The fall season doesn’t officially start until late September. Unofficially, autumn started in August, marked by the earliest arrival yet of Starbucks’ beloved seasonal beverages.

Starbucks might be the most prominent purveyor of pumpkin-flavored coffee but it’s just one of the many brands cashing in on fall flavors, festivities and cozy feelings. Using Sprout Social’s Advanced Listening tool, we analyzed over 106,300 Tweets and Instagram posts between August 23, 2021 – September 13, 2021 to take a closer look at the social hype building around fall flavors. Keep reading to gain five takeaways marketers can apply to their seasonal marketing strategies.

1. Act on the anticipation for autumn early

This year, the anticipation and excitement for autumn started building early. In July 2021, “can’t wait for fall” Tweets increased by 112% compared to June.

Conversations around fall flavors spiked significantly on the day Starbucks unveiled its fall menu and again on September 1.

Sprout Social Advanced Listening Screenshot Shows Total Topic Volume (106,347+) and conversation spikes on August 24 and September 1.

Summer temperatures may still be hanging tough in most areas of the US, but the shift in conversations matches the shift in consumers’ mindsets and seasonal marketing pushes. To capitalize on opportunities during pumpkin spice season, businesses need to think through their approach long before the weather cools off.

Tune into conversations on social media early and often to understand what your customers are looking forward to, what they want to see from your brand, which markers of fall they enjoy and other insights to back your strategy.

2. Introduce new flavors and products consumers will fall for

Pumpkin spice regularly dominates the fall flavor lineup, but this year others are making a splash in coffee drinks and on social.

Sprout Social Advanced Listening screenshot shows Pumpkin Spice topic volume compared to Apple

In addition to the typical pumpkin drinks, Starbucks introduced its new Apple Crisp Macchiato. Meanwhile, Dunkin’ unveiled its apple cranberry iced beverages.

Volume-wise, the conversation skews in favor of pumpkin, but people are feeling particularly positive about apple—74% of social messages about apple flavors had positive sentiment, compared to only 43% of messages about pumpkin spice.

In such a pumpkin-saturated market, expanding your horizons and experimenting with additional flavors is a way to differentiate your brand. Fall is a great time to introduce something new, whether it’s seasonal or a permanent product, especially since the holidays and end-of-the-year push are right around the corner.

3. Turn over a new leaf with social data and consumer feedback

Starbucks and Dunkin’ are poised and ready to sell their seasonal drinks each fall, but if your brand is thinking about creating new seasonal products or menu items, the process can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. With social, the world’s largest and most open focus group, brands can see innovation differently.

By using social listening and collecting direct feedback from your customers year-round, your brand can use data to influence your fall product strategy, validate your decision to bring back tried-and-true favorites or introduce something completely new that your customers have been clamoring for. Need help finding inspiration? Ask your audience directly for input about what products they want to see from your brand.

4. Take notes from novelty items

Over the summer, ​​Kraft released a limited edition mac-and-cheese-flavored ice cream. The novelty, scarcity and unusual flavor of the product drove curious consumers to wonder, is it actually any good? The result—all 6,000 pints sold in under an hour.

This fall, other businesses have taken a similar approach, hoping to capitalize on the novelty of applying seasonal flavors to unexpected items. Bud Light introduced its “Fall Flannel Seltzer” pack with pumpkin spice, maple pear, apple crisp and even toasted marshmallow varieties.

Cup Noodles announced its own curious creation—pumpkin spice ramen.

There’s a shock factor with these products, but they pique interest and get people talking on social. While these products might not have the staying power of the PSL, the novelty might be enough to drive purchases, meme-able social posts options and user-generated content. TikTok for instance is buzzing with people trying Bud Light’s flannel pack.

With these kinds of products, the limited release creates a sense of scarcity that triggers consumers to move quickly and get it before it’s gone.

5. Focus on feelings more than flavors

Fall is more than flavors, it’s a feeling. Sweater weather, apple picking, spooky season, football, festive family time—the fall encapsulates a lot of moments that have warm, nostalgic associations. The brands that successfully inject that into their seasonal marketing campaigns stand to make a positive impact.

Sprout Social Advanced Listening screenshot shows a word cloud with frequently used fall terms and emojis.

Even if your brand doesn’t necessarily have a product that’s fall-focused, you can leverage that feeling and positive associations with fall vibes in your messaging and seasonal content.

Let your seasonal marketing fall into place with social

Pumpkin spice fever is here to stay, but consumer preferences will continue to sway. The most effective seasonal marketing strategies are those that put customers first and demonstrate an understanding of their wants and needs. Social listening is critical to gaining that understanding.

Download this guide to learn about 40 unique listening examples and real-life use cases that will help inspire your own marketing strategies year-round.