The Psychology of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

(Originally posted on the Engagious Blog.)


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Because everyone else is doing it

Bagels, cookies, vodka, and even humus. Love it or hate it (is there an in-between?), you can’t escape it: Fall means pumpkin spice everything.  Everybody is getting on the pumpkin spice bandwagon. Thank you, Starbucks.

So, how does this obsession happen? It’s brilliant, really. Psychologically speaking. Deprive yourself of anything for 9 months of the year, and when you can finally have it, suddenly it has a higher perceived value. This is how trends are born!

But this craze leverages so many hooks buried deep in our brains: scarcity, social conformity, seasonality, and sugar-induced happiness.

Scarcity: Post Labor-Day (almost to the day), you can be sure Starbucks will release their Fall Pumpkin Spice Latte. And all the other treat manufacturers will follow.  But, it’s only around for a limited time (“Get it before it’s gone!”), which amps up the motivation to buy. As does the sense that “everyone is doing it”. Hilarious list of 15 Completely Unnecessary Pumpkin Spice Products.

The seasonality of the pumpkin spice craze taps into our desire for meaning and significance. There is a connection between the Fall season, a new school year, wearing sweaters, drinking warm beverages, and PUMPKINS. Nothing says Fall like seeing pumpkins on the doorstep. Or a pumpkin-spice-flavored anything in your hand.

Read about it here and here.