The Stanley Water Bottle Craze, Explained
Amanda Mull, writing for the Atlantic about the internet’s fad du jour, the Stanley cup (the water bottle, not the hockey trophy):
How did Stanley, which has seen its annual revenue increase from $73 million in 2019 to a projected $750 million in 2023, become so popular, so quickly? Lots of very smart people have tried to reverse engineer an explanation to the Stanley mystery — why this cup, right now, out of all the zillions of insulated drinking vessels available to American shoppers? But the actual story here is more about the nature of trends themselves than about a cup. There is no real reason any of this happened, or at least no reason that will feel satisfying to you. Sometimes a cup is just a cup in the right place at the right time.
But actually, I think this video from Phil Edwards comes pretty close to nailing why these cups are hot right now: it’s got a lot to do with savvy marketing and the CEO Stanley brought in in 2020.
From a Harvard Business Review podcast with Stanley CEO Terence Reilly, who was formerly the CMO of Crocs:
TERENCE REILLY: Well, I didn’t do anything, we had an amazing team at Crocs, similar to Stanley. One day, Toria Roth, who was just fresh off of her internship at Crocs, she walked into my office, the CMO’s office, and she said, “Terence, do you have a minute?” And she showed me a photo of Post Malone wearing Crocs.
ALISON BEARD: And Post Malone is a very popular musician.
TERENCE REILLY: Absolutely. And he wasn’t wearing them with any sort of irony, he just was wearing them. And she said, “This could be something for Crocs.” And so, I reached out to the folks that manage Post Malone, and I said, “Hey, would you be interested in a partnership or a collaboration where Post could create his own Crocs?”
And a few months later, the first celebrity collaboration with Crocs was born. And I think it broke the Crocs website when they went live, we had more people waiting than we could handle. And obviously, that set the stage for multiple artists and brands over the following years to collaborate with Crocs.
I remember when Crocs suddenly (and confusingly) became cool — one summer, all of the campers at my kids’ summer camps were wearing them. The summer before that, well…”those holes are where your dignity leaks out”.
I watched Edwards’ video with my 14-year-old daughter (she saw it on my YouTube homepage and was like, “wait, what’s that?”) and we talked about it afterward. She has a Quencher that she bought a couple of months ago and when I asked her why she got it, she replied that it had been blowing up on TikTok. But, she also said that the Stanley is better than any of her other water bottles because of the straw — she actually uses it more because the straw is easier to drink from and doesn’t require any unscrewing or flip-topping or anything and can be done without actually picking up the cup.
I also told her about how cool teen trends spread when I was a kid growing up in the 80s in an isolated rural area. There was no internet and certainly no TikTok, so we’d end up getting trends months later than other parts of the country, after they were already trending downward. We’d usually hear about them from the TV news…Tom Brokaw or some local anchor on channel 4 telling us about Rubik’s Cubes or valley girls or hacky sacks or parachute pants. She thought that was hilarious: teens hearing from adults about what teens thought was cool. We had it so hard back in the day — our memes delivered by adults, weeks late!