Founded in 1913, the Stanley company has sold steel-insulated mugs for more than a century, operating for much of that time as a niche brand with a small but loyal customer base. Over the last few years, however, Stanley tumblers have become ubiquitous products thanks to the company’s canny use of social media. Their brightest moment in the spotlight happened last November when a TikTok user posted a video showing how her Stanley mug survived a car fire with the ice intact. The video has 95 million views and counting, a gigantic viewership that Stanley was quick to capitalize on: not only did the company send the TikTok user more mugs, they also replaced her car.
Stanley has also established partnerships with entertainers and influencers for limited-run items, such as a pink and green tumbler with country musician Lainey Wilson that sold out in 11 minutes. The company has plans to become one of the country’s biggest lifestyle brands by continuing to expand its online presence among potential consumers. Experts say that Stanley’s rapid growth demonstrates the benefits of introducing established products to new audiences through social media marketing. In the 2010s, for instance, lifestyle brands like Casper and Parachute used the Internet to make everyday home items like mattresses seem hip and cool, but they frequently ran into problems with quality. Stanley, on the other hand, has a time-tested product line that has gained a new mystique thanks largely to TikTok.
Of course, fans on social media can be fickle folks, and there is no guarantee that Stanley will remain TikTok’s favorite product in the long term. Along with facing increasing competition from brands like Owala, Stanley has also encountered some Internet backlash from the same audience that first championed it. In recent weeks, discussions on platforms like Reddit, Instagram, and even TikTok have centered on the lead content in Stanley’s tumblers, which the company uses for vacuum insulation. Although consumers are almost certainly in no danger of lead poisoning from the mugs, experts and fans alike are upset that the company would use toxic materials in the first place. “I’m really disheartened and sort of angry that a company like this uses a known toxic ingredient that is banned in many applications for a cup,” said Dr. Jack Caravanos, a professor of public health at New York University. “I mean, surely there could have been an alternative.”
- How did Stanley use social media to introduce its tumblers to a new audience?
- Do you think Stanley will continue to be successful in the long term? Why or why not?
Sources: Kyle Chayka, “How the Stanley Cup Went Viral,” The New Yorker, January 30, 2024; Sopan Deb, “A Lead Scare Strikes Stanley Tumblers, but You Don’t Need to Worry,” The New York Times, January 30, 2024.