Have you had your Pumpkin Spice Latte yet? Last week when I visited my oldest son and his non-coffee drinking wife in Jacksonville, Florida, my wife and I asked him if he wanted us to bring coffee in the morning. “Nope”, he replied, “just a Pumpkin Spice Latte.”

Folks, my son Taylor is a 30-year-old naval aviator and Helicopter Aircraft Commander. Google it. He is not the person I’d expect to ask me for any coffee drink with three words in the name. So that got me thinking; just who does drink this wonderfully tasty seasonal drink? Do most of them look just like Taylor? Somehow I doubted it.

Enter descriptive analytics with the ability to discover fascinating and useful insights on the people and personalities of an audience, for example, on the millions of people grabbing this seasonal latte drink on their way to work. There are a myriad of ways to use analytics to discover the personas interested in any given brand, say Starbucks in general, or the Pumpkin Spice Latte drink in particular, but three basic types of data drive the majority of these analyses.

Analysts commonly use either 1) their own first party data, enhanced by overlaying third party demographics, or 2) they tap into syndicated research data, or increasingly they 3) look to social media behavioral data.

Customer data rules, and we love to work with it. But sometimes it just won’t answer the questions. For example, building customer personas for products with limited POS data is problematic. For our latte drink, not everyone has a Starbucks Reward account, or uses their Starbucks card when they do have an account.

Syndicated consumer survey data is another resource to look into. Relatively small, but statistically valid samples of consumers agree to provide information to the consumer research company about a variety of topics, which may be specific enough to show the characteristics of a specific product like the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s a great tool and should be part of every brand manager’s and brand analyst’s arsenal. But it doesn’t listen to the people who are actually engaging with the product and the brand.

So what about social media? Millions of consumers, engaging with brands and having free flowing conversations about them and their products, all in the context of friends who take the time and energy to spontaneously share their opinions and interests. Social media research can deliver the largest market research panel in the world. It’s rich with information about not only what is being said, but much more importantly to the brand analyst, who is saying it. At Spotright we believe in the power of social media to inform our ability to personalize products, messages, and every customer interaction. With the brand affinities, interests, and content of over 600 million social IDs worldwide, 40 billion connections across the twitter social graph, and links to offline demographic data at scale, we use our data to inform insights from the largest market research panel in the world – Twitter.

Soon after releasing their seasonal drink over a decade ago Starbucks realized they had a hit on their hands. Last year they realized that conversations on Twitter among followers of their brand (@starbucks) were spiking before the drink’s availability each year. The interest was so compelling that Starbucks gave our favorite latte a special Twitter handle, @TheRealPSL.

Since it is definitely in season, let’s grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte and settle in for a quick look at @TheRealPSL followers. Mmmm, that first sip tastes great.

Not surprisingly, PSL followers and drinkers, are young. They average 10 years younger than the general population on Twitter. But not all are young, and definitely not all are young and irresponsible. Many have young children, 5 years and younger, and are below 35 themselves. And another fascinating group loves PSL; the soon-to-be empty nesters aged 51 to 55 with older teen-aged children.

And they’re affluent. The audience indexes high for every income band above $75,000.

So they’re young and affluent with children at home – usually either pre school or about to graduate from high school. What else can our analytics tell us? What about their homes? They live in nice homes and seem stable, with an average home value of $246,849 and over 8 years length of residence.

Looking at other demographic data shows us they are heavily female, with 20% stay at home moms, predominately Caucasian, and are mixed in their political affiliations.

See how the personas emerge? Descriptive analytics, driven by deep data, are an important way to study audiences to learn about their likes, dislikes, and the characteristics of their life.

So now that we know whom we’re talking about, let’s take another sip of that latte and see what they’re interested in.

Since the predominant demographics are far different from my son whose love of Pumpkin Spice started this journey, I’m pretty sure we won’t find helicopters, Navy bases, and aircraft carriers high on the list. No, we don’t. The chart below lists the top interest categories, in order, for the followers of @theRealPSL. Instead of helicopters they prefer to follow and read about fictional characters from the Harry Potter and Mean Girls movies. Instead of The Navy Times they like to listen to Perez Hilton, read People Magazine, and watch videos from E Online. And definitely instead of mess hall hash they prefer cooking shows and tips from Paula Dean, Anthony Bourdain, and Giada De Laurentiis.

Young, hip, educated, affluent, stable stay at home moms with diverse politics, strong interests in popular culture, health and fitness and preparing their own food, don’t sound much like my son. But they definitely sound like the audience for our favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte, a seasonal drink both popular and enjoying long-lasting success.

It’s easy to see that with a good hot drink in our hands, some healthy social media data, and a descriptive analytic tool like SpotRight, it’s a simple matter to discover the personalities of the people actually driving that success.