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STANLEY’S PIVOT ‘FROM OUTDOORS TO FEMININE’

The 110-year-old brand unveiled a new product range and hosted a series of picnics at SXSW as part of its renewed focus on femininity.

By Jessica Heygate from Campaign US -The Information


(Photo credit: Stanley, used with permission)

Stanley 1913’s presence at South by Southwest this year encapsulated its pivot from a brand once synonymous with outdoor, working men to one specifically aimed at women, revered in particular by influencers and yoga enthusiasts.

The brand was founded in 1913 by Willian Stanley, who invented the all-steel, double-wall vacuum bottle. For about 100 years, it kept to its “hammertone” green thermos and lunch boxes, aiming to establish itself as a staple among campers and manual laborers.

“It started to become known as a men’s brand that you [would] see on a gift site,” said Jenn Reeves, VP, global brand strategy at Stanley 1913, during a SXSW talk on Saturday alongside agency partner GSD&M. “It kind of ended up in the dreaded fondly remembered brands.”

Reeves, who joined parent company PMI Worldwide in June 2022, has helped to steer a reinvention of the 110-year-old brand “from outdoors to feminine,” she described — a strategy which has included mobilizing women influencers and rolling out more than 30 colors of its popular Quencher cup.

“Women really sparked everything,” said Reeves. “So looking at a new consumer, bringing in colors…focusing on digital…all of those things helped to revitalize [the brand].”

The new strategy is being shepherded by an all-women marketing team.

The hashtag #StanleyTumbler has accumulated more than 1.4 billion views on TikTok. The brand’s online popularity is translating into hard sales; Stanley’s annual revenue was projected to have grown tenfold in four years — from $73 million in 2019 to $750 million in 2023. Stanley is the fourth most popular search term on Amazon — higher than toilet paper, according to Reeves.

Reeves demos the 40oz Quencher Carry-All on stage alongside Kate Rush Sheehy, SVP of strategy and insights at GSD&M. (Photo credit: Jessica Heygate)

The new products, which Reeves showcased on stage, include a bottle sling and two soft cooler bags — a “cooler cooler” that “reflects your style,” she described.

The way in which Stanley leans in to traditional feminine tropes, such as by featuring pink prominently, has earned it popularity among a specific subset of women — Reeves described seeing the cups take over her yoga studio, for example — while drawing flack from others.

Saturday Night Live poked fun at Stanley’s customers in a February skit called “Big Dumb Cups.” Reeves said the Stanley team “loved it” because it demonstrated the brand is “in the zeitgeist.”

“We take our products, we take our sustainability and we take our people seriously. But we don’t really take ourselves seriously. And when something like this happens, you just laugh,” she said.

Stanley’s surge in popularity has been driven in large part by influencers and brand collaborations, including a tie-up with country music star Lainey Wilson last year to create two limited-edition tumblers. These collaborations fly off the shelves; Wilson’s “Watermelon Moonshine” Quencher sold out in 11 minutes. The brand’s fastest sell-out so far has been eight minutes, Reeves said.

According to Reeves, the size of an influencer or celebrity’s social following does not factor into Stanley’s creator strategy. Instead, the brand prioritizes “people that are truly genuine fans of the brand.”

“It’s not about a formula where you’re looking at, ‘oh, you’ve got so many followers, so therefore we’re going to want a partner,’ because that to me is not authentic,” she said.

Her advice for brands seeking to emulate Stanley’s success on TikTok? “Don’t follow a playbook.”

“It’s really about being nimble and open. Don’t try to copy anybody, try to be really really original…don’t be afraid — you’re not really going to break the internet,” she said.

GSD&M is Stanley’s agency of record for TikTok.

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