Digital Marketing Redux   //   January 5, 2024

Retailers like Target are jumping at the chance to collaborate with Stanley

In a TikTok video published on New Year’s Eve, customers swarm a display of pink and red 40 oz. Stanley H2.0 Flowstate Quencher tumblers at a Target. A voice, presumably that of a retail worker, can be heard saying, “Guys, they’re limited [to] two per guest.” The same frenzy occurred at stores across the country, where these particular Stanleys — exclusive to Target — sold out within minutes.

For months, media reports have tracked the fervor around Stanley and its viral tumblers. Stanley is not new — in fact, it’s 110 years old — but over the past few years, the company has managed to reinvent itself from a utilitarian thermos company to a go-to lifestyle brand. It’s done so by catering to an audience different from its typical base: women and influencers. “We’ve gotten younger and a lot more female in just the last two years,” Stanley global president Terence Reilly told Modern Retail in 2021.

Now, more companies are joining up with the brand for a piece of the profits. Just as Forever 21, Gap and Swoon rolled out “Barbie” collaborations last year, retailers and brands are clamoring to launch exclusive Stanley products.

In addition to Target’s new so-called “Galentine’s Day” collection — which includes the aforementioned Quencher, a two-pack of 10 oz. Everyday Go Tumblers and a 16 oz. Everyday Stacking Pint — Target is partnering with Stanley on tumblers in exclusive colors like “Target Red” and “Restful Green.”

Starbucks dropped its own pink limited-edition 40 oz. Stanley Quencher on Wednesday. It sold the item in shop-in-shops in select Targets, upping the scarcity factor. According to local media in Texas, some shoppers stood in line at 3 a.m. to be some of the first people to get the item. On Reddit, one user posted, “I work in the Starbucks in Target and our new launch is tomorrow — I can’t believe people are already lined up and it’s only 9 p.m.” Last November, Starbucks released a holiday-themed Stanley Quencher in red, and customers likewise camped out for that.

Meanwhile, Olay joined forces with Stanley in 2022 for a limited-edition “Blue Adventure” Quencher to promote its new skincare line. Even celebrities such as country star Lainey Wilson have debuted Stanley collections to appeal to fans.

Today, some of Stanley’s most popular products are its Quenchers, which come in a variety of sizes, colors and finishes. Stanley’s business is booming thanks to these. Over the past four years, its annual revenue went from $70 million to some $750 million, according to CNBC. As of early December, Stanley’s sales were up nearly 270% year-to-date across its website and retail channels, according to data supplied to Modern Retail.

Those who haven’t managed to get one of the limited-edition tumblers are turning to resale sites like eBay and StockX. But, they’ll have to pay a multiple; as of Thursday, the new Stanley x Starbucks tumblers went for triple digits on eBay. One listing, which had 37 bids, reached $305 by noon ET. Meanwhile, StockX sold 308 Stanley x Starbucks tumblers in three days. StockX carries dozens of other Stanley styles, too. The Stanley x Lainey Wilson “Watermelon Moonshine” Quencher last sold for $329.

Other companies are taking advantage of the tumbler craze. Brands such as Simple Modern, Ozark Trail, Corkcicle, Owala and Brumate have their own 40 oz. insulated tumblers that sell for cheaper than or about the same as Quenchers. Hydro Flask saw an increase in traffic to its website after soft-launching a new travel tumbler in June, its incoming CEO said in October.

In addition, “dupes” of Quenchers are on websites like Shein and Temu, where they retail for $5 to $8. Five Below carries a 40 oz. tumbler for $5.55, and Amazon and Etsy both carry Quencher-like products.

Videos about the new Stanley collaborations continue to take off on TikTok. As of Thursday, the hashtag #StanleyTarget had nearly 34 million views, while the hashtag #StanleyCup had 6.7 billion.

Clay Parnell, president at The Parker Avery Group, told Modern Retail that Stanley has soared as a brand, and “winners attract winners.”

“I do think that consumers are attracted to things they’re seeing on social media, and a collaboration of two strong brands is the same thing,” he said. Lainey Wilson, for example, launched her latest Stanley collaboration in November, days after she won the Country Music Association’s award for Entertainer of the Year.

When executed well, limited-edition collaborations can be a win-win for everyone involved, from brands to consumers, Parnell said. “People want the scarcity and the exclusivity, but they want that because they like to show it off,” he said. “It kind of feeds off each other.”