Stanley Case Study on the Quencher Tumbler


If you are reading this, you likely are familiar with the Stanley Quencher craze and the viral attention it got for its hot pink color. What you may not know is that the company began with an entirely different target audience 110 years ago. 

What seems like an overnight success story was an opportunity the brand saw to appeal to a new, specific audience – working moms. Doing so would change the trajectory of the Stanley brand, creating lines of customers purchasing the product and showing off their purchases on social media. 

In this article, we will take a deep dive into a Stanley case study, so you know exactly what marketing initiatives were taken to drive the Stanley Quencher craze.

Stanley 1913 – Built for Life™: About the Brand

Founded in 1913 by William Stanley Jr., a man who changed the way hot (and cold) drinks were consumed. Stanley combined the strength of steel with vacuum insulation and created the all-steel vacuum bottle that Stanley is still known for today. 

When the classic Stanley thermos first hit the market, it was marketed primarily to men and outdoor lovers. A mythical bear logo that has seen many iterations over the years, stands for those who push themselves to do remarkable things and get the most out of life.  

And along with being a great beverage holder, Stanley is known for their commitment to sustainability. With their reusable, “Built for Life™” products, Stanley is committed to reducing waste and maintaining sustainable practices across their entire supply chain. It is clear why this brand has seen over one hundred years of success. 

But if you were to visit the Stanley website today, you will see a Hero Image of a smiling mother and daughter, one holding a 30 oz Quencher. A stark contrast to the brand’s original target market. 

The Stanley Quencher Tumbler Goes Viral

So then HOW did a rugged, outdoorsy brand, that initially experienced poor sales in 2016 on their 40 oz Quenchers, grow from $70 million in annual sales to a projected $750 million in 2023? 

Stanley Case Study

Image Source: CNBC

Chart of sales. Savvy marketing? Yes, of course. But here’s how the story goes. 

In 2016, Stanley took the classic, legendary bottle they were known for and “flipped” it on its head to create the Quencher. They added a handle, tapered the design so that it could fit in car cup holders, and went to market with 5 colors. Unfortunately, the Quencher didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped.

While many credit a viral TikTok for the “rebirth” of the Quencher and the brand’s far-reaching, global obsession…there was one person who fell in love with the cup long before it became TikTok Famous. Before they were an internet sensation. 

Ashlee LeSueur, Co-founder of The Buy Guide, became a huge fan of the Stanley Quencher thermal because of the practical applications in her daily life, and she decided to share about her love for the cup on her site. The cups were a big hit, but they got harder to find because Stanley had stopped restocking and promoting the Quencher due to poor performance. 

Ashlee and her co-founders couldn’t find a cup whose features measured up, and they weren’t willing to say RIP to their beloved Quencher. So Ashlee and her team decided to send a Stanley Quencher to The Bachelor alum, Emily Maynard, and the Quencher went viral. 

In 2019, The Buy Guide purchased 5,000 quenchers at wholesale price to sell on their site. The cups sold out in 5 hours. An example of the power of influencer marketing. 

Stanley, The Buy Guide, and Terence Reilly – A Terrific Trio

This is a lesser known part of the story and brand’s evolution, and The Buy Guide’s love for the Quencher would make a world of difference…a year later.  

In 2020, Terence Reilly, former CMO of Crocs, was hired as Global President for Stanley. He quickly saw what was holding the Quencher back from stronger sales. The brand simply hadn’t “taken the Quencher to the stratosphere,” he shared. Reilly’s experience at Crocs taught him that The Buy Guide, and the influencer marketing opportunity, was the exact collaboration that could turn up the temperature of the brand, and increase Quencher sales. 

Stanley and The Buy Guide worked out an affiliate marketing deal and began featuring new, pastel colors. While some felt this went against what the Stanley brand stood for, The Buy Guide team and Stanley saw the potential in a new, refined focus. Not to mention a new target audience of working moms who wanted to use their Stanley to hydrate throughout the day, and were no less an illustration of strength compared to the original Stanley demographic.   

