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How the Stanley Cup Became an Overnight Success

How much of the success of a brand depends on the name? We have been attempting to answer this question for decades, and the answer isn’t simple. One thing that is certain is that hydration could not be more popular right now, particularly with young women and their infatuation with Stanley tumblers. The recent Stanley craze that’s propelled rushes to Target and fights between women begs the question, how did a century-old brand with a stodgy masculine name turn into an overnight success with young women? And how much does the Stanley name have to do with it? 

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Stanley’s Renaissance: A Tale of Resilience and Reinvention 

In the competitive realm of outdoor brands, Stanley’s journey from a declining market position in 2019 to a thriving resurgence is a testament to strategic innovation and adaptability. Traditionally known for rugged outdoor products tailored to a male audience, the brand experienced a significant dip in sales, leading to its removal from shelves. However, rather than succumbing to the challenge, Stanley orchestrated a remarkable rebranding strategy that not only revived its fortunes but propelled it to new heights. 

Historical Background  

Stanley’s roots as a symbol of durability and strength in the outdoor recreation world, particularly among men, date back to its inception. The iconic army green Thermos became synonymous with the brand, emphasizing its rugged and practical image. 

Rebranding for a New Audience  

 Recognizing the need for reinvention, Stanley made a strategic decision to shift its focus to a previously untapped market – young women. Departing from its traditional male-oriented branding, the brand embraced a fresh identity to appeal to a more diverse demographic. 

Strategies for Success  

Central to Stanley’s triumphant comeback was the implementation of influencer marketing. Leveraging the power of social media influencers, particularly on platforms like Instagram, played a pivotal role in reshaping the brand’s image and expanding its reach. 

Scarcity and Limited Editions  

A key element of Stanley’s rebranding success was the strategic use of scarcity. Introducing limited edition products and collectibles created a sense of exclusivity, fueling consumer interest and driving sales. This approach effectively capitalized on the psychological phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). 

Adapting to New Preferences  

Rather than compromise on its core values of durability and quality, Stanley underwent stylistic changes. The introduction of new colors, design details, and convenient features made the products more appealing to the evolving preferences of the target audience. 

Comparisons and Market Growth 

Comparisons with competitors, notably Yeti, highlight Stanley’s impressive growth in the market. While brand names may have inherent connotations, the success lies in the meticulous branding strategies, including influencer collaborations and product adaptations. 

Navigating Brand Image and Positioning  

The podcast discussion delves into the considerations of whether the brand name “Stanley” aligns with its newfound target audience. Acknowledging the complexities of brand image and positioning, the brand successfully redefined its identity without compromising its historical legacy. 


Stanley’s renaissance serves as a beacon for brands navigating the ever-changing currents of consumer preferences. The success lies not just in a name but in a strategic fusion of innovative marketing, influencer collaborations, product adaptations, and an astute understanding of evolving market dynamics. As Stanley continues to carve its path, it stands as a testament to the resilience and reinvention that can revive even the most established brands in the modern marketplace. 



Megan Dzialo (00:04): 

Okay, well, good morning. Happy Tuesday. I have Mike and Ashley with me as always this morning, and I want to start off by asking an important question. It’s especially important in January when everyone is focused on their health, ideally and New Year’s resolutions, except for when the Girl Scouts come around. Has anybody gotten solicitation from Girl Scouts yet? I have this morning, which is going to, oh my gosh, all of my New Year’s resolutions. That’s a whole side story. 

Ashley Elliott (00:31): 

Oh yeah. They timed that perfectly. 

Megan Dzialo (00:33): 

Yeah. Yeah. So I want to know how much water should you drink every day? What is the answer? 

Ashley Elliott (00:40): 

Isn’t it half your weight and ounces at least ? 

Megan Dzialo (00:44): 

That’s what I’ve heard too. Is that right? Mike? You’re a health guru. Do you have a different answer for that? 

