There are countless examples of how social media virality, especially on TikTok, has helped lift a company’s profits in unprecedented ways, from the sale of fragrance products via #perfumetok to antacids via #hotgirlswithstomachissues. Lately, the internet and the retail industry alike have been buzzing about Stanley’s ‘Galentine’s Collection’ of 40-ounce tumblers for the US department store chain Target. Released on December 31, 2023, the red and pink tumblers quickly sold out online
nline and in stores, with videos of customers waiting hours in line and reports of semi-physical scuffles over the cup going viral over TikTok and Instagram. The hashtag #StanleyTumber has garnered over one billion views on just TikTok alone. The tumbler, which retails at US$45 can be found on re-sell sites like eBay for at least two to three times the original price. Non-Stanley tumbler users are likely scratching their heads over the aggressive popularity of this water bottle. This is where acute marketing tactics come into play. How the Stanley tumbler went from dead to widespread When Stanley was originally launched in 1913, the company’s beverage and food containers were primarily marketed toward “rough and tumble” male consumers for arduous expeditions like hikes or long travel journeys. Today, the consumers going wild for the brand’s most popular beverage holder, the Quencher, are primarily women, aged anywhere from 10 to 40 years old, who love showing off their tumbler as an accessory for their “outfit of the day” (OOTD) videos on social media. The Quencher is a 40-ounce insulated tumbler initially introduced in 2016, but the product had performed so poorly in sales that it was reportedly set to be discontinued by 2019. So how did the product come back from the dead? The simple answer is the power of female influencers. While the tumbler wasn’t gaining traction with burly mountain climbers, it piqued the interest of the lifestyle influencers of The Buy Guide, a blog, in 2017, who highlighted the fact that it is dishwasher safe and large but fairly portable. When Ashlee LeSuer, co-founder of The Buy Guide, heard that the product was at risk of being discontinued, she reached a deal with the company for a wholesale order of 10,000 tumblers. Within days, influenced readers bought out The Buy Guide’s entire inventory of the Quencher. Along with the immediate sell-out, in 2020 Terrence Reilly, the former chief marketing officer of Crocs, another TikTok viral brand, was hired as Stanley’s new president. As Reilly noted on Creator IQ’s “Earned It” podcast, “We were a US$70 million brand that appealed to guys with a green bottle that was 107 years old, and is one of the greatest products in history. It’s an iconic brand, iconic product, but there was a big opportunity to reposition the brand and appeal to new consumers, and that’s just what we set out to do in 2020.” And boy did they ever. Under Reilly’s direction, the brand shifted toward design and marketing tactics to appeal to the female consumer; from producing quenchers in trendy, bright palettes to incorporating females, both paid and user-generated content alike, on their social media feed. With female consumer-friendly shifts and the help of various viral videos, such as a Stanley tumbler remaining intact after a car burned down, Stanley’s revenue jumped from US$73 million in 2019 to US$750 million in 2023. The tumbler, like perfume and antacids, has also benefited from specified social interest in drinking water, summed up by the hashtag #watertok. The hashtag, which has garnered over a billion views, can refer to a variety of subtopics from water flavour enhancers to popular modes of transportation, from a hydro flask to a Stanley Quencher, and is undoubtedly one of the factors behind consumers’ seemingly sudden cultural hyperfocus on staying hydrated at all times. What can retail brands take away from Stanley’s success? Instead of catering to the same old consumer group, try to think outside the box for how a product, be it a beverage holder or nail polish, can be marketed to a new group(s) of shoppers. Where Stanley was previously producing items for specific events, from camping to hiking, the success of The Buy Guide’s sellout showed the brand how its product could appeal to the everyday consumer, especially in the female market, and could be marketed and designed, both aesthetically and practically, for everyday use.