Not often will a product with such a easy purpose resonate a lot with consumers and attract such a loyal following. And even less likely is that product to return from a brand that’s over 100 years old.
Yet Stanley 1913’s Quencher has defied those odds.
The product has grown wildly popular with consumers lately with “Stanley Cup” — a water tumbler, not the trophy awarded to the winner of the National Hockey League championship — amassing about 20 million views on TikTok. The Quencher is available in various sizes, but the 40 oz and 30 oz styles are the hottest, priced between $35 and $50. The product boasts features like a handle; the ability to maintain drinks hot for five to seven hours and cold for nine to 11 hours; and the undeniable fact that it suits inside of most automobile cup holders.
But the cup, which was introduced in 2016, only recently went viral. In fact, Stanley wasn’t prioritizing the product in any respect up until a few years ago.
So how was a 110-year-old company capable of pivot to broaden its customer segment and turn into one of the hottest drinkware brands today?
It took a group of women who didn’t even work at the company — but saw the product’s potential — to make the Quencher a hit.
The rise of the Stanley cup
Stanley’s Instagram page features its drinkware in a rainbow of colours — from soft pastels to vibrant hues. Some products are even adorned with etched patterns so as to add to their appeal. The brand’s website shows women having coffee, a person doing yoga and two women walking and chatting while holding their Stanley drinkware.
While women are actually clearly a key focus for the brand, that hasn’t all the time been the case.
William Stanley invented the steel vacuum-sealed bottle in 1913 and in the century since, “his vacuum bottle evolved from concept to icon and has turn into a vital part of workdays, road trips and outdoor adventures,” the company said. The company historically targeted workmen and people participating in outdoors activities, like camping and mountaineering, in its marketing. As recently as 2012, Stanley mentioned that its products resonated with “a 30-year-career veteran policeman” and “a retired Army soldier.”
How did the brand expand beyond its rugged image to something that appealed to a broader customer, who would incorporate the products into their on a regular basis lifestyles? With the help of three women.
Linley Hutchinson, Ashlee LeSueur and Taylor Cannon — the founders of The Buy Guide, a web-based shopping blog and Instagram account that began in 2017 — were early lovers of the Stanley Quencher.
The Buy Guide’s second post on Instagram, back in November 2017, featured a 40-oz Stanley Quencher. “Of all the insulated cups… that is the one. Just trust,” the post read, touting the product’s features like its handle, straw, ability to maintain beverages cold and the undeniable fact that it was dishwasher secure.
Once LeSueur discovered the product, she gifted one to each Hutchinson and Cannon to see in the event that they liked the cup just as much as she did. “We quickly fell in love after which it obviously became one of our hero products on The Buy Guide. And so our followers fell in love with it, too,” Hutchinson said.
But the Quencher increasingly became harder to search out in stock and gave the impression to be in danger of being discontinued, Hutchinson recalled. “We had heard that Stanley was discontinuing the 40-oz Quencher,” Hutchinson said. “So we were telling all our followers, ‘Hurry, get your hands on any cup that you may find. We’ve heard that that is going away. Please tell Stanley that you do not need it to go away, that you simply love the cup a lot.’”
Matt Navarro, senior vp of global commerce at Stanley, told Retail Dive that while there have been no plans to discontinue Quencher production in 2019, “the tumbler wasn’t prioritized at the time.”
An worker who worked at Stanley messaged The Buy Guide and said they agreed that they thought the cup was a great product and brought up The Buy Guide’s experience at a meeting with Stanley executives. However, while many brands work with influencers and accounts like The Buy Guide through internet online affiliate marketing, Stanley had not participated in those programs at the time. Instead, Stanley directed the women to position a wholesale order — with a minimum order quantity of 10,000 cups.
“Any brand on the planet that won’t marketing to the 25 to 50 yr old woman is admittedly missing the mark.”
Founder of The Buy Guide
“It was a huge risk,” Cannon said, adding that that they had to quickly arrange a website, get a warehouse and determine how one can ship the product to consumers. “We ordered those cups and were like, ‘We do not know if we will sell out of these tomorrow, or if we will be attempting to get rid of cups for the rest of our lives.”
It was the group’s first and only wholesale partnership of that sort with a brand. The Buy Guide sold out of its first 5,000 cups in about 4 days. It sold through the second 5,000 cups in an hour.
“It blew their minds,” Cannon recalled about Stanley’s response to how quickly The Buy Guide was capable of sell through its cups.
This happened around the same time Stanley was ushering in recent leadership that began to see value and potential in the Quencher. The recent leaders — including Terence Reilly, Stanley’s global president for Stanley at PMI Worldwide, Stanley’s parent company — “saw the opportunity to prioritize the hydration category as a whole,” Navarro said. “When looking into the product pipeline, we bet on the undeniable fact that the Quencher use case fit our recent strategy of hydration, color revolution and meeting consumer lifestyle.”
Stanley executives reached out to The Buy Guide to schedule a time to fulfill with them and flew them out to Colorado where they were attending the Outdoor Retailer conference. “We just sat down with the executive team and were like, ‘You’re marketing this cup to the improper people,’” Hutchinson said.
