So here we are in October. The leaves are changing. Kids are dressing up in costumes for Halloween. Decorations are everywhere you look. Monsters and zombies are everywhere. In the world of branding, when we adopt a brand without considering the consequences we become in essence, Brand Zombies: Mindless (or at least thoughtless) followers of a trend or brand. A prime Brand Zombie example is something else that is everywhere… PUMPKIN SPICE! Coffee, donuts, almonds, and even potato chips are just a few of the things that you can find in pumpkin spice flavors. The frenzy over pumpkin spice lattes and other foods reminds me of a scene from the first LEGO Movie.
By the way, the prices that people are willing to pay for a limited time offer are exaggerated here for comedy. However, there is still an element of incredulity at the willingness to pay extra.
In particular, Pumpkin Spice is an extremely visible example of products that people, overwhelmingly, adopt without thought. Some of these wares, when given a moment’s thought, get the reaction of “What were they thinking?” Pumpkin Spice Salsa, Lattes for dogs, Pumpkin Spice Tortilla chips, and many other products. I have seen lists of over 60 pumpkin spice products. The latest and craziest Pumpkin Spice product that I have heard of is Pumpkin Spice Spam…yes, Spam. That canned ham product popular in Hawaii and Monty Python skits.
This skit is the reason unwanted mass emails are known as “spam.”
At the time I researched this blog you could find a two 12 oz. pack of Pumpkin Spice Spam on Walmart.com for $8.98. Regular two 12 oz. packs of Spam were only $5.46.
One of the reasons people become brand zombies is the psychological principle of social proof. This is the process where individuals imitate the actions of others in an effort to quickly gain social acceptance. Interestingly, researchers at the University of Leeds found that a minority of 5% of a group can influence the direction of a crowd.
If you position yourself to be an informed member of the group you can become an influencer of the group (and avoid becoming a brand zombie example yourself). Sometimes it is better to take the extra time to research and consider whether a purchase or decision is the best option for you. Some people may actually like the taste of Pumpkin Spice…or the taste of Spam. Personally, I only want my pumpkin pie to taste like pumpkin spice. Don’t be a mindless member of the Brand Zombie Horde. Lead the horde.