Mike Carr (00:49): 

Well, the hardcore guys that work out in gals tend to carry their 128 ounce, which is a full gallon. I don’t think they weigh twice in 128 or 256 pounds. So I think they’re overdoing it. I think half a gallon is probably what a lot of folks suggest. So 64 ounces. So that’s half probably of what a lot of gals weigh, probably a little bit less. And I think it depends on what you’re doing, right? If it’s a hot summer day and you’re out there running and jogging a lot, then certainly you’d want to go on the high end of that. So I think you do want to stay hydrated. How much, I don’t know. 

Ashley Elliott (01:28): 

I have a question. How many ounces do you both typically drink a day? Do you even measure? 

Megan Dzialo (01:35): 

I am not hitting anywhere close to what either one of us or either one of you guys mentioned. I drink coffee and tea. 

Ashley Elliott (01:45): 

Water’s, water in those. 

Megan Dzialo (01:47): 

There’s water in those. I definitely need to up my water game. That’s all I can say. 

Ashley Elliott (01:53): 

How much do you drink? I’m curious. 

Megan Dzialo (01:55): 

I don’t know. What about you, Mike? 

Mike Carr (01:57): 

I probably do 64 ounces a day. I probably between coffee and water and a zip fizz, which I personally like a lot, I probably get up there. 

Megan Dzialo (02:09): 

Okay, so you’re counting those things as water. I like that. Okay. So hydration has never been more popular than it is right now, especially if you are a genzer or a millennial and even more specifically female, you’ve likely heard of or bought into the Stanley Tumblr craze. It’s been going on for really a couple of years now, but it seems to only be gaining more and more traction. So Mike and Ashley, do you know what I’m talking about and how familiar are you guys with the Stanley Cups or do you own a Stanley Cup? 

Mike Carr (02:40): 

I had never heard of Stanley Cups until you brought it up. So I’m very out of touch with this new craze, so I’m not the one to be talking to. 

Ashley Elliott (02:50): 

Okay. I have a lot of random cups, just a lot of tumblers in my life from over the years. We in cheer world also love having a lot of tumblers with our names on them and different colors, and this is not even the full gamut, but for Christmas this year, it wasn’t even on my wishlist. I did, I get, 

Megan Dzialo (03:16): 

Oh, there it is. 

Ashley Elliott (03:16): 

A little Stanley with a straw. 

Megan Dzialo (03:18): 

There it is. In all of its glory. 

Ashley Elliott (03:19): 

It is, and it is convenient. It fits in your cup holder. It has a handle. I mean, I don’t know what more you could ask for in a Stanley. So yes, I’m familiar now. Now I’m a fan. 

Megan Dzialo (03:29): 

Great. You’re going to be helpful in this. Okay, so I want to discuss the story of Stanley because it’s really this incredible example of a dying brand that made this incredible comeback through targeting a completely different demographic than the company was used to. And they did it without changing their name, but through some very strategic research and brand repositioning as we like to call it. So I want to start by giving a little bit of background on Stanley and where it started and what it has become. I’m pulling most of my information from an article, which I’ll link in our blog. It’s titled “Four Ways Stanley 10 Xed Its Revenue in just four Years by rebranding a Failing Product.” So Stanley is not a new brand. It’s been around for a while. I didn’t know this. It’s historically been a practical outdoors. Maybe you knew this, Ashley. 


It’s been this practical outdoors brand that focused on male audiences who were outdoors men and craftsmen, kind of to their core. The original Stanley Thermos is this masculine army green color, and it was this symbol of durability and strength and reliability in the outdoor recreation world. But in 2019, sales were so low, high puppy sales were so low that Stanley was actually pulled from the shelves. And that was not that long ago, 2019. And so in just a few years, it really did make this huge comeback. And so we’re going to talk about the four things that this article pulls out that Stanley did that contributed to this huge comeback in success. It took them from 70 million to 750 million in just a few years. So I want to talk about, 

Ashley Elliott (05:04): 

Well, I just wanted to say I’m from the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, so we hunt all the time, and that’s the big thermos that you would have where you can pour it in. That’s the first time I ever thought or knew what a thermos was. It was this huge Stanley thing, and it wasn’t a handle like this. It was like a chained handle that clunked a little bit. Every time you used it. It did keep things really cold. Although I didn’t drink coffee when my dad went hunting with me, I was probably like seven or eight. So that wasn’t a thing that I even knew. I thought you maybe put soup in it, I don’t know. But it was definitely camping, which I think is ironic now that people are camping out to get the new version of the Stanley. So take us away, Megan. Tell me more. 

