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persuasion notebook

Starbucks has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice lattes in a decade by building on seasonal demand.

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

As consumers mourn the dying days of summer, the competition for a seasonal buying ritual is heating up.

For 10 years, Starbucks has tied its pumpkin spice latte to the arrival of fall. It is not the company's only seasonal drink, but it is far and away its most popular; more than 200 million lattes have sold so far. Key to its marketing is the fact that it is only available in one season, creating pent-up demand.

Now, the fast food chain that has also taken advantage of limited-time marketing, most famously with its highly celebrated McRib, is elbowing its way into the seasonal coffee market. McDonald's has launched its own pumpkin spice latte, part of the chain's greater focus on coffee in recent years. Its version is also on for a limited time.

And it is not the only marketer trying to grab a piece of Starbucks's autumnal success through imitation. Tim Hortons also has a pumpkin spice latte in its U.S. locations. And Canadian chain Davids Tea is marketing its own seasonal drink, a pumpkin chai latte.

There is plenty of seasonal marketing around pumpkin beyond the coffee and tea space as well: in recent years, microbreweries have been experimenting more with pumpkin beers. Krispy Kreme and Tim Hortons both have pumpkin spice donuts. Last year, Pringles tried out seasonal flavours including pumpkin pie spice. And this year, even M&M's have gotten in on the craze.

It's almost enough to make one question whether marketers are in danger of reaching peak pumpkin.