Because the Pumpkin Spice marketers are so skilled, we in the food media are helpless to battle against the coming orange tide, and so we must engage with the PS or face the wrath of our corporate overlords who need those sweet PS-related views to sell advertisements so they can continue to pay us and we can continue to buy Pumpkin Spice products on our own time. A few people are able to create truly great unique PS content (for example, the Week-Long Maura Judkis Pumpkin Spice Experiment of 2017), but everyone else ends up filing something that falls into one of three categories:
1) The (Updated) Piggy Back History
A classic template in the annals of internet content history, this is when you tell the story of Pumpkin Spice built using everyone else’s reporting, but with just enough of your own panache (say reaching out to an industry analyst!) to not feel like you plagiarized.
2) The Winkingly Annoyed Screed
There are several iterations of this. Most of them are basically news stories shrouded in the mask of faux-anger, but some try and offer up a counter-hot-take, like announcing you’re super pro-PSL and wish it were here year-round! The problem with these is it is truly difficult to really build up enough hostility (or excitement) for PS for it to feel authentic and thus you have to pull in some anger (or excitement) from somewhere else in your life, and that is fundamentally unhealthy and will have unforeseen consequences later on in life.
3) The Taste-Test
This is where people taste things in a test format.
Once those stories are out, everyone, incredibly, falls in line on social media. Whether you tweet about them ironically or earnestly, or post an “obligatory #PSL shot” on Instagram even though NO ONE IS OBLIGATED TO DO THAT or join Starbucks’ new fall-focused “Leaf Rakers Society” Facebook page, or attempt to do a meta-analysis of the situation because you feel like maybe you can somehow be above it all even though you’re just playing right into their hands, Kevin, Big Pumpkin Spice (picture a more corporate version of the Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown) wins. It’s masterful really. They just sit back in their orange Eames lounge chairs in their corporate offices smoking cigars and watching as we helplessly enter the Pumpkin Spice feedback loop, which smells of clove and cinnamon and nutmeg (and actually didn’t include any pumpkin until three years ago).
So what does all this mean? Is this yet another sign that the apocalypse is nigh? Because, in some respects, there’s something retro about PS’s universal call and response, possibly because there are few things in our society that aren’t fractured down into little niche subgroups defined by secret algorithms based on Amazon purchases, so to see everyone reacting to the same thing is kind of weirdly refreshing or nostalgic, even if it is being orchestrated by corporations for profit.