Pumpkin Spice Lattes And The Marketing Of Limited Time Offers

For decades, we’ve watched companies capitalize on the phrase, “Limited Time Offer.”  McDonald’s McRib sandwich, fall scented candles, and the Mad Mex “Gobblerito” draw hoards of people waiting to indulge in their favorite limited time treat. Love or hate these deals, most companies have their own bandwagon product that loyal customers wait all year to splurge on during one short time period.

Starbucks has been crowned the king of limited time offers thanks to their Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) and other flavored products.  More than 200 million PSL’s have been sold since 2013, and Forbes estimated that Starbucks made $100 million from the drink last fall alone.

Like most marketers, we’ve been asking ourselves: what special quality did this drink have to spark a national phenomenon?  To find out, we examined the science behind the term “limited time offer,” and the genius effect this sales technique has on consumers.  

Get Them While You Can

limited time offer during black friday

The heart wants what it can’t have, and limited time offers are the perfect driver for that need.  In the age of overnight shipping, automatic streaming, and food delivery on demand, we’ve become a culture of consumers driven by instant gratification.  When our favorite LTO’s hit the shelves, we’re incentivized to buy as much as we can, as quickly as possible.  Consumers find the product more appealing because they know they will not be able to take advantage of the promotion in three months time.  

Re-Experience a Time or Place

limited time offer remember experiences

Offers that are promoted during the same time of the year, each year, prompt consumers to associate the product with a positive experience.  While summer scents like Beach Waves and Island Dream associate their scent with a place, fall scents usually invoke an experience.  Sweater Weather, Harvest Gathering, and Fireside scented candles can have a sentimental meaning to any fall lover.   

Sharing Moments

taking a photo of leaves

In an age dominated by social media, most consumers are looking for ways to get one more like or retweet from their followers.  Companies have capitalized on treats and colors associated with fall events by offering them in their stores and online. This allows a consumer to indulge in signature fall flavors with friends via social media. Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers can even interact with their favorite drink on Twitter by becoming one of PSL’s 115K followers.  

If your company is hoping to boost its sales before the holiday season begins, it may be time to look at what you can can do with limited time offers. These can be as simple as a discount, company swag, or VIP access to company-sponsored events.  It’s most important to remember that  your customers care about how brands make them feel, and most of all, what’s in it for them.  

For more information on Limited Time Offer marketing plans, email us at info@tailoredmarketing.com.

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