Starbucks Wastes No Time This Year with PSL Release

Big news on college campuses across America that Starbucks officially launched their famous Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL), normally a fall-season special, on August 28th this year. It is an unprecedently early release date for a product historically launched in September.

News has been met with groans from some consumers. Holiday Creep (as it’s being called) is very real and could be highly attributed to Millennials’ shopping habits.

Accordingly to a Nielsen poll from two years ago, 30% of Millennials start holiday shopping in early September compared to 22% of Boomers, and 16% of Greatest Generation.

Statistics explain a marketing shift to push seasonal sales earlier each year, as Millennials become the dominant buyer for most companies. But, one big question remains… why doesn’t Starbucks just sell PSLs all year long if Millennials crave them?

CNN Money has the answer, and it comes down to the psychology of limited releases. Offering PSLs in fall creates a Pavlovian response in the minds of consumers who subconsciously connect colder weather to Starbucks treats.

Seasonal products also offer companies other marketing opportunities. They can message new variety to their current offerings, give patrons a special reason to come inside, remind consumers how much they like the basics, and give brands a chance to test new products on the market. In other words, says a consumer strategist for Morningstar, it’s a way to create excitement for the menu.

To all the cynics out there, just remember that there’s nothing any company can do to change the fact that fall starts September 22nd this year, and holidays will always occur on time no matter how early seasonal advertising starts. And to all the Millennials out there, make sure to consider why you love certain products so much. Don’t be tricked. Smart buying habits lead to happier customer experiences.

Curious to know your thoughts on seasonal marketing. Does it offer other, unmentioned opportunities for companies? Let us know by reaching out via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Lee Sumner, Sr. Research Manager