How Stanley Rediscovered Its Product Market Fit

In this article, SPRINT17 alum, Eric Rascon, shares a case study on how a mixture of TikTok virality, 'momfluencers', and FOMO effect — paved the way for a product's revival.

Eric Rascon
February 27, 2024

Stanley Quencher needs no introduction.

After years of HydroFlask leading the water bottle trend, Stanley has taken the throne. It's not just about taking the throne from HydroFlask; it has created a cult around water bottles like never before.

Although the obvious reason for its success seems to be Stanley's strategy of paying influencers to advertise their product, it's a bit deeper than that.

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Stanley was founded 111 years ago by William Stanley Jr, in 1913 [1]. The original Stanley bottle could be considered the originator of the steel water bottle. With that in mind, their main audience was blue-collar workers due to the bottle’s reputation for being unbreakable in harsh conditions.

To expand their audience, they decided to target outdoor adventurers, and their main audience has remained largely the same ever since: specifically, adult males who spend a lot of time outside for both work and personal use.

The prototype quencher only being available in two colors

In 2016, Stanley introduced a new product to their lineup, titled the Adventure Vacuum Quencher, the precursor to the now popular Stanley Quencher [2]. Though they now have a completely redesigned Stanley water bottle, their audience remains primarily adult males. In fact, the Stanley Vacuum was released initially only in black and silver.

An Unforeseen Audience

Fast forward to 2017, the Stanley Quencher was officially introduced into the market, yet their audience remained primarily adult males. Funny enough, the Stanley Quencher was beloved by three Utah mom influencers who run a blog/e-commerce recommendation site called “The Buy Guide”. With a strongly female-oriented audience, aged between 20 and 50, they shared the product on their website and Instagram page [3].

For various reasons, in 2019, Stanley decided to discontinue the Quencher from their website to focus on other markets. The ladies at The Buy Guide were so disappointed with this news that they even attempted to persuade Stanley to relist it. According to The Buy Guide, their female audience loved the product so much that they felt Stanley was dropping the ball time by ignoring this new audience [4].

That same year, The Buy Guide sent Emily Maynard, known for her time on The Bachelor, a Stanley Cup as a congratulations gift for her new baby. Maynard shared the cup on her Instagram Stories and mentioned The Buy Guide in that story. Lauren, a Stanley employee and fan of The Bachelor, saw the IG post.

After seeing the story, she reached out to The Buy Guide. The Buy Guide then placed a purchase order for 5,000 Stanley Cups and posted it on their website. Within 5 days, The Buy Guide community had bought all the cups! You would think with this newfound success Stanley finally sees the potential in a female audience. Stanley remained hesitant even as Lauren continued to advocate for The Buy Guide's success story.

A Changing of the Guard

In May 2020, Stanley hired Terrence Reilly as their new president. Before joining Stanley, Reilly was Chief Marketing Officer at Crocs, who was responsible for turning the hideous shoe into something that became mainstream and popular [5]. However, like Lauren, Reilly faced pushback for deviating away from Stanley's traditional audience and brand image [6].

The Google search for Stanley spiked right after the viral TikTok

In November 2023, shortly before Thanksgiving, a TikTok video with millions of views went viral after a woman shared that her car caught on fire but the Stanley bottle inside survived the fire and still had ice in it [7]. Promoting that the Quencher can survive harsh conditions just like the classic green bottle in blue-collar work. Terrence Reilly, Stanley's president, publicly responded to the video, offering the woman a new Stanley bottle and a brand new car [8].

This move significantly boosted the company's popularity by demonstrating their care for loyal customers. A simple Google search on the keyword “Stanley” shows how the incident escalated the company's visibility.

Stanley Revenue over the past 5 years

A New Era

Although water bottle trends come and go, the Stanley Quencher's success was no accident. It helped increase Stanley's revenue from $73 million in 2019 to $750 million in 2023 [9]. Their strategy was smart, knowing that the Quencher's customizable options would lead to more purchases.

Terrence Reilly noted that customers buying their custom Quenchers want them to complement their “fit-check”, and introducing limited edition bottles created a scarcity effect, enhancing the fear of missing out. Combining this with clever social media marketing, Stanley has found its new era of product-market fit.

We could all come up with all sorts of answers of what metrics Stanley used to track success, without a doubt, the most reliable metric has been word-of-mouth. In this case, that word-of-mouth metric transformed into a cult, with people fighting over limited-edition quenchers in stores [10].

Nonetheless, Stanley proved that you don't need to recreate the same product over and over to find success. Sometimes it's just finding the right audience [11].

Hi there. I’m Eric Rascon. I run Viable Paths, where I help companies with their strategy, execution and product development. Dropby and say hello I reply to every email.


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1. Youtube (1978) Aladdin's Stanley Thermos Commercial.

2. Web Archive (2017) Stanley Adventure Vacuum

3. Youtube (2024) Future Proof, Stanley Tumblers are PEAK Consumerism

4. The Buy Guide (2023) The Story Of The Cup.

5. Advertising Week (2023) Terence Reilly, Global President, Stanley

6. Youtube (2024) CreatorIQ, How Terence Reilly Skyrocketed Stanley's Revenue From $70M to $750M by Chasing Hearts Over Wallets

7. TikTok (2023) @danimariellettering

8. TikTok (2023) @stanleybrand

9. CNBC (2023) Lauren Shamo and Nicolas Vega. How a 40-ounce cup turned Stanley into a $750 million a year business

10. Youtube (2024) ABC7, New Stanley cups spark chaos at Target, selling out in minutes

11. Ibid.

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