quirky “selfies.” Starbucks chose its market well. According to the company, there are an average of 3,000 tweets per day in the fall that use the #PSL hashtag.
The Twitter account already has almost 94,000 followers. Along with humorous updates, the page also features several interactive functions, like a “secret word” puzzle that followers could solve to win an early Pumpkin Spice Latte. The first customer to correctly guess at each location received a PSL and got their picture on a store sign.
Another game pitted whole cities against each other for a chance to unlock PSLs early. The fervor surrounding the seasonal drink is just one example of Starbucks’ savvy marketing and brilliantly crafted consumer engagement.