Throughout human history, the ebb and flow of seasons has dictated how we eat and drink. But the modern world lets us circumvent the availability issues of seasonal farming, so consumers have access to a variety of goods year-round. This access means businesses must create moments and trends that excite and engage consumers. With the power of social media, limited-time offers for seasonal items are a great way to pique customer interest.


A Seasonality Refresher

Getting customers excited about seasonality means focusing on recurrent occasions such as holidays, celebrations, and other time-sensitive events such as the Super Bowl or World Cup. These events can be broken down into three distinct categories: seasonal releases, cultural moments, and specific events. Seasonal releases are moments relating to or of the season. Cultural moments are culturally mandated moments or holidays such as Valentine's or Independence Day. Specific events are less universally observed and are often related to sports or popular culture. Examples of specific events are the Oscars and NCAA March Madness.

For consumers, these recurrent occasions are defined by emotional and sensory associations. Most large occasions will have overarching associations like snow in the winter or presents around the holidays. Consumers will think of flavors and sensations like hot chocolate in the winter or watermelon in the summer. Brands and products should consider these associations as well as functional benefits in order to design and create successful limited-time offers. 

Many products used around these occasions also serve a purpose. A great example of this is using a cup of a hot beverage to keep your hands warm in the winter. All of these things should point toward positive emotions associated with these times. Nostalgia and a homey, cozy quality are two common feelings brands lean on for limited-time offers. These general associations are a great way to take a product from a niche to a mass market.


Related: How Gen Z Is Taking Newstalgia to New Heights


What Drives Consumer Preferences?

In a world where consumers have access to everything, there needs to be a force that drives them toward a seasonally available product. Three factors are part of the growing consumer interest in limited-time offers: anticipation, experience, and memory. 



Delayed pleasure not only increases feelings of impatience and anticipatory excitement but can also enhance the eventual enjoyment. More and more consumers recognize that they live in a world where what they want is available whenever they want, often at the tap of a button. This could be takeout from a favorite restaurant or crops out of season, like strawberries in the middle of winter. 

Limited-time offers go against the grain by forcing consumers to wait and anticipate their arrival. This factor alone distinguishes them from other products. Consumers experience a fear of missing out, often abbreviated as FOMO, around these products, and this fear drives them to engage with the product with increased speed and eagerness.

Consumers love the build-up to the occasion as much as the occasion itself. It reminds them of times from childhood when half the fun of receiving gifts around the holidays was wondering what they were going to get that year. LTOs can easily become a part of the build-up and preparation rituals that are a part of many seasonal events.



For planned events and cultural holidays, people want to feel a sense of change. If they don't, the experience is neither special nor memorable. These experiences are important cultural markers of time as it moves forward, and people often want to share them with others.

Consumers see LTOs as a welcome change from their typical, repetitive product choices. Different occasions act as catalysts and add legitimacy to break from entrenched habits and behaviors. The use of new flavors, or imagining old flavors in unexpected combinations, offers a sense of discovery and surprise. When limited-time offers are tied to moments of celebration, consumers tend to be willing to indulge and spend money on these special products.

Consumers see LTOs as an opportunity for a brand to show off its creative side. As a result, consumers feel limited-time offers are more valuable than other products from the brand and are inherently special, as they will not always be available. Brands should capitalize on this desire to engage with their products and ideas.

Consumers, especially millennial consumers, are driven more by experience than material possessions. LTOs enrich experiences and reconnect consumers to occasions they already know and love. Experience-based limited-time offers are also a great opportunity for consumers to share their experiences via social media.


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Everyday and familiar experiences are eventually processed and forgotten to make mental room for more interesting and impactful memories. Limited-time offers are not accessible year-round, and this generates strong feelings for consumers. They often have positive memories attached to certain products that remind them of the occasion in general as well as moments in particular, especially shared experiences with family and friends. These attachments go deeper than with more commonly used products because they help define distinctive and special memories for consumers.

LTOs enhance and tap into this sense of nostalgia and positive emotions associated with these occasions. This also means that new LTOs offer the opportunity to build new memories. Products that offer a twist can bring a new connection to an occasion, which can reinforce these preexisting positive emotions and memories.


Important Limited-Time Offer Attributes

We've talked about why consumers interact with limited-time offers, but it is also important to understand how a product interacts with these cultural drivers. This understanding will let you maximize the effectiveness of how your LTO engages with your consumers.



People implicitly believe that seasonal products offer greater quality than out-of-season grocery store options that are only available due to modern shipping and agriculture. This is related to the associations linked with fresh ingredients as well as prime seasonal conditions. This implicit trust makes it easy to build consumer excitement around seasonal limited-time offers.



Recurrent LTOs are time-dependent. They're linked to the past through the occasion, and their limited availability evokes scarcity in the present and the promise of newness in the future. These notions of familiarity, scarcity, and novelty serve as a major source of excitement for consumers. Using these emotions in different combinations yields varying results. Combining the familiar with the scarce creates something special, but when you swap scarcity for novelty, the result is a new twist. The combination of scarcity and novelty yields a product that is more likely to be trendy.


Cultural Links

Recurrent occasions are inextricably linked to ceremonies, rituals, and traditions that have developed over time. This creates a foundation for what appropriately fits within the boundaries of the occasion. This allows for seasonal variations on year-round themes as well as serving as scaffolding for more rigidly defined cultural moments.


Let's Wrap It Up

Limited-time offers are an exciting moment for brands and consumers alike. They serve as cultural touchstones for consumers and allow brands to flex their creative muscles. More importantly, they serve as an excellent opportunity to be discovered by new customers as well as further develop the bond with their existing clientele. 

Focusing on recurrent events such as holidays and seasonal changes that consumers are already aware of makes it easier to develop hype and excitement around new products. These moments are already times of the year that people get excited about, and they are a great opportunity to show your consumers that what they care about, you care about too. 


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