Megan Dzialo (05:43): 

Okay, so that’s great that you have that background. So now what Stanley did is instead of targeting that male audience that you were discussing, they’re now targeting this new untapped audience for them, which is young women. And essentially what they learned, and maybe you guys have heard of this, I haven’t, there’s a blog called The Buy Guide. Do you know about this, Ashley? So basically the buy guide was apparently a huge fan of Stanley and they had featured a Stanley mug or cup or whatever on the buy guide. And women are mainly the audience of this blog. And just every time they featured it, women were just grabbing these Stanley’s and they realized, oh, we’ve never tried targeting women before. We’re a dying brand. Let’s try that. Let’s completely reposition our brand and let’s target young women. And I’m curious what you guys think, because I’ve thought about this a lot, the brand name Stanley, my first thought was, well, you got to rename Stanley. That’s not going to work for women. Clearly I’m wrong about that. So I’d love your thoughts Mike and Ashley on that brand name Stanley and their new target of women. 

Mike Carr (06:47): 

Ashley, you want to start? 

Ashley Elliott (06:50): 

I mean, Stanley, I don’t even know a person named Stanley personally, but it does inherently not feel like a name I would gravitate towards. I mean, there are so many other names that I feel could be a little bit less skewed one way or the other. You think of Yeti, you think of Cody, you think of those. And I think, okay, that could be a girl’s name for Cody type things. Yeti just feels like it doesn’t lean one way or the other in my opinion. But I feel like Stanley is like, that’s a brand, that’s a man’s brand, and especially with the history that they have. So I am curious why they didn’t rename that specific. 

Mike Carr (07:27): 

And since this is a podcast about using AI for naming, I just entered in the question to chat. GPT is Stanley a good brand name for women? And so it has a variety of answers here. One of the answers I thought was interesting is Stanley is traditionally associated with durable outdoor and work-related products like Thermos coolers and tools. If the brand were to extend to women’s products in similar categories like outdoor gear, rugged lifestyle items, the name could carry over well due to its established reputation for durability and quality. So that is what our AI partner thinks. My personal opinion is this was all the result of some great marketing given the trend. You go back to 1913, whenever Stanley was founded and it’s been a guy’s brand, it never had the kind of breakthrough awareness that this new thing has done. It was taken off the shelves at one point. 


But one of the cool things I think that they did is what names they added to Stanley. So some folks don’t call it Stanley, they call it the actual name is the Quencher, the Stanley Quencher, H2O Blow State Tumblr. Well, that’s a mouthful, right? No one’s going to call it the Stanley Cher H2O Flow State Tumblr. So you’re going to shorten it. And some folks shorten it, Stanley. And I think the brilliant branding that they’ve done is they’ve refreshed what Stanley means by coupling it with names that do resonate with a benefit that would appeal to the gals or a state of mind. So you think about, okay, quencher H2O, no, I need to stay hydrated, need to quench my thirst throughout the day or flow state, right? I want to maintain flow. I mean, I doubt any guy would say they use Stanley to maintain flow, but sure enough they’ve got that worked into their name now. So I think it’s been the result of some brilliant branding and some ancillary names that they’ve attached to it. 

Megan Dzialo (09:41): 

Yeah, I would agree with you. And I think what was brilliant about that is they did not compromise on quality and what makes Stanley so great as you said, but they said, you know what? We can make some stylistic changes, we can change the colors, we can also add some new features. We can make it more appealing for women who are on the go or who are maybe in college in between classes or athletes or their moms and they have young kids and they want their kids to stay hydrated. And in general, women, a water bottle is more of an accessory, right? Yes, we want to stay hydrated, but it also is just something that kind of completes your look or your outfit for the day makes you can feel more confident. And as I was looking at some of these naming conventions that you were talking about, Mike, the ice flow bottle with the Flow state, Tumblr, those are very descriptive. 


