What started as a Pumpkin Spice Latte favorite at Starbucks, pumpkin spice has morphed into nearly every aspect of consumer goods. The U.S. pharmacy company CVS even offers pumpkin spice cough drops. With the official start of autumn just days away, and the pumpkin spice craze now in full swing, should small hospitality brands or hotels jump on the bandwagon (or should they keep as far away as possible)?
Let’s start here: Why does this craze even exist?
It starts with this simple fact… U.S. & Canadian Consumers love the arrival of fall. Consumer good consumption in the fall is more than just the pumpkin spice latte. It’s the combination of back to school, fall flavors, lots of sports and Halloween that boost sales.
Sales of pumpkin and pumpkin spiced flavors are up 45% from 2013 to 2016, to approximately $414 million that year. According to Nielsen, sales of pumpkin inspired products reached nearly $490 million for the 52 week period that just concluded at the end of August (up 15% from the previous 52 weeks). So what next? The market continues to rise year on year as brands continued the trend of “pumpkin creep” into what seems like nearly everything.
Why do Americans love the season so much? Is it that fall is the gateway to the holidays? While we might be gearing up for Halloween and on to Thanksgiving is the U.S., as an example, September marks the beginning of the Christmas holidays in the Philippines. That’s right. Filipinos even have a name for what Americans might consider an onslaught of holiday hoopla, “Ber Months.” While it ramps up gradually, it’s obviously something to look forward to. Around the world, different cultures and communities gear up for the fall and winter season in unique ways.
Maybe Fall and “pumpkin spice” arrive with a change in the weather. Perhaps it’s the change in experience that affects our senses, the smell of crisp apples, the feel of cool air and the stunning beautiful visual of the changing leaves.
Could it be the “back to school mentality” and the start of a “new year,” with a renewed sense of purpose and focus on health and wellness?
Catherine Franssen, the assistant professor of psychology and director of the neurostudies minor at Longwood University in Virginia, states that the spice combination is, “a fantastic example of the psychology of consumer behavior and fads.” Franssen also adds, “It’s not just the pumpkin spice combo but that we’ve already wired a subset of those spices as ‘good’ very early in life.”
The pumpkin spice craze is at the intersection of great experiences and nostalgic memories
Given the opportunity here, why aren’t hotels and hotel brands more actively jumping in the pile of leaves to take advantage of this fall-flavored pumpkin spiced bandwagon? That’s an important multi-million dollar question! Here are three ideas (to implement quickly) that can still have a financial impact to the bottom line this fall.
Action 1 -> Create a Seasonal Guest Experience
Identify a handful of changes that guests will react positively to and frequent guests will notice. Think about them like puzzle pieces fitting together, and not in isolation. Set a budget and then build against it. What can you deliver with a $50 incremental spend per day?
· Add cinnamon spice scents in the lobby through candles (or work with your scenting provider to temporarily update your scent).
· Create a new evening cocktail station featuring fall flavors such as cinnamon, beet, butternut, nutmeg or apple. Try a sparkling pumpkin made with honey whiskey and sparkling ice crisp apple, or get some inspiration from social sites like Pintrest or on great food and beverage sites like Saveur.
· Update the morning coffee station with pumpkin spice cream or infused fall spiced sweeteners. Alternatively, consider a signature cinnamon based herbal tea that amplifies the fall for guests as they return from their daily outings.
· Add a bud vase with some live (and small) fall colors at each elevator lobby.
· Develop and in-room newsletter that highlights local fall favorites in your area. These could include harvest festivals, pumpkin patches, or apple picking. Grape harvest and wine festivals are ripe this time of year too.
It’s not about going over the top and decorating as if the circus is coming to town. Keep it simple. What are the few sensory things you can do that highlight the season and will help spark positive memories?
Once you have a plan in place, promote it. Most importantly, make sure your guests know you are helping to bring the season to life. Integrate your fall story into welcome verbiage. Add a small sign at the front desk, professionally made by a local signage vendor, that has your hotel name and the 3 – 4 unique elements you’ve added to make the season special.
And the results? The primary targeted outcome is growth in guest satisfaction and reviews talking about the “cool things” your guests saw. The secondary outcome is messaging to your customer database that shows “reasons to believe” and to come back and stay again. Get people thinking about “what will this hotel do next?”
Action 2 –> Load Up on Fall Packages
For larger hotels or resorts, can you amplify the excitement of the season with an autumn package that extends through November? How can you layer in spa elements, local partner offers or unique experiences nearby or in your hotel or resort? Have you created any fall programming for adults or families? Can you do a bonus program to earn additional loyalty points (with a fall theme) plus special in-room amenities on arrival, such as candles, an assortment of local apples, cocktails or treats? Get creative! What kind of value-add upsells can you create? You’ll be able to cover costs of the package within the package itself.
Promote the package with seasonal marketing through your monthly customer newsletter (if you have one). If you are conducting your own digital marketing, create assets that can be used to target shoppers with your updated fall message. If you are part of a brand system, or have a direct relationship with certain OTA’s, can you highlight the package on your booking engine now that your fall booking window has arrived?
And the results? The primary targeted outcome is to drive some incremental revenue. Secondarily, if you’ve partnered with local businesses or brands, can this new package generate local PR buzz and search engine traffic to your website or social channels?
Action 3 –> Deliver a Fall “Surprise and Delight”
Can you budget one small item per occupied room that acts as a great “surprise and delight”? Maybe it’s a fall cocktail hour with a signature drink, or a homemade festive cookie or a unique chocolate left bedside in the evenings. Why not consider developing a hyper-localized card for the guest room, with a fall-focused “haunted” tale or advice on how to connect with nature the next morning outdoors near the hotel.
Because the whole idea of surprise and delight is “surprise”, here is a chance to get inspired. What can you say via social channels to build interest with your followers? When customers follow up on social channels after a stay, think about how you can amplify that message in a fun way on your social channels.
And the results? The targeted outcome is photo-worthy moments to share as Instagram shots, highlights on review sites and gain additional social shares of your property.
Yes, there are some pumpkin spice haters, but given the 45% growth of the segment in only 4 years, with no signs of letting up, we believe that the hotel space has opportunities to capitalize on the craze. Small steps can have a big impact.
Are you a love it or hate it person when it comes to the pumpkin spice season? If you have any suggestions for how hotels can introduce a little sugar and pumpkin spice creativity this fall, please share.
A version of this article was originally published through Adam Glickman’s LinkedIn Feed in September 2017 and updated in September 2018.