Stanley shows why it pays to listen to new audiences

How this century-old brand became a viral darling. 

people waiting in line. Target had a lot of people waiting recently for Stanely tumblers.

You’ve probably already seen the fuss. The shopping craze that has customers clamoring and falling over (quite literally) for the red and bright pink Stanley tumblers on social media.

What’s causing some of these customers to also wait hours in line for these tumblers when they probably already have multiple drinkware options at home? One word: FOMO or the fear of missing out. More on that later.

Stanley, the popular tumbler that keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold, has gained some fan frenzy because it is not afraid to think outside of the (juice) box and customers appreciate it.

The brand, however, was not always known for being creative.

For decades, Stanley was known for its run-of-the-mill, ubiquitous army green thermos mainly marketed to blue-collar workers. Now the company has found major success connecting with a new demographic: women.

Stanley listened to what its newer female customer base had to say about improving its product, which changed everything.

Here’s what you can learn from their wins.

Connect with newer audiences

Three female co-owners operate The Buy Guide, a review site. They happen to love Stanley’s 40-oz Quencher. TBG posted about their Quencher fondness in 2017 on TBG’s Instagram page, made up of 178,000 mostly female followers between the ages of 25 and 45, according to a Retail Dive article. When the trio thought the product was being discontinued, they encouraged their followers to buy the Quencher and tell the company that they should keep it.

Stanley’s senior VP of Global Commerce Matt Navarro told Retail Dive that while the product wasn’t going away, “the tumbler wasn’t prioritized” then.

That quickly changed as the brand saw how much women liked the Quencher.

Now, Stanley’s social media platform and its website prominently display colorful Quenchers and heavily market to girlies, thanks to TBG.

The lesson? Listen to new audiences. The TBG team encouraged Stanley to expand its product offerings and appeal to more women. Stanley did that by revolutionizing its 40-oz Quencher, improving its visibility and adding a wide range of fun, popular colors. TBG also connected Stanley to affiliate marketing, which is an engagement win and opened the door to the brand working with more influencers and getting in front of their audiences. Stanley struck while the iron was hot. The brand took a chance on TBG’s savvy marketing suggestions to target women and get in on the affiliate marketing.


Prepare to Pivot

Not only did Stanley embrace their new audience segment but the brand took the ladies’ advice and changed how they marketed their products. Stanley went from describing its products as “occasional-use items” to positioning them across social media as everyday items that can complement customers’ aesthetics, according to Retail Dive. Don’t box yourself in with your product or messaging strategy. Try and experiment with new ways to angle what you say or what you sell, especially on social media.

Stanley did just that and took to social media to show fans how to use Stanley products beyond what it was originally known for in 1913.

The brand’s posts now encourage customers to use the Quenchers and its other drinkware to complement their style, lifestyle and even mood. They even give creative suggestions for how to use Stanley products like putting a mini carton of ice cream (mint for the win!) in a Stanley cup during the summer.

The brand’s decision to market itself to a newer customer base made the products more enticing and exciting. Now, buying a tumbler that fits one’s personality and style has become a big draw for the brand.

Beyond posting about the cool Quenchers, Stanley showed its heartfelt side when a customer’s vehicle was damaged in a fire last fall while a Stanley cup inside remained intact. Stanley’s President Terrence Reilly jumped into action and posted on TikTok about the brand wanting to buy a new vehicle for their customer and send her Stanley cups.

“We’ve never done this before and we’ll probably never do it again, but we’d love to replace your vehicle,” Reilly said adding that the customer should check her DMs for the details.

From the over 65,000 comments, one commenter in Ireland said that they didn’t know about Stanley until seeing the video and now they want to purchase one because of the brand’s generosity. Another said that they didn’t need or want a tumbler but they are buying one for others because of the video.

Reilly could have sent a bunch of Stanleys to the customer and called it a day. Or made a statement on their website about how Stanleys are reliable and nothing more. But Reilly put a human face to the brand and posted on social media how Stanley is there for its customers and its drinkware can take a beating. You may not be able to give a car away but find ways to connect with your consumers in unexpected ways where it fits.


Create some major FOMO 

CBS News reports that Stanley debuted two new Quencher products on Dec. 31 for its Galentine’s line, which is sold only at Target. On Jan. 3, Stanley also unveiled a Starbucks collab “Winter Pink” tumbler at Target, which is currently unavailable. This drinkware is sold in limited quantities to customers or households, which amplifies the FOMO feeling. Some products sold out online, which resulted in a mad dash for customers to snatch up their own Stanley before it’s too late. This led to “shopping mayhem,” according to CBS News.

Limited-edition products are serious FOMO bait and appeal to people’s innate desire to have the latest and greatest item before anyone else. Plus, who doesn’t love bragging rights?

“People want the scarcity and the exclusivity, but they want that because they like to show it off,” Clay Parnell, The Parker Avery Group president, told Modern Retail. “It kind of feeds off each other.”

No one wants to be left out. The product drop ahead of Valentine’s Day (forget the chocolate!) makes customers crave and want to have at least one of those popular colors in their hands before the holiday arrives.

To stay relevant, be willing to reinvent yourself or your product. Be open to audience feedback and look for opportunities to genuinely and creatively connect with customers. Dig deep and look for unique ways to surprise your audience, engage them and grow because of them too.

Hear more about connecting audiences on social media by joining us at Ragan’s Social Media Conference in Disney March 27-29!


Sherri Kolade is a writer and conference producer at Ragan Communications. She enjoys watching old films, reading and building an authentically curated life. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR/comms speaker in mind for one of Ragan’s events? Email her at


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