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What Can We Learn from the Stanley Cup Craze

It happened by accident. Every October, Reverie begins the process of seeking out and finding the perfect holiday gift for our clients. We always look for an item that is appealing to both men and women, is practical, and, of course, fun. This year, we decided to go with a Stanley tumbler. Ha - that was easier said than done! Little did we know this item was going to be the hottest thing around; companies of all sizes clamoring to get their hands on the tumblers to brand them with their company logo. By early November, the 40 oz Stanley tumblers were sold out everywhere.  

Feeling defeated, we began looking for another item. However, nothing seemed to get us as excited as those coveted Stanley tumblers. By nothing short of a miracle, our friends over at Juice Marketing got their hands on a limited amount of the 30 oz Stanley tumblers. We placed the order within seconds of learning of the availability, and basked in the victory of obtaining them.  Our holiday gifts were going to be one of the hottest items of the holiday season.  Go, Reverie!

But, what happened that made the Stanley tumblers wildly crazy this year? 

Let’s face it, the Stanley brand has been around since 1913 when William Stanley invented the steel vacuum-sealed bottle. From its inception to only recently, Stanley marketed their products for people who love outdoors, such as campers and hikers, or who work blue-collared jobs. In 2012, Stanley stated its products resonated with “a 30-year-career veteran policeman” and “a retired Army soldier.”  

In 2016, Stanley launched the tumblers now known as the Quench line, however, they were not very popular upon release. In 2017, three women, Linley Hutchinson, Ashlee LeSueur and Taylor Cannon — the founders of The Buy Guide, an online shopping blog and Instagram account, created an Instagram post that featured a 40-oz Stanley Quencher. The post read, “Of all the insulated cups... this is the one. Just trust.”  As a result of that endorsement, the tumblers became extremely popular with followers of The Buy Guide.

In 2019, the Stanley Quenchers were becoming increasingly harder to find as rumors circulated that Stanley was discontinuing the 40-oz Quencher. While there were no plans to discontinue them, Stanley did admit the tumbler wasn’t prioritized at the time. However, that is when things began to change, and Stanley began seeing value in this product line.

Between the entry of new leadership, who clearly saw value and potential in the Quencher line and a desire to prioritize the hydration category as a whole, plus a unique partnership between Stanley and The Buy Guide, that had The Buy Guide placing a wholesale order of 10,000 Stanleys (that sold out in 4 days), Stanley opted to position the Quenchers as a daily use item versus an occasional use item (for camping or tailgating) and began marketing to women. The affiliate marketing partnership with The Buy Guide resulted in successful outreach to new Stanley fans — and new Quencher fans. Popularity of Stanley’s exploded.

In addition, social media has also helped tremendously in driving interest in this brand. In November of 2023, Stanley reported they have over 700 million views of #StanleyTumbler on TikTok. People are now collecting Stanley cups and are waiting in hour-long lines at Target - just to get a limited-edition color. In addition, Stanley has partnered with other companies, such as Pendleton and Target’s Hearth and Hand with Magnolia line, and adopted a tactic around “drops” that’s often seen in sneaker culture and used by streetwear brands.  Matt Navarro, senior vice president of global commerce at Stanley, reported a 275% year-over-year increase in Quencher sales (for 2023) and has experienced a 215% increase in its best-selling category, hydration. To say sales have skyrocketed, seems like an understatement.

What Can We Learn from Stanley’s Success and Apply to our Business?

There is no doubt about it, social media and word of mouth are KEY in driving success to a brand. However, not all of us have the luxury of being connected with social media influencers nor the buying power of The Buy Guide. However, we can utilize social media regularly to get our name, brand, and products out there.  We can do shout-outs in our social media posts about other vendors and businesses we partner with. Who knows? They may share the love and reciprocate with a shout out about our company, which then introduces our business to a whole new audience. 

In addition, consider doing the following:

Pivot/Expand Your Reach - Without compromising on who you are and what your brand is, is there a larger audience you can market your product to? In your marketing efforts, remain true to your brand identity, value proposition, and product/service integrity, but expand those efforts to a broader market who can also benefit from doing business with you. What other problems can using your product or services solve for? Who else can benefit by using your product or service that you haven’t previously marketed to? Spend time and energy in answering these questions.

Partnership - Build synergies with your vendors and partners.  How can you work together to broaden your reach and market the value of using your products and services together?  Collaborate on social media. Attend trade shows together. Share in marketing efforts and cost.

Consider niche markets -  Is there a niche market you can market to? Knowing the very specific needs of your niche market can help you to understand their specific needs and speak to them directly. This will allow you to carve an essential space in a broader market, better targeting your marketing efforts and utilizing your marketing budget. Marketing to niche markets helps increase brand loyalty and enables you to compete against fewer competitors.

Analyze Data and Follow the Trends - To stay relevant and continue to address the needs of your customers, keep track of the data and analytics relating to your industry, competitors, and target market.  Be ready to pivot and change AHEAD of the curve as trends shift.

Never Discount an Idea - Listen to the ideas of your employees and customers. Do not discount  those ideas because you haven’t tried that before. Sometimes the people closest to the product/service have the best ideas on how to market the product or tap into a feature of the product or service that is being underutilized or under-marketed. Consider doing focus groups with your sales and customer service teams to gauge what your customers are saying about your product or service, your company, or your competition.  Learn from the wealth of information they can provide.

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