What’s your go-to container for your favorite beverage? Mug, bottle, insulated tumbler with a straw? Whatever it is, grab some water and settle in — today, we are taking a closer look at the phenomenon of the viral Stanley tumbler.
Marketers have a lot to learn from the success of this once-overlooked drink vessel. We used the Meltwater Suite to get the numbers on the cup everyone is talking about.
What is the Stanley cup?
Not to be confused with the hockey championship trophy of the same name, Stanley cups are stainless steel tumblers sold by the Stanley drinkware company. Formally known as the Quenchers, they first went on the market in 2016 but didn’t become big sellers until 2020, when they became a hit on social media. Two years later, they saw a 275% year-over-year increase in sales. Today, Stanley tumblers may very well be the most popular cup in the world — at least when it comes to online conversation.
Why do people love the Stanley cup?
The Stanley Quencher stands apart for being huge (it comes in 14-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and 64-ounce versions), highly insulated, extremely durable, having a handle and straw, and coming in a wide range of standard and limited-edition colorways. Together, those qualities make the cup an accessory to keep at hand all day.
How did the Stanley cup go viral?
The Stanley Quencher first became a trendy bestseller in 2022. That year, The Wall Street Journal, which deemed it “the new office status symbol,” reported that the company’s waitlist for the bottle was 150,000 customers long.
That success came after Stanely radically changed its marketing strategy. After seeing one shopping blog’s success in selling the cup to its female audience, the company pivoted from marketing the cup primarily to outdoors enthusiasts and workmen to targeting millennial and Gen-Z women. From there, sales took off, and the cup became part status symbol, part collector’s item.
Stanley then introduced a revamped version of the cup, the Quencher H2.0, in late 2022, paving the way for new levels of virality in 2023.
What does the Stanley cup online conversation look like?
We used our social listening and analytics solution to analyze the Stanley tumbler conversation from January 15, 2023, through January 15, 2024. Over those 12 months, mentions of the cup were almost 900% higher than those in the previous period.
As our analysis shows, online conversations about the cup spiked on November 17, 2023, at more than 20,600 mentions. This was largely thanks to an internet user who posted a video of her Stanley Quencher that survived a car fire. In the video, she revealed that the cup still had ice in it, a testament to its superior insulation.
Stanley responded in what was perhaps the best retail PR move of 2023 — offering to buy the woman a new car. The story spread across social media and was picked up by traditional media outlets in the United States and abroad.
As a result, “fire” became one of the top keywords in the overall conversation.
Mentions of the cup spiked again on December 28, 2023; that day, the top keyword in the Stanley conversation was “Crocs”.
This was due to a viral tweet that highlighted that the current Stanley CEO, who took the tumbler from the verge of discontinuation to retail success, previously worked at the footwear company.
Most recently, the conversation spiked on January 5, 2024, when Forbes, The Washington Post, and The New York Times all published articles about the Stanley phenomenon on the heels of the company’s viral collaboration with Starbucks.
The special-edition “Galentine’s Collection” of tumblers launched in Target stores on January 4, prompting fans to camp outside of the retail locations — and even tussle with each other — for a chance to buy the $49.95 cups. As a result, mentions of Starbucks in the Stanley tumblers conversation increased by more than 800% compared to the previous two weeks.
How do people feel about Stanley cups?
Stanley cups have a large and enthusiastic following, but our analysis shows that the sentiment of the overall conversation is mixed.
One of the most engaged positive mentions came from this viral Reddit post showing a girl crying and hugging her father after receiving one of the tumblers as a gift.
Meanwhile, one of the most-engaged negative mentions also came from Reddit via a post from someone who doesn’t understand what the hype is all about.
As our AI-powered content clusters tool identified, Stanley cup-related incidents of school bullying, as well as injuries related to the Target launch, have also contributed to negative sentiment about the product and the craze surrounding it.
What can marketers learn from the Stanley cup craze?
First and foremost, the rise of the Stanley cup shows that brands see success when they follow the lead of their audiences. Had the company continued to pursue the outdoors segment instead of millennial and Gen-Z women, we wouldn’t be talking about it today.
Next, the success of Stanley cups shows just how crucial social media is to attracting attention and building an aesthetic around a product. Partnering with influencers and celebrities who highlighted the cup as a lifestyle product rather than a strictly utilitarian one was key to its success. For example, our analysis shows that mentions of #ad in the Stanley cups conversation from January 15, 2023, through January 15, 2024, were 4,480% higher than those during the previous 12 months. (That random car fire helped, too!)
The brand’s partnership with country star Lainey Wilson has proved particularly successful, with a recent collaborative Instagram post racking up more than 131,000 likes.
If you’re looking for a Stanley cup-like boost to your bottom line, start by using social and media intelligence to see where your audiences are and how they are connecting with your brand. See how the Meltwater Suite can take the guesswork out of your marketing by scheduling a demo today.