08.30.18

Pumpkin Spice Season Returns: 4 Lessons To Take Away from Starbucks’ Success

KARL R. LAPAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE NIIC

In case you haven’t heard, it’s officially PSL everything season. For the non-Starbuck’s connoisseur, that means Pumpkin Spice Lattes, among other things.

While Starbucks didn’t invent the flavor, they have made it their own and have experienced what some consider a cult-like following. Here’s what business owners can learn from Starbucks’ success with the hit drink:

  1. Always be improving. Customers didn’t originally embrace the spiced drink. When polled customers wanted different seasonal flavors. However, Starbucks listened to their customer base and tweaked the recipe to what we know it as today. The lesson here? You might have an idea, but it may not be well received initially. It may not be a bad idea—it might need some tweaking or modifying to get it to its full potential. Seldom are first ideas your best ideas.
  2. Lead with confidence. Starbucks’ PSL version may not be the best tasting or cheapest option on the market, but they have carved out a niche for themselves. As a business owner, you need to take intentional action to create top of mind awareness in your industry or segment. Buzz can be a good thing.
  3. Listen and act. Don’t get too proud or confident that you neglect listening to your customer base. Starbucks’ customers (or the most vocal ones, at least) spoke up, and the company responded with a revamped drink that contained real pumpkins and no artificial coloring. And guess what? Customers felt heard and validated, and the drink continues to be a seasonal best seller.
  4. Have fun. Starbucks’ PSL is a treat, so people look forward to it and anticipate its return every August. That light-hearted approach is reflected on their social channels. It’s like they are in on the joke. Maybe your product or service isn’t a luxury, but something less sexy. Don’t feel limited. How can you put a fun spin on your marketing like Starbucks does to promote its fall line of drinks?

So, what lessons from Starbucks’ success with PSL can you apply to your business or organization?

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