In November of 2020, the new cups sold out within 3 weeks. And Stanley set their sites on attracting new customers with their refined product line and the addition of new products and colors. Making the choice to change the colors changed the trajectory of the brand and the company as a whole. 

There was a slow build over the coming months, but then the waiting lists began to grow and the company was able to forecast so they could bring in the right amount of products while still keeping the scarcity that keeps the fun and demand high. 

In 2021, Stanley released 10 new colors and began experimenting with different forms of marketing. As their numbers continued to increase, it proved to stores like Dicks Sporting Goods, Target, and REI that the Quencher deserved a front and center spot on their store shelves. Not surprisingly, the Stanley Quenchers and Tumblers would regularly sell out. 

Stanley Case Study: Here’s How a 40-ounce Cup Turned nto a $750 Million a Year Business

#1. Stanley specifically chose women as a new consumer base, creating a product line around a new palette of colors and designs. 

This goes beyond new branding and good marketing. Stanley saw the potential Client Lifetime Value found in tapping into a whole new target audience. CLV is more than metrics. CLV is a science AND an art. It’s about honing in on and building strong customer relationships and improving retention or re-engagement metrics over the long term. They also found a new way to personalize customer experiences, and this further contributes to CLV. 

Now the Stanley team can look at historical CLV and predictive CLV. This will enable them to create strong feedback loops and develop improvement strategies that optimize their marketing efforts over time. It will also ensure high client satisfaction (The art of CLV).  

#2. Stanley leveraged the power of an Omnipresent Marketing Strategy, with influencer marketing becoming a HUGE part of turning up the temperature of the brand.

What started with The Buy Guide, went on to become a viral TikTok, far-reaching, global obsession fueled by influencer marketing. Stanley, along with their affiliates, created the message that this cup is part of one’s daily ritual, while infusing the novel in the form of new-releases, limited editions, and hard-to-find colors. Similar to Starbucks, Stanley has created a cult-like following. 

They positioned their brand to be easily recognizable and discoverable on a multitude of platforms and across mediums. In addition to the TikTok hashtag with 7.1BILLION views, #StanleyCup, there are Facebook Groups devoted to Stanley fans who show off their collection and help others build their own, as well as numerous Reddit threads with consumers asking for help in finding their favorite colors and limited edition Quenchers. 

For brands who see viral success like this, their performance metrics among social media users are better in the areas of favorability, brand awareness, and purchase consideration. This is added fuel for a brand that is already on fire. 

In addition to affiliate marketing, Stanley teamed up with companies like Olay and Target to release limited edition quenchers, and the products flew off the shelves. The demand became so great that Stanley had to enforce a limit of 2 per person per order online. 

From 2020 to 2021, Stanley saw a $100 million dollar increase in revenue. The long-running best-seller, the classic legendary bottle, was replaced by the cream-colored 40 ounce Quencher as the company’s best seller. Truly staggering. 

Stanley continued to dramatically rise in popularity from 2021 into 2022. And after seeing sales explode to $402 million dollars in 2022, the brand invested in a dedicated Tik Tok agency after picking up on Stanley’s virality on TikTok. Something not a lot of brands are doing. 

#3 Stanley listened to their customers   

When Stanley redesigned their Flow State H2.O Quencher, they listened to consumer requests/complaints and instituted design changes that put new principles of design in place. They created a spill proof design, new colors and finishes, and an enlarged handle. 

In 2023, they launched Stanley Creates, where customers can create custom designs. They also engaged in more collaborations, like one with Lainey Wilson, and Quenchers sold out in less than 25 minutes. 

Stanley Case Study on the Quencher Tumbler

Long before the Quenchers’ rise to popularity, Stanley as a brand embraced a “People First” mentality. Understanding the market needs and wants, designing superior products, and evolving over time based on consumer feedback, is a hallmark of the brand’s reputation. A deep, customer-centricity that has only grown stronger in recent years. 

