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When I first saw the phrase “Stanley cup” floating around Instagram, I thought it had something to do with hockey. After posting about it on my Instagram stories, I quickly got schooled. I got so many messages praising this cup, I struggled to respond to them all. Suddenly, it seemed like every influencer on my feed was talking about it.
“The Stanley Cup” or simply “the Cup” is an insulated, 40-ounce tumbler that has become so popular it’s now a phenomenon. After the company that makes it, Stanley, restocked the Cup on Monday, it sold out in under five hours. Company representatives wouldn’t specify how many had been sold, but they did share with me that 33,000 people had signed up for Stanley’s waiting list ahead of the drop. On eBay, the tumbler, which normally retails for $40, is being resold for up to $180.
How exactly did this happen? Like Carhartt beanies before it, Stanley, founded in 1913, has become the benefactor of an online fervor that began completely organically. In its case, it’s all thanks to one Instagram account.
The Buy Guide is run by three friends — Ashlee, Taylor, and Linley — and is dedicated to “purchases that make life a little better.” Their story with the Cup is simple: Ashlee bought it and just really liked it. She had tested a bunch of other water bottles and tumblers and “knew this was the best right away.”
“It just shows up and does its job,” she told me. “There isn’t another 40-ounce cup with a handle that is dishwasher safe on the market. There are a couple similar cups that are a bit smaller, but they’re just not nearly as pretty.” She added that some may think it’s silly, but she thinks it is worth spending a little bit more on something that looks nice.
Ashley gave one tumbler each to Taylor and Linley, and they both loved them, and would proselytize about them on their then-small account. Then, Stanley temporarily discontinued the cup in 2019. The women were devastated and set out to try to connect with someone at the company to convince them to bring it back.
The trio eventually reached a member of the Stanley public relations team through her personal Instagram account. Over the next several months, they worked closely with the company to advocate for the cup using influencer marketing. (I won’t rehash the whole story here, but you can read about it on their blog.)
“We advised Stanley to work on their site, join an affiliate platform, and that we would introduce them to an army of influencers who love the cup and would sell it to their followings,” the blog reads. “We told them our dreams for the cup were much bigger than we were alone. We asked them to give us the chance to show them what women selling to women looks like.”
Since then, the cup has skyrocketed in popularity. On Monday, the company introduced a new line of pastel colors. Obviously, it went well.
As you can imagine, the people at Stanley are stoked about the massive popularity of the Cup, which is called the Adventure Quencher on its website. Terence Reilly, Stanley’s global president, told me they are “thrilled.”
“We have a huge hit on our hands, thanks to the Buy Guide, thanks to influencers from all over and a huge word of mouth,” he said.
He promised me, and fans of the Cup, that Stanley is just getting started when it comes to leaning into the market of devotees of their product.
“We'll have several more drops of the Quencher in new colors,” he said. “And we're just so excited. It's really a fun time to surprise and delight so many consumers with this incredibly popular product.”
The power of influencer marketing is truly staggering, and companies who haven’t yet gotten on board with it should look to Stanley if they need any further convincing. But while I do marvel at that aspect of this story, I keep thinking about something else: the power of being an influencer.
Through their Instagram account, Ashlee, Taylor, and Linley have become savvy entrepreneurs, opening up a century-old company to an entirely new market segment. How else than through social media would this have ever been possible? It is only through the democratizing power of social media that these women, who aren’t working in some C-suite, are able to have this much influence.
It’s exciting, it’s impactful, and it’s important.