Consumer Culture
September 13, 2017
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The Irresistible Draw of Seasonal Products

With summer long gone and the colder weather kicking in, many of us are now cozying up with seasonal fall and winter favorites like the #PSL (pumpkin spice latte). But the seasonal craze isn’t just limited to drinks.

Season-inspired offerings generate big-time sales for brands, so it’s no wonder that you’ll find these products in almost every category imaginable—from the usual suspects like drinks, desserts and candles, to less obvious options like car fresheners, pet food and lip balm.

With so many seasonal products out there, have you ever stopped and wondered why they are so appealing? It turns out that seasonal products rely on a one-two combination of emotional connection and product scarcity to knock us off of our feet and into the stores.

On the emotional front, seasonal products leverage the power of flavors and scents to capitalize on the memories and excitement we have about the season. As Seed’s Director of Research & Development (and sometimes Sensory Scientist), Corey Beilstein notes, “Our sense of smell is extremely powerful… but also underused. Its power lies in its direct connection to the limbic systems of our brains where we process emotion and memories. Smart marketers know that these seasonal smells and tastes trigger salient positive emotions. And we’re quick to spend money as a way to recapture those aromatic memories, too!” Combine those scents/flavors with some cute or nostalgic imagery on pack and in ads and you’ve got an emotional connection that’s very hard to resist.

When it comes to seasonal products, marketers have also figured out that things are better in moderation. The tastes and scents we’re surrounded by during the this season wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if we could have them all year long. Do you think the Pumpkin Spice Latte would be just as popular if you could get one all the time? Not a chance. As we move from one season to another, we begin to look for a change, and that’s when the cravings begin for our favorite seasonal scents and flavors. And, because we can’t enjoy them all year long, we feel motivated to buy them early and often while they’re around. Seed’s EVP, Head of Strategy, Sean Smyth notes that,Everyone has felt that fear-of-missing-out when a particular good or service is offered in limited quantities or for a limited timeboth the hunter and gatherer sides of our personality kick in to claim it, lest we later feel pangs of regret. And, despite the anxiety it can create, people even look forward to product scarcity. It’s thrilling when our everyday blueberry muffin is forced to take a back seat to a pumpkin muffin. Maybe we’ll get to the store early enough to get one!”

So, go ahead and kick back with that fall or winter favorite and think about how your brand could capitalize on building emotional connections and leveraging strategic product scarcity to drive seasonal sales—after all, spring is right around the corner.

Jeff Johns is SVP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he consistently delivers breakthrough creative at lightning speed across a wide range of best-in-class design practices; packaging, branding, shelf aisle optimization, and advertising.

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