The Quencher popularity has brought renewed velocity to their heritage products, and consumers are loving all that Stanley has to offer. The Quencher redesign also gave the brand the confidence that they can apply similar design changes across Stanley’s line of products. In leaning into an untapped market, Stanley has exploded their market share.  

The Psychology Behind the Stanley Quencher Obsession

Let’s be honest. It’s not just a cup anymore, it’s a cult. And for anyone who might attach negativity to this statement, or deny it, I invite you to search: “Stanley + Target” or see for yourself in the video below:

Let’s unpack why consumers are so obsessed with getting the newest Stanleys on the market. 

1. The Scarcity Model 

While often associated with high-end luxury brands and products, the tendency to satisfy an unlimited want or need with a resource that is limited can also be found among mainstream consumers because they feel like they are getting something special that not everyone has, without the high-ticket price tag. 

Stanley is tapping into the emotions of consumers. Excitement, anticipation, a little competition, and ultimately victory and gratification when the product is purchased successfully. 

2. A Sense of Belonging 

As humans, we have an innate desire to belong. In buying a Stanley, you are buying into a larger community. With each purchase, consumers are subconsciously establishing a sense of belonging and fitting in. It’s a status symbol that drives purchase behaviors. 

This is evident on every major social platform. People are posting and commenting, fueled by a need to be part of the conversation and joining in on the hype. In some instances, it’s not the focus on features and functionality, but the perceived social currency they achieve in owning one. 

3. Buying Stuff Feels Good 

Humans by nature are dopamine seekers. There is a thrill and satisfaction that comes when you score the ‘perfect’ Stanley Quencher tumbler. In general, collecting something gives people a sense of purpose or accomplishment. And for many, buying a Stanley cup just feels good. 

In a Dazed article, a consumer was quoted as saying, “I like to match them with outfits. It’s so fun, being able to pick a different color every day to match my personality or how I’m feeling.”

And for many who face increasing costs and the inability to build meaningful savings, they invest in less expensive purchases for more immediate gratification. 

Stanley was projected to reach $750 million dollars in 2023, and the big question is, HAVE THEY REACHED THEIR PEAK?

Some say yes, but I say NO. And for one reason: Client Lifetime Value 

To quote Stanley’s design chief, Graham Nearn, “When you combine originality, legacy, and relevancy, you’re unstoppable.” The brand will continue to offer good quality, good colors, and always something new. 

Here are FOUR ways I see Stanley sustaining, and even increasing, the popularity of their product line in 2024 and beyond. 

1. A Continued Emphasis on Long-Term Customer Relationships 

Stanley’s commitment to quality and durability not only meets but often exceeds customer expectations, fostering a strong brand loyalty. This loyalty is crucial as satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and less inclined to buy from competitors. Long-term satisfaction can also lead to positive word-of-mouth, attracting new customers while retaining existing ones. The longevity of Stanley products means that customers see value in their investment over time, reinforcing the perception of the brand as trustworthy and reliable. By focusing on maintaining these high standards, Stanley can ensure a steady stream of loyal customers, thereby increasing the lifetime value (CLV) of each individual.

2. Brand Loyalty Programs 

Inspired by successful models like Starbucks, Stanley could introduce a loyalty program that rewards customers for their repeat purchases. This program could offer points for every purchase, which can be redeemed for discounts, special offers, or exclusive products. The program could also include tiers, where customers who reach higher tiers receive greater rewards, encouraging them to continue purchasing Stanley products. Additionally, special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays could be celebrated with exclusive offers to individual customers, adding a personal touch that enhances customer loyalty. Such programs not only incentivize repeat purchases but also gather valuable customer data, which can be used to tailor future offerings, ultimately increasing the CLV.

3. Product Range Expansion 

Senior-level executives have already publicly spoken to Stanley’s intentions of expanding the product range to include items that complement existing products (e.g., accessories for cups). This strategy can attract new customers while providing existing customers with more options to choose from. For instance, introducing accessories for cups like customizable lids, handles, or straw covers can increase the appeal and functionality of the core product. By diversifying the product line, Stanley can cater to a wider range of consumer needs and preferences, encouraging more frequent purchases and thereby increasing the average purchase value. This expansion would be a strategic move to not only broaden the market reach but also to enhance the overall customer experience, which in turn can significantly increase the CLV.

