It’s October and you know what that means…pumpkin spice everything. From pumpkin lattes to pumpkin-scented candles, we can’t seem to escape the pumpkin phenomena. What makes people go completely nuts for this stuff? I was sincerely curious about this because I, too, am a pumpkin spice fanatic. The pumpkin spice scent has been deemed as the ultimate aphrodisiac.
The interesting thing is that pumpkin doesn’t really have much of a scent all by itself. Next time you’re around a pumpkin in its raw form, go ahead and take a whiff (I won’t tell anyone). It’s the combination of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that give that pumpkin pie flavor everyone loves so much. The pumpkin pie scent is familiar and distinct that it triggers memories of fall, family, and friends. That’s because our sense of smell is the most sensitive of the senses. The human nose can distinguish more than 10,000 different odors that can make our hearts race and mouths water. And studies have shown that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell.
Consider that in 2013, sales in the food and beverage industry reached $650.1B U.S. dollars. That is a huge number and it is made up of tons of brands vying for attention. So, it’s not surprising that they would try to tap into our senses of smell and the emotional connections it creates to get garner more sales.
Most of us are familiar with the beloved “PSL” at Starbucks which has sold a record 200 million since its debut in 2003. Starbucks paved the way for everyone else by creating a pumpkin spice marketing bonanza. When I was a kid, fall meant apple cider, falling leaves, and haunted hayrides. Now, literally everywhere I go, there is a new pumpkin-flavored or pumpkin-scented something. Here is a short list of some brands that have jumped onto the pumpkin bandwagon:
- JELL-O Instant Pumpkin Spice Pudding
- Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka
- Oreo Pumpkin Spice Cookies
- Pumpkin Spice M&M’s
- Pumpkin Pie PopTarts
- Pillsbury Pumpkin Spice Rolls
Many of these limited-edition products don’t even contain actual pumpkin – but marketers hope that by simply attaching the “pumpkin” label to the product, people will buy in. This is known as sensory branding; it is powerful and can go way beyond the month of October. Brands that engage two or more senses can connect on a more personal level, thereby creating a stronger bond with customers and prospects. And this isn’t limited to the food category. Banks, hotels, retailers are among a few industries tapping into this. How many senses does your brand activate?