The Buy Guide desired to help the brand expand its reach beyond the workmen and outdoorsmen it had typically marketed to in the past.
“We can show them what it could appear to be if women could promote it to women,” LeSueur said. “Stanley had been a company only producing occasional-use items. They were making items for people’s camping trips or tailgating. We told them that this cup was a daily-use item. It was an on a regular basis, all-day item. And that it needed to look good in people’s homes and kitchens, with their outfits, and never just in the great outdoors.”
The Buy Guide’s following is 97.7% women, with the highest demographic being women aged 35 to 44, in keeping with data The Buy Guide shared with Retail Dive. Almost 100% of its followers are between the ages of 25 and 45.
“Any brand on the planet that won’t marketing to the 25 to 50 yr old woman is admittedly missing the mark,” LeSueur said. “Even when you are a men’s clothing line — irrespective of what you might be — when you usually are not finding a strategy to speak to this 25-to-50-year-old female, you are missing the mark because those are the buyers of our economy. They buy for his or her families, they buy for his or her husbands, they buy for his or her businesses.”
The partnership with The Buy Guide resulted in “successful outreach to recent Stanley fans — and recent Quencher fans,” Navarro said. It led to word-of-mouth recommendations and heightened demand for the Quencher. “We then focused more of our efforts on this must-have product through our revamped website and via social media.”
The Buy Guide also helped Stanley enter into the universe of internet online affiliate marketing as the brand brought the Quencher back in full force.
Navarro said the internet online affiliate marketing channel has opened Stanley as much as recent audiences and has allowed consumers to attach more directly with the brand. Using influencer marketing also taps into an emotional reference to consumers, in keeping with Namrata Shah, a partner and global head of consumer and wonder at PERLab, the product redesign practice of Kearney.
“Women talking to women and referring creates a lot more trust in the product and the brand versus the typical marketing tactics and methods which were utilized in the past,” Shah said.
And social media more broadly has led to consumers themselves posting about their experience with the product, extending the brand’s reach even further.
“Frankly, the consumer sort of took over for us in places like TikTok where we’ve 700 million views of #StanleyTumbler on TikTok,” Navarro said. “All of the videos and content on TikTok are user-generated. So it’s really the consumer connecting to our brand through social media, and just putting the consumer first.”
Stanley’s recent success could be credited to the brand’s ability and willingness to shift its focus.
“When they got good indicator data, after they heard from The Buy Guide, after they heard the conversations on social media around what women were talking about and why women like this cup, they pivoted immediately and I believe that was the biggest unlock for them,” Shah said.
That ultimately led to a renaissance in Stanley’s products and carried the brand through the years to cement its relevance with consumers, in keeping with Navarro.
“We are so fortunate to have a 110-year-old brand rooted in American history,” Navarro said. “So many individuals, especially in the U.S. and North America, have an emotional connection to our brand — from their grandfather taking them fishing with Stanley [products] to working on a job site. Just a deep, emotional reference to our brand, which allowed us to then — through innovation and really through our digital marketing expertise — bring the brand to the twenty first century and connect with today’s consumer.”
A case for collecting
It’s not only that customers are buying Stanley’s Quencher tumblers now. Some consumers have gone to date as to fill their cabinets with a rainbow of Stanley cups, adding to their collections when a recent colorway or limited-edition drop comes out.
TikTok user @aly_zee12 in a video shows off their collection of 18 Stanley Quencher tumblers in various colours and sizes. Similarly in one other video, TikTok user @lindseyharbison displayed about a dozen Stanley Quenchers filling their cabinet.
“When we take into consideration collecting, we attempt to take into consideration collectibles, which are likely to be something you would not take into consideration whenever you’re talking about a Stanley Quencher bottle. You might think that applies to dolls or jewelry,” Peter Danzig, a researcher, psychotherapist and consultant, told Retail Dive. “And that’s true. But anything is collectible that has material culture. What’s most significant is the reason people collect is since it brings them a sense of joy.”
“Nobody talks about the joy that individuals have after they open their cabinets and see the multitude of these water bottles.”
Researcher, psychotherapist and consultant
Danzig said that since the pandemic, research around material culture has shown an uptick in people collecting things.
“What we have seen is as a result of the pandemic, when people were under isolation, they were discovering what small joys they present in their day-to-day and finding joy in the little things,” they said.
This corresponds with consumers increasingly leaning into health and wellness trends, including hydration, coming out of the pandemic.
When it involves collecting, Danzig said, there’s a sense of accomplishment. “There’s a visualization of completeness. There’s something tangible that you may tie it to. … People collect since it gives them a sense of purpose. It gives them the drive. There is something in the hunt and the find that’s exciting for people.”
People may additionally purchase multiple Quenchers for various areas of their lives — for his or her morning coffee, for his or her workouts, to go together with different outfits, one to embellish with stickers.
The appeal with Stanley’s Quencher specifically stems not only from the product performing well, but in addition from the way it looks and the way it makes customers feel after they use it.
