Starbucks has a secret weapon when it comes to brand awareness: seasonal beverages.
Pumpkin spice lattes have become such a cultural phenomenon that they have even become a nostalgic symbol of Fall right after cute boots, chili cook-offs, and the back-to-school season.
Our dashboard on PSL conversations gives you a look at the most frequently referenced topics from the last 90 days. Click here or on the image button right below this text to see it for yourself.
Social media monitoring tools have some interesting benefits that help researchers and analysts turn unstructured, public conversations into actionable insights with far more value.
These tools often use a feature called topic extraction used to pick out the subject of conversation in order to help brands look a little deeper at the topics people talk about most often.
Social media monitoring data shows a clear association between the PSL and changing seasons.
Looking at recent conversation data, for example, shows a number of 'call outs' to Fall and Summer, or people just generally talking about Starbucks' PSL in the context of their 'favorite season.'
Long credited with popularizing the Pumpkin Spice flavor craze on a national scale, Starbucks' seasonal superiority has even spawned copycat efforts across the board at McDonalds' McCafé and Dunkin' Donuts.
Pumpkin-crazed consumers can now buy everything from pumpkin-flavored M&M's and Oreos to pre-bottled Starbucks-branded Pumpkin Spice Frappuccinos to enjoy at home or on their morning commute, all without visiting an already-busy Starbucks location.
Starbucks' version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte even has its own verified Twitter and Instagram accounts, for crying out loud. That's definitely a signal of strong seasonal brand awareness. (The accounts have 114,000 and 31,300 followers, respectively, for context.)
Their verified Twitter account claims that Starbucks' version of the PSL is "fall's official beverage." Social media monitoring data seems to suggest they are right.
What can we learn from Starbucks' seasonal flavor marketing? Let's look at the dashboard we highlighted at the top of the post:
- Consumers exhibit a strong association between the launch of Starbucks' PSL and the shifting of seasons between Summer and Fall. (References to 'favorite season,' 'summer,' or 'fall' also show up alongside mentions of 'pumpkin spice latte,' for context.)
- The ongoing reaction to PSL's seasonal availability every year tends to elevate Starbucks above its competitors in social conversation, a trend that generally ends when PSLs are no longer available. (McDonald's shows up as a topic here, but it's way smaller than Starbucks is. Any guesses why?)
- Starbucks is increasingly likely to use PSL popularity as a springboard to launch new seasonal flavors. (See how our dashboard shows Chile Mocha starting to show up? Another potential insight for brands might come from tracking the strength of this association with consumers over time.)
These are all hypothetical insights we can test using social media data, all of which are ideas generated just from an initial look at the topic cloud we provided at the top of this post.
For many seasonal coffee addicts, the decision between branded versions of the Pumpkin Spice Latte is a combination of evaluating flavor, convenience, and brand loyalty all at once.
Don't forget to grab your copy of our PSL report, either.
For more insights on how Starbucks stacks up against its competition, check out our report comparing consumer conversations around different branded versions of the beverage. We uncover a range of social media insights from the QSR beverage industry that could be applied or expanded to better understand these consumers and/or improve their overall experience. A sample of topics we cover include:
- An overview of the competitive landscape
- Consumer perceptions of major national coffee brands by geographic region
- Major purchase drivers behind consumer preferences in the category
- and more!
Just follow the banner image below to get your copy of our PSL report.