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What’s with the Stanley Cups craze?

You’ve heard of an emotional support animal, sure. But why are people all around North America suddenly talking about an “emotional support water bottle”? Is the Stanley cup really the last word in personal hydration – or is this just a sippy cup for adults?

TikTokkers. momfluencers. gym bunnies. corporate girlies. They all have one thing in common: their absolute devotion to the Stanley cup.

Even if you’ve never seen a Stanley in person, you’ve no doubt seen at least one video about it online – whether it was an influencer raving over the new colour range that dropped at her local store, or a video of some dad making fun of his wife’s obsession with her oversized water bottle.

I don’t use the word “obsession” here lightly either. Some members of the church of Stanley are so dedicated to these products that they are erecting “Stanley displays” in their kitchens to show off their collections.

Right at the start of the year, a 23-year-old woman in the US was arrested for allegedly stealing 65 Stanley cups worth a total of about $2300. Following her arrest, the police issued a plea to the public: “While Stanley Quenchers are all the rage, we strongly advise against turning to crime to fulfil your hydration habits.”

So, why are we so thirsty for Stanley cups all of a sudden?

It’s hard to keep a good brand down, and the clever folks at Stanley know this. Having celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2023, this old dog learned a new trick just in time to meet an upsurge in demand for health-focused products post-pandemic.

The brand’s founder, welder William Stanley Jr, was somewhat of a pioneer amongst blue collar workers when he invented his “Unbreakable Stanley Bottle” in 1913. Back then, most insulated bottles and flasks had a glass lining, meaning that one accidental knock on a factory floor, workroom or construction site would render a bottle obsolete.

Stanley’s bottles featured a stainless steel lining, which not only made them tougher, but paved the way to more hygienic drink consumption.

Stanley remained popular with factory and construction workers, and eventually managed a seamless transition into the camping trend, which unlocked the leisure side of the market. But it’s the way that they captured the attention of social media influencers that will probably go down in history as a business masterclass.

Back with a bang

The sudden surge in the popularity of the Stanley cup can be attributed to the efforts of Ashlee LeSueur, Taylor Cannon, and Linley Hutchinson. This trio of close friends serve as the masterminds behind The Buy Guide, an e-commerce blog offering product recommendations for various aspects of the modern woman’s life.

The Stanley cup was among the initial recommendations on their site and gained traction within their modest following. However, in 2019, Stanley announced that they would discontinue the Quencher cup – the same product that The Buy Guide had been promoting.

Since Stanley was inactive on social media at that stage, they were completely unaware of the renewed interest in the Quencher until the girls from The Buy Guide reached out to them, begging them to keep the product alive.

The turning point came when a new mom and influencer, who had previously purchased the cup through The Buy Guide, shared a photo on her Instagram story. She praised the cup for its utility in staying hydrated during childbirth and while caring for her baby.

This endorsement breathed new life into the Stanley Quencher and proved beneficial for the Stanley company at large. Recognising the untapped potential in Instagram marketing, Stanley collaborated with The Buy Guide in 2020. The strategic alliance aimed to leverage the product’s appeal among women in particular. As The Buy Guide team stated, “We knew if women could sell this cup to women, it would be a winner.”

Their intuition proved correct. Stanley redesigned their Quencher cup in a series of candy colours and successfully reached the female market, even dedicating a section on the front page of their website to the Stanley Quencher.

Now everybody wants a sip

Just like the latest skincare crazes that have every pre-teen buzzing, the Stanley cup has become the “must-have” item for everybody from moms to college students to young girls.

TikTok is flooded with videos of 11-year-olds shedding happy tears on Christmas morning as they unwrap this prized possession. Having a Stanley instantly upgrades your cool factor – an unexpected outcome for what is basically a fancy water bottle.

All of this is great for Stanley, of course, and they’ve certainly leaned into their success. Their Quencher comes in 11 standard colours, with an array of occasional limited-edition releases that help to drive hype. Priced between $20 and $45 each (size dependent), they aren’t exactly cheap – but that hasn’t stopped fans from stocking up on multiple colours and sizes and even buying keychain-like accessories to glam up their bottles.

Of course the proof is in the profit, where the effect of Stanleymania is clear to see. Next time you wonder if influencer marketing is effective, remind yourself that Stanley’s annual sales reportedly jumped from $75-million to $750-million in 2023 alone.

How long can it stay hot?

One of the selling points of the Stanley Quencher is that it can keep beverages hot for seven hours. How long will they be able to do the same for demand?

At present, about 110 000 people are signed up to Stanley’s restock notification list for out-of-stock products. As anybody with experience in the markets will tell you: it’s simply impossible for that demand to last.

At some point, the bubble will burst, and the same stores that are seeing moshpits erupt around their new Stanley stock drops will be selling surplus stock out of bargain bins.

Perhaps it is a mark of the human condition, our herd mentality and our fear of missing out that drives us to hype products like the Stanley cup into these dizzying heights.

Stanley isn’t a listed company (imagine what that chart would look like if it was!) but if it was, I reckon this would be the time when investment analysts would start looking at it with a sceptical eye. Will the comedown be a gradual taper as people lose interest and influencers move on to fresher pastures, or will it be a sudden drop on the heels of some scandal? Only time will tell.


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