Stanley's journey from a 110-year legacy brand to a $750 million powerhouse isn't just about tumblers. It's about a smart makeover and retargeting.
The transformation is thanks to a fresh marketing strategy, notably with the reintroduction of the Quencher – a 40-ounce tumbler featuring a straw.
Dive into the Quencher's impact and Stanley's marketing strategy, leading them to become the top drinkware brand in North America with a 275% YoY surge in sales.
1. Stanley’s brand history: 110 years old brand to viral sensation
Established in 1913 by William Stanley Jr., the brand Stanley has a history of creating stainless steel vacuum sealed cups and tumblers designed to keep items at the right temperature.
With a versatile range from their bestselling Stanley 1L Bottle in Hammertone Green to the Quencher insulated cups, it caters to various needs, from outdoor expeditions to everyday activities.
Terence Reilly became President of Stanley in 2020. Formerly associated with Crocs, he has been instrumental in steering the success of Stanley's Quencher tumblers. His marketing expertise previously contributed to transforming Crocs into a high-fashion brand.
As Stanley introduced new colours for their cups, sales consistently rose.
Revenue surged from $73 million in 2019 to $94 million in 2020, more than doubling to $194 million in 2021.
In 2022, the revamped Quencher model, featuring a sleek design and additional colours and finishes, led to another doubling of revenue to $402 million. Projections indicated that by 2023, revenue was expected to reach $750 million.
The brand saw a 275% YoY increase in Quencher sales, becoming North America's No. 1 drinkware brand.
2. Stanley's Quencher virality: From a failed camping mug to one of the most sought-after products in the world
In 2016, Stanley launched the Quencher, a 40-ounce stainless steel tumbler. However, its initial sales were not great, prompting the company to cease restocking and marketing efforts in 2019.
Terence Reilly aimed to broaden the customer base, particularly targeting women, by reimagining the brand as a fashionable accessory. Brighter colours, straws for cold drinks, and a focus on aesthetics were incorporated. Also, its collectable nature and aesthetic appeal that fit the “clean girl aesthetic” or the “watertok” trend contributed to its popularity.
The Quencher's features, including its ability to keep drinks hot or cold, handle, and fit in car cupholders, additionally contributed to its appeal.
The hashtag #Stanleycup has accumulated more than 6.7 billion views on TikTok, becoming a symbol of status and style, priced at £44.99.
When you invest in a Stanley mug, it's more than just a tumbler; it's your entry into the exclusive "The Sisterhood of the Stanley Tumbler" community, celebrated by the NYT.
Reilly's measure of a brand's success is its visibility at major airports. Seeing people willingly use and showcase the product in public spaces indicates a strong brand. The Quencher has become a fashionable and desirable item worn by travellers.
2.1 Quencher's evolution: From workmen's essential to women's favourite, fuelled by influencers
Initially targeted at workmen and outdoorsmen, the Quencher gained massive traction, particularly among women, thanks to influencers from The Buy Guide.
The founders of The Buy Guide, Linley Hutchinson, Ashlee LeSueur, and Taylor Cannon, played a pivotal role in showcasing the Quencher's appeal to women and expanding its customer base.
In 2019, The Buy Guide posted the Quencher on social media, leading to a viral trend, especially on Instagram.
The collaboration also resulted in a successful wholesale partnership, with The Buy Guide quickly selling out of 10,000 cups.
2.2 TikTok virality sparked with the fire accident
The brand went viral after a TikTok video in which a Stanley Quencher survived a car fire gained immense attention.
The video gained over 94.5 million views and prompted Stanley's President, Terence Reilly, to respond by offering new tumblers and a replacement car.
This heart-warming response garnered over 56 million views and positive comments, boosting the brand's image.
2.3 The Quencher adored by celebrities
Stanley's tumblers are also embraced by celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo.
“I was actually TikTok influenced by TikTok buying this,” she said.
Rodrigo even said in her interview how much she loves her Quencher H2.0 Flowstate.
Stars like Jessica Alba and Carrie Underwood also showcase their Stanley's on social media, with Underwood adding crystals for a personalised touch.
In a recent episode of The Late Show, Adele was spotted sipping from her cup during James Corden's final Carpool Karaoke segment.
2.4 Quencher’s limited collaboration and editions
Stanley applies a scarcity model by releasing limited-edition colours and collaborations in small batches. This strategy, reminiscent of sneaker releases, created a sense of exclusivity and high demand.
At its peak, the Quencher had a waiting list of 150,000 people.
In 2022, Olay collaborated with Stanley to release a limited-edition "Blue Adventure" Quencher, promoting its latest skincare line.
Celebrities like country star Lainey Wilson have also introduced Stanley collections to connect with their fans. It was sold out in only 11 minutes.
Their latest collaboration, Stanley x Starbucks for Valentine's Day edition, was only available at Target and quickly sold out, leaving many disappointed customers.
"I wanted a red one so bad, but my Target was sold out by 8:05." — One TikTok user lamented.
Those unable to secure the limited-edition tumblers are resorting to resale platforms such as eBay and StockX.
However, the cost is significantly higher.
For example, the Stanley x Starbucks tumblers were priced in triple digits, starting at £300.
Lessons from Stanley's success are applicable across various industries. Key strategies include knowing your customers and being open to new ones, leveraging user-generated content for authenticity, and adapting to cultural shifts while staying true to your brand.
The brand expanded its marketing without abandoning its heritage. The brand's ability to adapt to cultural shifts and embrace new marketing channels, including Instagram and TikTok, while maintaining its legacy, contributed to its exceptional growth.