Branding Autumn When It’s Summer Outside
As James Taylor once crooned, “Well, the leaves have come to turning / And the goose has gone to fly . . . The frost is on the pumpkin / The hay is in the barn . . . .” But wait. It’s September 4th and 90+ degrees (32+ degrees Celsius) in most of the northern hemisphere (blame seasonal temperature lag, particularly here in coastal California). Yet in a time-honored ritual as certain as the New Year’s Eve countdown in Times Square, as soon as we round the corner from August to September it’s time for coffee shops to ditch refreshing coolers appropriate for current atmospheric conditions and focus on pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin.
In fact September 4th is the first day of the season you can find a Pumpkin Spiced Latte at many Starbucks. But just as one swallow does not a summer make, one pumpkin-based drink does not make it autumn. From a thermometer reading, it is hotter than the brass hinges of Hades. Even from an equinox (the equal division of night and day, not the health club) perspective, we still have 18 days to go. Despite all the hoopla, at Peet’s the other morning, we saw a tray of pumpkin latte samples go begging . . . and for good reason. However devoutly one might might wish a return to the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” it is hard to imagine cozying up next to a fire and curling fingers around a steaming mug when the temperature is still sufficiently sudoriferous to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
Don’t get us wrong. We love Costco‘s Christmas in August as much as the next brand-builder. Halloween in May. Fall Fashion Week in February. We’re not hung up on seasonal ceremony. We also know that Ma Nature doesn’t always cooperate with marketing calendars. But is anyone really craving the “seasonal” treat of a Cinnamon Gingerbread Latte right now? For brands that are going to be consumed in situ, there should at least be some flexibility to adapt to actual real world climate conditions, rather than slavishly following the edicts of central planning. And as much as we look forward to what’s next, sometimes what’s here now is just fine too. And unlike thawing out from a long winter to embrace an early sacre du printemps, some of us are loathe to see the easy informality of summer slip away too quickly.
For coffee purveyors, there might be an an additional benefit to showing a bit of seasonal restraint: selling more drinks. Who knows. Perhaps some L-Tryptophan-crazed shopper will still want a Pumpkin Latte when the next great migration to Peppermint Mochas occurs the day after Thanksgiving.