Starbucks promotional campaign

Last week when I walked into my local Starbucks, I noticed several posters for a new promotional campaign. My coffee sleeve also featured the new campaign (see the included photo). The aesthetic of the design was decent, but the message was confusing. What was “PSL?” Based on the use of the color orange and the leaf graphics, I knew it had something to do with fall.


I got in line and ordered my drink. By the time my favorite latte was served to me a few minutes later, I still hadn’t figured out the mysterious “PSL.” I sat down, pulled out my laptop and started sipping my beverage. I read a little more of the text that said, “A decade of pumpkin devotion.” And then it hit me: Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL).

And then I got annoyed. Why? Because I had to think about it. Don’t get me wrong; critical thinking is a valuable skill. But it shouldn’t be necessary in a promotional campaign. “PSL” isn’t intuitive. And coupled with the overuse of all caps and vertical text, the message is lost.  If your audience has to think about, then your communication isn’t effective. It’s like usability guru Steve Krug says, “Don’t make me think.”


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