Raise the Stanley: Our Observations of Stanley’s Marketing Transformation

Stanley's journey underscores the significance of observing customer behavior and adapting to market demands. Ready to explore new audiences? Let’s Talk!

February 16, 2024

Are You a ‘Stanley Cup Girl’?

This simple steel bottle with its cute little straw and easy-to-grasp handle has become the ultimate ‘it girl’ must-have. It’s so popular that it has been not only featured on SNL skits but has even started fights in Target with presumably normal, functional members of society jumping over counters, swarming shelves, and camping outside of stores to purchase the pink version of this status symbol of hydration. This demand has led to remarkable financial success as the brand recorded an annual sales boost from $75 million a year to $750 million in 2023!

But you might wonder, “It’s just a cup”, what's with the craze?

The Legacy of Stanley:

Established in 1913, Stanley was known for its durable, high-quality thermoses and drinkware, used by the likes of WWII pilots, blue-collar workers, and outdoor enthusiasts. For decades, the brand was doing just fine. Stanley was raking in a comfortable $75 million in annual sales from its famous hammerstone green products and seemed set for another century of modest, reliable success. 

However, as the market shifted, Stanley found itself facing stiff competition from emerging brands like Yeti and Hydro Flask. Despite offering superior products, the company struggled to expand beyond its niche markets and capture broader consumer attention. Recognizing the need to evolve, Stanley radically changed its marketing game to reposition its brand and reclaim its rightful market share.

Marketing Strategies that Fueled Stanley's Success

1.Cultivating an Engaging Digital Presence

Have you watched that viral video where a lady's car caught fire but her Stanley Cup survived? Well, a whopping 92 million people have also seen it. If your business has clients, you cannot afford to not be on social media. Terence Reilly, the president of Stanley, understood this. He responded to the TikTok video by expressing sympathy to the creator and offering to replace her Stanley, along with a new car. This video with the caption "Stanley’s got your back" got over 6.7 million likes. This real interaction put Stanley in the spotlight and confirmed its reputation as a brand that cares about its customers.

2.Leveraging the Influence of Influencer Marketing

Recognizing the impact of influencer culture, Stanley strategically collaborated with influencers and affiliates to expand its online presence. Key affiliates, like The Buy Guide, facilitated product exposure to influential figures such as country music star Lainey Wilson, contributing to the brand's viral success. Today, the hashtag #StanleyTumbler has generated 7.2 billion views with "clean girl aesthetic" content, and countless "GRWM" videos. Interestingly enough, Stanley does not have a big budget for influencer marketing. By incentivizing brand ambassadors with commissions for genuine endorsements, Stanley cultivates a community-driven enthusiasm that resonates authentically with its audience. 

3.Embracing Content Marketing Through Storytelling

Central to Stanley's marketing strategy is the art of storytelling. The company understands that its products are part of daily life so it emphasizes the personal connection customers have with its items. With the slogan "built for life," Stanley underscores its products' durability and lifelong companionship. Through various platforms like TikTok and Instagram, as well as their written series 'Stanley Stories,' the brand showcases how its products seamlessly fit into consumers' routines, fostering a sense of community and belonging.

Analysis of Marketing Results

Thanks to their revamped marketing strategy, the Quencher went from almost discontinued to being the top wishlist item for Christmas in 2023. Recent CivicScience data show that 17% of U.S. adults own a Stanley, while an additional 17% still intend to do so. When it comes to usage, owners are most likely to drink water from their Stanley drinkware (52%), followed by coffee (45%).

In 2021 alone, Stanley reported a 250% increase in direct-to-consumer sales with a 150% increase in e-commerce sales from the prior year. According to Stackline, its mugs and tumblers category saw a 926% increase in sales in 2022 and 2023 alone, with market share on Amazon skyrocketing to 15.89% from 2.13%, just shy of market leader Yeti's 16%. By aligning its messaging with consumer desires and aspirations, Stanley transformed its products into desirable products, driving demand and revenue.

Impact on Customer Experience and Satisfaction

The Quencher is not just any cup. It’s the cup. It’s the favorite cup, the cup everyone is jealous of. Some consumers have gone so far as to fill their cabinets with a rainbow of Stanley cups, adding to their collections when a limited-edition drop comes out. Others have such an attachment to their tumblers that they deem them their ‘emotional-support’ water bottles. 

Stanley shows that success in today's market goes beyond creating a quality product; it's about building a community around that product. By focusing on creating a communal experience and a sense of belonging, Stanley has managed to engage deeply and lastingly with its consumers. Each Quencher sold is an invitation to a world of style, influence, and exclusivity, proving that the real magic of marketing lies in creating a community, not just a product.

Comparison to Competitors

Stackline data shows that in the Insulated Mugs & Tumblers subcategory, Stanley has been the driving force behind a significant shift in consumer dynamics. The brand's market share growth outpaced the average by twenty times in the past year, lifting the entire subcategory in its wake. Within just 52 weeks, Stanley's market share surged from a modest 2.13% to an impressive 15.89%, closely trailing subcategory leader Yeti at 16%. This remarkable growth has led to the displacement of smaller brands like Tervis and Contigo, reshaping the market into a competitive two-horse race.

Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities

Some argue that this is “peak Stanley”, with concerns that the brand could lose its ‘cool’ factor in 2024 due to oversaturation and a shift in its target audience. However, even if this marks the peak of Stanley's success, what a high to end on!

Critics also point out drawbacks in Stanley's products, with some finding them less practical for on-the-go use. Nonetheless, Stanley's journey underscores the significance of observing customer behavior and adapting to market demands.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Terrence Reilly's approach is the benefit of exploring new audiences and adapting to today's marketing landscape. 

Ready to explore new audiences and elevate your marketing strategy? Let’s Talk!

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