And while descriptive isn’t exciting, I care a ton about what type of water bottle I’m going to be getting because I’m not an ice person at all. I like just no ice in my water. I don’t like ice hitting me in the face. That is my big, oh, I can’t handle that if it’s like I have to have a straw. I have to at least have a straw if there’s ice in there. And so when I see ice flow bottle, I’m like, oh no, no, no, I don’t want any ice flowing anywhere. I want the flow state. That’s exactly what I want. And because I care about the details. And so I do think there was brilliance even in that little more boring, descriptive naming. 

Ashley Elliott (11:04): 

Yeah, I mean, it’s crazy how I saw a Fisher-Price button, Tumblr, they have Fisher-Price, Stanley Tumblrs like a Baby Stanley, and I thought it was a joke, but you can really buy these. They have that. They have mini Stanley’s. They have bigger, I mean it’s across the gamut. 

Megan Dzialo (11:23): 

Moms are buying them for their kids. It’s really more so about the mom and like, oh, I want my kid to have a baby Stanley. 

Ashley Elliott (11:31): 

They have charms. I’m not quite there yet. I just have the actual cup. But they have charms, they have name tags that go on this. So you don’t get your Stanley confused with someone else’s Stanley. And they have little charms that go here that are initialized. And what I haven’t seen yet though is no one puts stickers that I’ve seen on it. Now, a lot of my young teenagers in the cheer world especially, they have stickers all it, but there are no stickers. You want to keep the Stanley as it is. You just add a bunch of things to it. There’s a tray that goes on the straw that has food. I mean, it’s a crazy thing. 

Mike Carr (12:03): 

The thing that I find so interesting is that Yeti, YETI is a shorter name than Stanley. They have a dominant or had a dominant market share in this space. I mean, they were the market leader with 16%, and Stanley has had this incredible growth. And so now all of a sudden Stanley is nipping at Yeti’s heels or maybe even they’re ahead of Yeti by now in terms of market share. I don’t think Yeti is a poorer name or a Crummier name than Stanley. Inherently, if you look at a lot of the things that we look at in terms of ease of pronunciation, length of the name, spell ability, I think it’s really what Stanley did with social media, with tapping into personal influencers, with getting endorsements from folks that young gals admire and aspire to be. I think that what they did with the name is really what turned Stanley into such a strong brand. 


And I think it’s important for anybody listening to this podcast, A name can get you part of the way to the finish line, but there are examples of some incredibly great names that have crashed and burned and some really awful names that have done incredibly well in spite of maybe the drawbacks of the name or because of the positives with the name. And so I think Stanley’s a great example to us would be an okay name, but not certainly something you targeted gals. But what they did with the new colors, the more hip vogue kind of marketing, all the personal influencers, all the social media build out have really turned that into something with this incredible fomo. And they talk about the lines at Target, the lines at Starbucks trying to buy this stuff. I can’t miss out. I’ve got to get one of these too. Part of that’s luck. But part of that’s because they were so smart in how they branded it 

Ashley Elliott (13:58): 

And the strategy of making a collectible edition of a specific color that’s only out for this Valentine’s daytime or only in collaboration with Target. And that’s how you make things. You create that craze behind it. I think that’s a great idea. 

Megan Dzialo (14:11): 

That’s exactly what this article was talking about as the third and fourth thing that Stanley did, which you guys have both mentioned is, and probably the single biggest thing was that they embraced influencer marketing. They found people that young women would pay attention to on Instagram, social media, and then they would end up going to bi Stanley. And that was probably the single biggest thing. But the one that I thought was so interesting is what you guys just brought up and the article talks about how they embraced scarcity and those limited edition products and how sometimes it’s easier to just mass produce one style or one kind, but by intentionally saying, oh, we’re only going to make so much of this kind and so much of this kind. It created that fomo where then everybody felt like they had to have it, whether they even probably even liked that limited edition or not. It’s like, well, it’s there and it may be gone and I need to grab it. And so really brilliant and just ridiculous at the same time. And I am going to buy a Stanley after this. I’ve already been convinced. And so just in general, to wrap this up, Mike, I’d be interested to hear how do you know if you need to rename or just rebrand? And I know that’s a big question that entails a lot, but what are your thoughts on that? 

