Starbucks and the PSL: Marketing Strategies

Some people say that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year;” obviously these people have never experienced a cool, crisp and colorful fall day. As the fall season is fast approaching, so are all of the commonalities: Halloween costumes, orange and black décor, and the infamous Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latté.

Starbucks’ September 1, 2016 release date is earlier than the previous 12 seasons. This decision  excited some, but angered others – I believe that the “sides” are more pro-pumpkin and anti-pumpkin. However, from a public relations and marketing standpoint, Starbucks has done a phenomenal job publicizing their seasonal drinks. Here are three reasons why Starbucks’ seasonal marketing has been a real “star”

  1. Starbucks used the PSL relaunch to introduce a new seasonal beverage: Chile Mocha. Since the PSL and the Chile Mocha share basic components, the company partnered the two to represent the “warmth, spice and comfort” of fall. By launching the two as a pair, Starbucks was presenting an inviting image for the Chile Mocha.
  1. The social media reaction to the PSL relaunch caused the hashtags #PSL and #PSLisback to trend days after the release. People, both for and against the product, voiced their opinion on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even Snapchat. Though we never like seeing “bad” reviews for our brand, these negative posts still made others aware that the crowd pleaser was available again, causing a rise in overall PSL sales.
  1. I was in Starbucks the other day ordering a coveted Iced PSL, and noticed that the store had various mugs, keychains and various items that read “Team PSL.” Starbucks is a brand that pushes loyalty through its Gold Card Program. By playing into the “war” between those pro-pumpkin and anti-pumpkin, they can keep the online hype of the drink going throughout the season.

The PSL seems to becoming a staple for the fall season; one that does not seem to have the chance at disappearing for anytime soon. If Starbucks continues to brand and market this product as thoroughly as they have been, then they should continue to dominate the pumpkin latté market.


Natalie Gloady is a senior at Waynesburg University, where she is majoring in public relations and sports information. She serves as the public relations director for Waynesburg PRSSA. Natalie hopes to pursue a job in the sports industry as a social media coordinator or publications director post graduation. Follow her on Twitter or connect with Natalie on LinkedIn.

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