“A brand or product that actually will resonate with consumers is after they have the perfect combination of addressing the technical, functional and emotional needs of the consumer,” Shah said. “If you miss anybody of these needs, it’ll critically impact either the usability, the user experience or the emotional connect.”
Shah added that a Stanley tumbler not only has a superb technical foundation with features like an ergonomic handle and the ability to suit securely in a cup holder, but it surely also is available in colours “that goes to the emotional needs of people like me that take into consideration the cup far more as an adjunct and never just a water bottle. I would like that optionality to find out what’s the one which I would like to hold with me today as I am going around in my each day chores or I am going to my Peloton classes.”
Stanley has released a number of collections in various colours, finishes and patterns, in addition to some in collaboration with brands like Pendleton and Target’s Hearth and Hand with Magnolia line. To drive much more interest in recent releases, the company adopted a tactic around “drops” that’s often seen in sneaker culture and utilized by streetwear brands.
“There is something so thrilling when anyone is waiting,” Danzig said. People wish to see what the item goes to appear to be, and once they do, it “brings a rush of adrenaline and if they can get it — that is dopamine.”
The limited drops generate attention from fans and infrequently cause products to sell out quickly.
“I believe there actually is a promotional strategy around FOMO, fear of missing out, culture and really driving really intense demand for products by offering limited, special-edition drops; partnerships with other really cool, hot, trendy brands; collaborations with celebrities and artists and athletes — has really just helped create the brand status I’d say we’ve today,” Navarro said.
Nostalgia also plays a role in why consumers collect certain items or gravitate to pick brands, Danzig said, noting that nostalgia doesn’t necessarily mean the product traces back to at least one’s childhood; it might probably stem from the last couple of years.
“Maybe anyone during the pandemic discovered they really liked these water bottles they usually remember first discovering them and buying each recent one or the recent colours, and seeing that rainbow after they open the cabinet still brings them a sense of what brought them joy during a very dark time,” Danzig said.
Social media has also helped drive a desire to gather items more recently, Danzig added. “We have seen a huge impact psychologically on the finding of community,” they said. “They actually can comment and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I even have that too. I really like the function of this.’ or ‘I really like this color. I really like this visibility.’ And they follow these other people because there’s a sense of community. You’re being seen, heard and affirmed.
“At least in Western culture, we’re based in consumerism and capitalism. We sell things and make a profit. But no person talks about the joy that individuals have after they open their cabinets and see the multitude of these water bottles,” Danzig added. “There’s a call to motion for me with social media where people can get the affirmation where they will not be getting that from your folks or colleagues or relations that individuals might just be saying, ‘That’s just a water bottle. I do not get why you are collecting that.’ When you are navigating online interactions, they’re constructing a sense of community and affirmation that they’re not all the time capable of get, or they’re affirming what they know inside, but they didn’t know other people liked it as well.”
The Quencher’s popularity has skyrocketed lately.
This yr, Stanley has seen a 275% year-over-year increase in Quencher sales and has experienced a 215% increase in its best-selling category, hydration, in keeping with Navarro. “If we glance back over the last six months, we’ve firmly planted ourselves as the No. 1 drinkware brand in North America,” Navarro added.
In the past few years, the brand has done a good job connecting with each existing and potential customers; committing to their core design principles of form, function and design; and having the ability to act on changing trends, in keeping with Shah.
“They have a phenomenal pulse on the conversations on social media — what are people talking about?” Shah said. “It’s the connectivity. It’s not only a product that they are putting in the market. It’s about listening to the consumers, what really matters to them and truly working on that and bringing that offering to the market.”
The brand, and the Quencher specifically, also look like driving trends across the industry — and increasing competition.
Hydro Flask’s parent company, Helen of Troy, said earlier this yr that it’s making a shift away from water bottles, where it says it’s a category leader, to tumblers, where it has a much smaller presence.
“The market is getting crowded, there are a lot of offerings. But what [Stanley has] done is that they’ve made very quick decisions and pivoted — listening to the consumers, after they had women talking online on social media, they quickly launched a line targeting them, listening to their needs,” Shah said.
Over the years, a number of brands have surfaced as the “hot” water bottle of the moment: Nalgene, CamelBak, S’well and even Hydro Flask. Can Stanley cement its place as a leader in the space?
To Shah, Stanley has endurance, but “they can’t rest on their laurels. What has brought them here isn’t going to hold them for the next five, 10 years,” Shah said. “They have to get smart about managing the increasing complexity they’re taking over as they expand their portfolio because they’re attempting to get to very different consumer segments. If you do not manage the complexity well, it could hurt you.”
The company has also been purposeful in its distribution, choosing retail partners it knows will resonate with consumers and that can provide a premium and consistent customer experience for its products, in keeping with Navarro. Stanley continues to be “consumer-first,” ensuring that customer demand, feedback and insights are driving the products that the brand brings to market.
“We cannot just keep making different colours of the same product,” Navarro said. “We have to bring products which might be relevant and revolutionary in the space.”
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