Mike Carr (15:20): 

Well, and again, going back to ai, I’m looking at some of chat GPTs comments regarding the Stanley name, and they’re pretty generic. And I think this is the problem in relying too heavily on AI when it comes to strategic decisions and whether or not you should keep a brand or rename a brand. It just sort of regurgitates common thinking out there, like brand image and positioning. Well, if Stanley’s brand image aligns with qualities valued in women’s market segment, it targets, then Stanley could be a good fit. Well, so what? That doesn’t really help you make a decision market and brand positioning. So chat e PT says, effective marketing and brand positioning can make a significant difference. Duh. If Stanley positions its women’s products with an understanding of the specific needs and preferences of women and markets them effectively, the brand name could resonate well in this new segment. 


There’s not a lot of insight or help there. And this is where I think it does pay to strategically evaluate what’s the equity in the name, how do you think it might resonate with women? Do some testing. We test all the time. We had a conversation right before this podcast this morning with a very large chain of QSRs, quick serve restaurants, and they’re, we’re going to be doing some testing for them to try to figure out which names resonate with their targeted consumer. And that shares a lot. If you sort of test well, the Stanley name with different mockups, different concepts, and you get some re oh, this is sort of cool, right? Or you dive into the data you already have that, Hey, every time we put these things out there, believe it or not, women are buying this thing even though it’s targeted guys. 


So there’s some insights there from existing data. They already have house in-house, and then you supplement that existing data with some external research to sort of test some new concepts, not in a vacuum. So you can’t just test the name, you sort of have to wrap around it. Some of the stuff that they’ve wrapped around it, whether it’s the social influencers, some of the endorsements that they’ve received, the new colors, the new look, it’s interesting that the features themselves, while they’re cool, I don’t think are nearly as important as some of the other things they’ve done with getting some folks that everyone knows on board and promoting it, right? The features are great, right? The fact that it holds 40 ounces, it’s got that great handle, Ashley, that you were talking about. It’s got the star or the straw. One of the things that I thought was so cool about it, and this to me is my biggest bugaboo as a guy is you can stick this thing in a dishwasher and wash it. 


So many of these therms, you stick ’em in a dishwasher and then all the outside sort of falls off. It flakes off. And no guy’s going to want to sit there and hand wash these thermos the gals. Maybe that’s okay, but guys just don’t want to do it. Well, the fact that they designed this so it is convenient, you can just throw it in the dishwasher. I think that to me is a pretty compelling feature. Yet that’s not probably the reason it was such a success. So going back to your question, Megan, I don’t think there’s an obvious answer to whether you keep the existing name or whether you go with a rebrand. I think you’ve got to look at the data you already have in house, maybe do some research, some name testing, research, think about how you’re going to market it, where you think you can gain the most traction. And for some situations it makes sense to keep it, and in other cases, nope. Let’s drop Stanley, and let’s go with a cooler hipper name like Yeti. Unfortunately, Yeti has not taken advantage of this Stanley has. 

Megan Dzialo (19:02): 

Well, and these are the types of conversations that we have with our clients all the time about brand strategy. Let’s look at your equity. Let’s look at where you want to go. Let’s look at maybe some untapped markets, because naming is more complicated, but we like to simplify it and streamline it. So if you want to talk about whether you should rebrand or whether you should rename, reach out. We’d love to talk to you. In the meantime, stay hydrated. Grab a Stanley, keep up your New Year’s resolution 

Mike Carr (19:27): 

With lots of ice. Lots of ice 

Megan Dzialo (19:30): 

And a straw. 

Ashley Elliott (19:31): 

Hey, I was going to say I was Stanley when Stanley wasn’t cool. That’s the new phrase for the old OG Stanley team. 

Megan Dzialo (19:38): 

You are the og. Love it. All right, we’ll see you guys next week. Bye guys. 


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