The Problem with Pumpkin Spice


This article was written by PK Chef Bill Petrie and originally featured on the PromoCorner blog found here."

Once something different, now just another commodity.

If you are connected with me on Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the cavalcade of pumpkin spice jokes on my timeline. I’ve been fascinated with the PSR (Pumpkin Spice Revolution) since it has seemingly taken over every facet of life as soon as the calendar hits September. It started innocently enough in 2003 when Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte and people went crazy for the flavor.

However, over the past 14 years, food companies capitalized on the craze by applying the pumpkin spice taste to just about anything that’s 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 off of the same exact flavor profile, what was once a point of differentiation has become nothing more than ordinary.

The same parallel could be drawn looking at how 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, what is new and cutting edge will likely be copied by your competition – 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 that of 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 it 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 truly different.

There’s no rule that 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.

Bill is president of PromoCorner, the leading digital marketing service provider to the promotional products industry, and has over 17 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products distributorships. In 2014, he launched brandivate – the first executive outsourcing company solely focused on helping small and medium sized-promotional products enterprises responsibly grow their business. A featured speaker at numerous industry events, a serial creator of content marketing, president of the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS), and PromoKitchen chef, Bill has extensive experience coaching sales teams, creating successful marketing campaigns, developing operational policies and procedures, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at