The Viral Success of Stanley®: Key Takeaways for Small Businesses
Stanley® brand marketing

It’s not exactly a well-kept secret: innovative marketing and business strategies—coupled with captivating brand narratives—can drive enormous success.

It’s also not exactly easy to pull off. Definitely easier said than done…

So, when a brand like Stanley® comes along and absolutely nails it, it’s important to learn everything we can from their success.

A modest brand with a rich history, Stanley has succeeded in accomplishing what most brands only dream of: they’ve repositioned themselves and stepped boldly into a new market position, becoming one of the bestselling tumbler brands on the market—and giving their competitors a real run for their money.

Below, we outline Stanley’s strategy and translate their successes into small-business-sized insights that you can implement in your own marketing efforts.

The Stanley Legacy

Established in 1913, the Stanley brand name has been synonymous with durable, high-quality thermoses and drinkware for over a century. Cherished by blue-collar workers and outdoor enthusiasts, Stanley was (and still is) well-established and much-loved in its niche.

However, Stanley tumblers were being largely overlooked by consumers outside their niche markets. Facing steep competition in an increasingly convoluted market, Stanley was losing out to brands like Yeti, Hydro Flask, and RTIC—despite offering an arguably higher quality product. Recognizing the need to evolve, Stanley embarked on a journey to reposition their brand, and capture the market share they deserved.

How They Did It


Embracing Authenticity

Stanley recognized that their greatest asset was their authenticity and heritage. They tapped into the nostalgia and emotional connection that consumers had forged with their brand over the years. Instead of chasing trends or imitating competitors, Stanley stayed true to their core values: they embraced their unique story, and leveraged the trust they had built over decades.


A Refreshed, Innovative Design

Maintaining authenticity doesn’t mean your brand can’t also evolve with the times. Understanding the importance of staying relevant, Stanley invested in product design. Building off of their recognizable hunter-green-and-stainless-steel tumblers, Stanley introduced a range of new, vibrant colors and vintage-inspired design, and modernized their classic design to appeal to a broader consumer base. By combining their best-in-class features—incredible durability and unparalleled temperature control—with contemporary aesthetics, they struck a balance that resonated with their loyal customer base while attracting a new audience.


Leveraging User-Generated Content

Recognizing the power of user-generated content, Stanley encouraged their customers to share their experiences on social media using branded hashtags. This created a sense of community among Stanley enthusiasts, while amplifying the brand’s reach and presenting potential new customers with the social proof they needed to feel confident purchasing from Stanley.


Influencer Marketing at its Finest

Stanley actively collaborated with influential figures in the outdoor and adventure spaces, like COVL, Stephanie Tea, and Lainey Wilson. By teaming up with popular athletes, explorers, and outdoor enthusiasts, they harnessed the power of influencer marketing to reach wider audiences, and build trust through authentic endorsements.


A More Engaging Digital Presence

Stanley revamped its digital presence by creating an immersive and engaging online experience. They leveraged social media to share captivating stories, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and user-generated content. This digital transformation allowed them to connect directly with their customers, reinforcing customer loyalty and generating buzz amongst new consumers.


The Viral Moment

The culmination of Stanley’s reemergence came with an unexpected yet pleasant surprise: a video gone viral. The video, which showcased a Stanley tumbler surviving a fall from a moving car, underscored the exceptional durability of their products and cemented the brand’s reputation. This video spread rapidly across social media, resulting in an exponential increase in brand awareness and sales.

Small Business Takeaways

You don’t need to have Stanley’s budget and manpower to pull off a successful marketing program. Here are some key takeaways that businesses of any size can benefit from implementing:


Use your core values to connect with consumers.

Your core values are the cornerstones of your business because they mean something to you. Well, chances are they mean something to your customers, too. What better foundation to build a relationship on? Stanley leaned into their heritage and stayed true to their roots—and that authenticity fostered loyalty amongst existing customers and attracted new customers altogether.


Lean into your strengths.

What separates a Stanley tumbler from a Yeti, or a Hydro Flask? Their nostalgic style (though, if you ask us, we also think Stanley makes a better product—but maybe we’re just loyalists). Stanley didn’t chase design trends. They simply updated their classic design with new colors and patterns to appeal to a broader audience. How can you update or expand your core offering to reach a wider audience? Or, how can you tell a more compelling story about the products or services you provide?


Be excellent at what you do.

Marketing will only take you so far. If your product doesn’t stand up against the competition—or if it doesn’t stand up at all—the best marketing in the world won’t save you.


Leverage the power of social media.

Stanley encouraged customers to share about their experience on social media using branded hashtags. To support all the “social proof” they were collecting from social media users, Stanley also revamped its social media presence to tell more compelling stories. What can your business do to get customers talking on social media? What stories can you tell to better connect with social media users on an emotional level?


Creative viral-worthy videos.

Let us be clear: don’t TRY to create a viral video. Most attempts to go viral feel forced and unnatural, and ultimately fail. Stanley’s video went viral due to the “wow factor” of one of their tumblers surviving a fall from a moving car. What are your brand’s “wow factors?” Showcase those stories in YouTube videos, YouTube Shorts, Instagram and Facebook reels, and on TikTok. What are the chances that your video will go viral? Slim. But viral or not, video content is proven to be more engaging on social media platforms, and more influential during the decision-making process.

Stanley’s story shows that old dogs can not only learn—but absolutely master—new tricks, and your business can do the same. Embrace your core values, lean into your strengths, leverage the power of social media marketing, and get your brand into the video marketing game. By crafting compelling narratives and connecting with consumers on a deeper level, any company can achieve viral success and secure a prominent position in the market.

Designing, implementing, and managing an effective marketing strategy takes time, energy, and effort…but that’s what we do best! Let us lean into our greatest strengths for the benefit of your business. Contact us today to learn how we can help you do more of whatever it is you do.

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Written by Anna Lofstrom

Hi there! My name is Anna and I am a digital marketer & social media strategist. I'm passionate about leveraging the unique power of social media to help businesses thrive. When I'm not working, you can usually find me traveling & exploring new places, enjoying some paddleboarding, going for bike rides, getting lost in a good book, or taking leisurely walks in nature trails/cape cod beaches with my awesome German Shepherd pup.

August 6, 2023

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