4. Targeted Marketing Based on Customer Data 

Stanley will continue to create targeted marketing campaigns that appeal to different segments of their customer base, addressing specific needs and preferences. Stanley’s interpretation of customer data for targeted marketing campaigns represents a powerful tool for increasing customer retention and CLV. By analyzing purchase history, preferences, and customer feedback, Stanley can create personalized marketing messages that resonate with different segments of their customer base. This targeted approach ensures that marketing efforts are more effective and efficient, as they speak directly to the specific needs and interests of different customer groups. For example, outdoor enthusiasts might receive promotions for rugged, insulated products, while office workers might see sleek, professional designs. This personalized approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters a sense of individual connection with the brand. Also, targeted campaigns usually lead to higher conversion rates and upselling opportunities. In refining their marketing strategies based on data, Stanley can anticipate and meet the evolving needs of their customers which will enhance the overall customer experience and boost CLV. 

Similar to other subject-matter experts, I share one warning with Stanley:

Be sure to maintain an Omnipresent Marketing Strategy.

There is inherent risk in attaching yourself to one platform, and especially if it is one that is increasingly scrutinized by lawmakers (TikTok). 

Stanley should consider…

1. Diversification of Marketing Channels

Reliance on a single platform can be risky. Stanley should diversify its marketing efforts across various channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and emerging platforms. This approach not only mitigates the risk associated with platform-specific issues (like legal scrutiny or changing algorithms) but also ensures a wider reach across different demographics.

2. Leveraging Influencer Partnerships

Collaborating with influencers across platforms can help Stanley reach different audience segments effectively. This approach should be strategic, choosing influencers whose followers align with Stanley’s target demographic. Diversifying influencer partnerships across platforms reduces the risk associated with any single platform and enhances brand visibility.

3. Engaging in Community Building

Stanley should focus on building a community around its brand on various platforms. This can be achieved through interactive content, user-generated content campaigns, and engaging with followers directly. Community building fosters brand loyalty and can act as a buffer against the volatility of platform-specific trends.

Stanley Case Study Conclusion 

Stanley’s journey from a century-old brand to a modern-day, ‘overnight’ success story is a powerful illustration of how traditional companies can reinvent themselves. By embracing change, listening to their customers, innovating both in product and marketing strategies, and leveraging client lifetime value, Stanley has not only revitalized its brand but has also set a new standard in how companies can adapt and thrive in dynamic market environments. The future looks bright for Stanley as they continue to evolve, innovate, and connect with consumers in meaningful ways.

The Stanley Case Study was provided by Kim Breiland, business growth strategist. Kim is a leading expert on teaching proven strategies for business revenue growth for 6-to-7-figure scaling in numerous industries. Below is a list of ways Kim can help business owners:

1. Founder Fast Track: Learn to focus on the key tasks that will accelerate your growth from six to seven-figures. Establish a strong base in marketing, visibility, sales strategies, and a high, lifetime-value offer that reliably attracts customers. Founder Fast Track is designed to provide you with a cohesive business-growth strategy. 

2. Scale to CEO: You’re always on the clock, keeping your business running, and it’s wearing you down. You know you can’t keep up with the current pace – and you’re not sure if you’ll ever be able to scale your operation. In Scale to CEO, we teach you a better way to run your business so that it doesn’t keep running you. It’s time for you to learn how to create sustainable success and step into your CEO role. 

3. 1:1 Consulting: If you are part of an organization who would benefit from a consultant who can work alongside your team(s) to improve Client Lifetime Value, an Omnipresent Marketing Strategy, and/or the overall Customer Experience, please book a call.

Stanley Case Study: How the Quencher H2.0 Tumbler Went Viral

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