Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice: Ways to Spice up your Security Posture

As I consider why I love the fall and all the wonderful things associated with it, pumpkin spice is top of mind. It’s not just a Starbucks craze – have you been to the grocery store recently? Pumpkin spice is down every aisle … M&Ms, yogurt, Oreos, ice cream, iced tea, beer, bagels, Pop-Tarts, popcorn, marshmallows, hummus, coffee, and coffee creams, oh my! My recent trip to the grocery store made me pause to consider, why are we so obsessed with pumpkin spice?

In my quest for answers, I was delighted to find that many shared opinions tied back to science! Perhaps the reason for this obsession is connected to these 4 concepts:

  1. Reactance: The reactance theory explains why we respond strongly to “limited time only” offers. Our preferences, and therefore, our behaviors are impacted when offers are time bound. Social influence is a key contributor.

  2. Conformity: We conform and match our attitude and behaviors to unspoken “norms” of small groups or society as a whole. We desire to feel secure within a group, and we feel happy when included.

  3. Nostalgia: Injecting value into something – in this case, a season – stimulates feelings of nostalgia, shown to improve our mood, make us feel socially connected, and comfort us.

  4. Sugar: Our brains are strongly wired to respond to the taste of sugar and, of course, most pumpkin spice products are sugary sweet!

How can we use these key concepts to spice up our security awareness programs? Let’s apply these principles that marketers have used for years.

  • Use the reactance theory coupled with rewards offered for a limited time only to drive behavior change.

  • Appeal to key influencers and help establish an “everyone’s doing it” security culture to encourage conformity.

  • Inject value into your program to help people feel more socially connected, where participation imparts a “warm and fuzzy” feeling.

  • Consider hosting a social event to promote cybersecurity awareness complete with the sugary goodness of pumpkin spiced everything.

Keep an eye out for more Fall inspiration for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!


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