The Fascinating Comeback Story Of Stanley Drinkware

If you've spent any time on social media in recent years, then chances are, you've come across some post that features the Stanley cup — not the hockey trophy but the influencer favorite tumbler that comes in a wide array of colors. On TikTok, the #StanleyTumbler hashtag has been viewed nearly 1 billion times. And sure, TikTok trends come and go, but when you consider Stanley drinkware's background, its recent comeback, for however long it lasts, is a truly fascinating story.

Founded in 1913 by William Stanley Jr., who invented the all-steel vacuum bottle, Stanley sold products mainly to outdoorsmen and workmen for most of its history. In 2016, they introduced the Quencher, a stainless-steel tumbler in different sizes from 14-ounce to 64-ounce. The 40-ounce version caught the attention of the founders of The Buy Guide, which recommended it in 2017. By 2019, it was becoming difficult to find the Quencher because the company stopped prioritizing the product, as it explained to Retail Dive. That's when the women behind The Buy Guide took a bold step that changed the course of their and Stanley's future.

A quick pivot

As The Buy Guide recounts on their blog, they approached Stanley in 2019 about changing the focus of the Quencher to "an everyday item instead of a camping item" and to market to women. New to social media marketing, Stanley wasn't convinced, but the company changed its mind when The Buy Guide was able to sell out its first 5,000-cup wholesale order within days and a second order within an hour, per Retail Dive. Stanley then pivoted its strategy to resell the Quencher online, started producing them in different colors and finishes, started marketing to women, and created an affiliate program of "women selling to women." And the rest is history.

The company also fully embraced social media — when Danielle Lettering posted on TikTok that her Stanley Quencher was the only thing that survived a car fire intact (and still had ice in it), the company responded and offered to buy her a new car (along with some new Quenchers), which won it accolades from existing fans and earned it new fans. 

By 2020, the Quencher became Stanley's top-selling product, according to data reviewed by CNBC Make It, which also projects the company's 2023 sales to exceed $750 million, compared to just $73 million in 2019. It helps that Stanley makes good products that are "built for life." But what has really turned the company around was its willingness to pivot quickly and to embrace social media and a new audience, with the proof in its stellar results.