PSL Tumblr: Fans in a Froth Over Pumpkin Portal

It’s September and you know what that means…it’s Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Americans’ love for the PSL is so strong and so widespread—I wouldn’t be surprised if fall officially became known as PSL season in the not-so-distant future. Why? Because the PR and marketing teams at Starbucks are absolute geniuses and they’ve done it again this year.

Just when you thought the PSL couldn’t get any bigger, Starbucks came through with something new. This year the PSL created its own Tumblr promotion to get fans excited for the drink’s return. According to PR Daily, Starbucks invited its MyStarbucksRewards members to participate in its “PSL Fan Pass” promotion on Tumblr to help celebrate the launch of the wildly popular seasonal drink.

Just enter the password “pumpkin” and your phone number and Starbucks would text you a pass for early access to the fall favorite, meaning you could buy the drink over Labor Day weekend rather than waiting until the official launch on Sept. 8. They didn’t just create “The Real PSL” Tumblr and wait for Starbucks fanatics to appear. They gave people a reason to visit by offering exclusive access in return.

PSL TumblrThey also gave them a reason to stay. The PSL Tumblr features several pages of varied and visually interesting content, from a gif of a latte cup on a safari to a photo of a dog with an orange bowl on his head. The page also gives users the opportunity to “Ask a Latte” whatever they’d like. Many of these user-generated questions are included on the PSL Tumblr along with clever answers from the PSL itself.

The latte also has its own Twitter page with over 100,000 followers and an Instagram account with nearly 20,000 followers, each with a consistent personality, voice and style. All of this combined with prominent placement on the Starbucks homepage, creates an incredibly unique and well-designed campaign. “The Real PSL” campaign began in 2014, but it seems the brand is taking it to new heights this year.

In the 11 years of the PSL’s existence, Starbucks has sold more than 200 million of the company’s most popular seasonal drink. It will be interesting to see what their numbers look like after this PSL season’s campaign is done.

What do you think of this campaign? Can you think of other brands that have launched such extensive campaigns for one of their products? How do they compare? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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7 Responses to PSL Tumblr: Fans in a Froth Over Pumpkin Portal

  1. Cattarina Lovins says:

    This campaign is genius. It engages it’s current publics and simultaneously reaches out to new ones, particularly Tumblr users and Millennials. It’s brilliant because Tumblr communities actively feature Starbucks in many of their pictures, which Starbucks decided to take advantage of by further engaging those users and communities to strengthen their relationship with those audiences and even build new relationships. It’s also brilliant because they really made this campaign a conversation, specifically with the “Ask a Latte” portion and the text for an offer code. McDonald’s has launched fun campaigns similar to this for specific products before; however, their past campaigns weren’t as engaging and didn’t seem to further the conversation like this one from Starbucks.

  2. Megann Jakubek says:

    I remember seeing Starbucks PSL promotions on my Twitter feed in the months prior to its September unveiling. I think they did a great job of amping up the release date with the social media campaigns. Another example of this type of social media campaign is what Nike did with #betterforit. They are similar in that they both had a far-reaching presence on social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. I think one difference would be the extent of TV commercial spots that Nike secured for this campaign. I’m excited to see how Starbucks is going to top this year’s campaign next fall.

  3. Taylor Nelson says:

    As an ex-barista, this post really reached out to me. I am extremely familiar with the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the hype surrounding it. I also think it is extremely clever of Starbucks, though it is getting a bit played out. Their first huge push for the PSL campaign was during 2014, when everything pumpkin took off. It has always been a popular beverage, but that is when the “craziness,” so to speak, really came to be. This year, it is clear they have revamped their efforts to bring out that craziness; understandably so, as it is one of their biggest money makers.

    The best brand comparison that I can think of is McDonalds with the McRib. The hype around that sandwich is comparable to the hype around the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but what is interesting is that it is an entirely different target demographic. The PSL campaign is primarily targeted towards young women, even children; the McRib is very clearly aimed at men. However, both campaigns are always overwhelmingly successful, as proven by the continuous reoccurrence of these items.

  4. Courtney Bannon says:

    I’m glad someone posted about this!
    Starbucks built up so much hype for this particular drink over the last few years. This year they took it to the next level, in my opinion, with their app and their secret codes. I thought the engagement component was strong. I would be curious to know how many people used the code!

  5. Connor Johnson says:

    Great post Alex! Unfortunately, your post reminded me that it won’t be long until everyone across various social media platforms is competing to see who loves pumpkin spiced lattes the most. In my opinion, this craze has gotten to the point where people think that by sharing their love of this beverage, they will improve their social standing. On the public relations side, there is no doubt that Starbucks’ PR team is indeed full of geniuses. By making a desired product seasonal (read: scarce) they drive up demand for a product that is already one of their best sellers. It’s no wonder why Starbucks continues to dominate the coffee landscape.

  6. Hannah Johnston says:

    I think 99 percent of the time Starbucks is on point with their PR. They know how to make coffee something fun and they’ve created a fan base for a drink which is genius. I think having a Tumblr blog is great because it reaches a much younger audience, the Millennials, and Millennials love getting early access to anything.
    One other campaign that comes to mind is when Disney opened a new part of the park, they created a website that drove Disney fans to the site to see what was happening at the Magic Kingdom. And it wasn’t just a general website about information it was an interactive site that got guests excited.
    While they are very different brands, both companies realized the power of the Internet. It is a fantastic way to get their customers to interact and get excited for something new.

  7. Jasmine Safaie says:

    I definitely agree that the marketing and PR people over at Starbucks are brilliant at what they do. I must admit I’m guilty of counting down the days until September hits, and I’m one of the first people in line for a PSL.

    I’m curious to see, however, how well the Tumblr page does for the PSL Fan Pass. I didn’t think that Tumblr was a popular enough social media platform to hold a concept like this for a major corporation, but I could be wrong. Makes me wonder why they chose Tumblr over other modes. Might have to jump on the bandwagon and check out this whole fan pass concept!

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