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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Pumpkin Spice is Not Special

Uniqueness does not exist when everyone offers it.

If you are connected with me on social media, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the cavalcade of pumpkin spice jokes directed at me. I’ve been fascinated - and horrified - with the PSR (Pumpkin Spice Revolution) since it has seemingly taken over every facet of life as soon as the calendar suggests that September is near. It started innocently enough in 2003 when Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and people went crazy for the taste.

However, over the past 20 years, food companies capitalized on the craze by applying the pumpkin spice taste to just about anything edible. Some of the combinations are not only unappetizing, but they are downright frightening:

  • Pumpkin Spice Oreo’s

  • “Tuscany” Pumpkin Spice Pasta Sauce

  • Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt

  • Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

  • Pumpkin Spice Eggo Waffles

  • Pumpkin Spice Almonds

  • Pumpkin Spice Vodka

  • Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles (yes, this is a real thing)

Pumpkin spice has become so ubiquitous that when the weather turns colder, it’s as commonplace – and exciting – as bottled water. With every food manufacturer seeking to profit from the same flavor profile, what was once a point of differentiation has become nothing more than ordinary.

The same parallel could be drawn by looking at how many promotional product distributors attempt to differentiate themselves. Many still tout that they are “creative” or provide “user-friendly websites.” Ten years ago, those may have been points of distinction, but now those services are both expected and ordinary.

In business, your competition will likely copy what is new and cutting-edge, and some may even do it better. The key is to continually look at how you market your brand to your target audience every few years and ask the following:

  • How similar is my branding/marketing/value proposition to my competition?

  • How has my audience evolved?

  • How and where does my audience like to buy?

  • What is important to my audience?

  • What is the best vehicle to communicate with and engage my audience?

Pumpkin spice used to feel like a treat and something to be treasured. Today, the flavor is easily found in every corner of the grocery store and no longer feels unique. If the way a brand is marketed seems similar to that of the competition – if it feels like a version of everyone else’s pumpkin spice – it’s time to develop new messaging that is genuinely different.

No rule states you should follow the crowd trying to convince the audience that pumpkin spice is the only flavor. Shake things up and create a new taste that your audience craves.

Create the new pumpkin spice.

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