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Local marketing experts explain pumpkin spice phenomenon

Pumpkin spice is more than just coffee as product lines expand
Pumpkin spice is more than just coffee as product lines expand 02:51

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- While the pumpkin spice latte gets a lot of attention, it's not the only product that's getting special treatment at this time of year.

As KDKA money editor Jon Delano reports, pumpkin spice has become a bit of a marketing mecca at this time of year.

It's not just coffee that is getting the pumpkin spice treatment these days – local marketing experts say there are more product lines than ever that push a pumpkin flavor, from ice cream to ravioli to Cheerios to cookies to Twinkies and marshmallows.

And it's not just edible items.

"They had pumpkin spice dog treats. The cats have said no, but they had dog treats," says Point Park University Professor Elaine Luther. "And cleaning products, so it isn't just food."

In fact, locally, Harmar Tire and Service has posted this sign: "PUMPKIN SPICE BRAKE PADS."

It's a joke. There's no such thing -- at least not yet.

"What's going on here?" Jon Delano asked Robert Morris University Professor Jill Kurp.

"Well, Jon, I really think it has to do with sensation and perception. That's really the very first stage of the consumer decision-making process."

"We as consumers, we sense things, we perceive things, and pumpkin spice has that feeling of coziness and warmth," says Kurp.

Kurp says it harkens back to those good feelings of pumpkin pie at our grandmother's, and retail marketers take advantage of that to sell unique products during a special time of year, says Luther.

"It is a way to mark the change of season, and having a limited edition or special item, especially for restaurants, is a really good marketing strategy because it brings people in that they might not go regularly," says Luther.

But marketers warn that not everyone likes pumpkin spice – and it really doesn't fit every product.

"If you're not doing it in a very authentic way, then it comes across as being kind of kitschy, and it really doesn't make sense for certain products," says Kurp.

"I know there're a lot of products on the market right now that are touting pumpkin spice, and it just doesn't make sense."

That's probably something different for each of us. Some might skip the pumpkin spice deodorant, while others grab that pumpkin spice lipstick!

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