Let’s pause here and admire the ability of a Limited Time Offer to take on a life of its own. There’s not a better time for it than the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte to your Starbucks of choice.
It has its own Twitter feed.
Not even McRib has a company-approved Twitter feed. (That I could find.)
Once Nation’s Restaurant News wrote an article about LTOs, and interviewed yours as-truly-as-you-want-to-make-it. And in it I kind of exhausted my thoughts on the topic, but this pretty much sums it up:
The right balance between creating the devotion that results from the McRib’s famous scarcity and leveraging every last bit of sales and traffic momentum from a promotion’s run is hard to get, Hopper said, but can be worth it over the long term and the short term.
“Often there are LTOs worth extending, but they lose their specialness when you do that,” he said. “Only offering it for a limited time creates a demand later for the same thing or a similar version. Building the demand is the magic.”
– “When to extend, end or reprise a popular LTO,” Mark Brandau, Nation’s Restaurant News
Clearly, being the ur-pumpkin drink and tying it to autumn is the magic for Starbucks. There’s not really a season for Wendy’s to tie pretzel buns to, and the Shamrock Shake has lost its magic somehow, to some degree. Nobody really owns egg nog or peppermint right now, which has a slightly non-secular taste to it anyway. But everybody is chasing the pumpkin flavoring now. Random proof—Auntie Anne’s is “rolling out” pumpkin spice nuggets.
It’s an entire sector of the economy all trying to climb on that pumpkin haywagon (which is not a bandwagon but does have a tastefully selected collection of tunes on it, curated by the folks at Hear Music, and maybe leaning toward indie folk).
And it now contains actual pumpkin, even though it really didn’t need to, because it never said it was made of pumpkin, just the spices for a pumpkin pie—but being sick of arguing about, Starbucks has not-at-all-huffily figured out how to get pumpkin into the mixture so you can shut up and think of a new easy, tired joke that you didn’t even think up yourself that you want to say instead.
Of course, as always with Seattle’s coffee megamachine, there’s a backlash, as this Yahoo! reporter points out:
Maybe a little snark going on there.
But let’s not let the mockers win. For now. For the time being, let’s just sip at what has become the biological signal to the body—more than the pineal gland detecting the shift in the angle of sunlight—that winter is coming.