A grand theft case in Northern California. The reason hundreds of people have camped outside of Targets across the country. A new status symbol in schools. The unlikely culprit? A 40-ounce water bottle.
The Stanley Quencher water bottle has been around since 2016 and the core demographic has been?blue-collared American men and outdoorsy types. But over the past few years, the Stanely cup has become one of the most popular water bottles in the country –in part, thanks to a few women who helped convince the company to start marketing to women.
Stanley, which has been in business for 100 years, first designed the Quencher model in 2016.?Then in 2019, the company halted production of the cup due to poor performance.
Ashlee LeSueur, 44, of Carlsbad, California; Taylor Cannon, 36, of Orem, Utah; and Lindley Hutchinson, 35, of Alpine, Utah — the founders and bloggers of an online market and product review website , The Buy Guide — were big fans of the product. They were disappointed upon hearing the the model was no longer going to be available.
“At the time [we had] kind of small, fledgling Instagram account. We got a lot of positive feedback [about the cups], and noticed we were able to sell them out through our links, even though they were small amounts,” said LeSueur, who is sisters with Cannon and cousins with Hutchinson.
The women at The Buy Guide, set out to do something about their beloved soon-to-be, phased out water bottles, which at the time retailed for $35.?They said they tried contacting Stanley and were eventually connected with Lauren Solomon, who at the time was a national account manager.
?They explained to Solomon just how much their followers — who were over 90 percent women — loved the Stanley cup for its functionality and design. LeSueur, who is a busy mom of three kids, pointed out it was perfect for women on the go; it fit neatly in her cupholder, the handle allowed her to hold many things at once, it stayed cold for days, and it was dishwasher safe.?The women also?sent a Stanley Quencher to influencer Emily Maynard (of “The Bachelor”), thinking she would enjoy it as a new mom. Maynard ended up posting about the product on her Instagram stories. But at the time, the Stanley Quencher was no longer in stock, according to LeSueur.
Nonetheless, Maynard’s interest in the cup caught Solomon’s attention. But she thought it would be tough convincing executives at the 100-year-old brand to start marketing to women for the first time. “I helped my colleagues understand the power of social marketing, and how female consumers drove purchase behavior — a new consideration for the brand after years of marketing to a mostly male audience,” said Solomon in a written statement.
“Lauren caught our vision immediately. But she was met with hesitancy and reluctance,” LeSueur shared. “She was our go between, and she would try to communicate to Stanley our interest in how we saw the potential of this cup. I think it’s totally justified at the time Stanley’s like ‘And who are they? And what are they saying?’ You know, they wanted to test the product, and they had no interest in changing their business strategy for that year or their manufacturing strategy for that year, because there were three Instagrammers who thought they should change it. You know, that wasn’t crazy.”
As a way to test their idea, Solomon proposed the trio buy 5,000 cups wholesale and sell them on their own. The women agreed and used all the money in their business account and supplemented with personal savings towards the purchase. In five days, they sold out. They bought another 5,000 cups, and this time, sold out in less than an hour.
“Lauren really thought outside of the box and was willing to talk to and pound down any doors she needed at Stanley to find a way to get the cup into the hands that it belonged in,” LeSueur explained.
In January of 2020, Solomon invited the women of The Buy Guide to speak to the executive team at a outdoor retail conference in Denver Colorado.
“It was the first step in their awakening to the millennial woman’s purchasing power and the power that demographic could bring to their company,” said LeSueur. According to the New York Times, the women at The Buy Guide were key in keeping the Quencher in stock.
The new idea called for a overhaul of their current marketing strategy. At the time, “Stanley wasn’t fully engaged in influencer marketing,” Soloman explained.?“Leadership made a strategic decision to put a concerted effort behind this product, including launching the Quencher in trendy, new colors and designs, as well as partnering with influential creators and tastemakers on social media.”
Since 2019, demand for The Quencher skyrocketed. In 2021, Stanley’s revenue almost doubled –thanks to sales from the cup --?from the year prior, according to CNBC.?And in 2022, sales doubled again (to $402 million).
“The general population could never possibly understand what Stanley has accomplished in the last three years,” LeSueur said. “The way that they have completely overhauled their manufacturing, their supply chain, their distribution, their direct-to-consumer website, and their whole presence. It’s been a complete overhaul to try to meet this massive demand. It’s incredible.”
The success of the water bottle has gone beyond just a highly reviewed product on social media. It lives organically on Tik Tok, YouTube, and Instagram in video trends like #WaterTok, Get Ready With Me, and Day In The Life Videos — trends dominated and watched by millennial and GenZ women offering a glimpse of their life with The Stanley Cup in hand.
Everyone from teachers, nurses, to celebrities have spoken highly about the cup, which has even made its way into middle schools, where students with “dupes” of The Stanley Quencher have been met with teasing.
According to LeSueur the cup isn’t simply about a hydration trend among preteens, GenZ and millennials. “They’re seeing this as an accessory, as a status symbol... It’s also a statement as to what I show to the world [about myself] every day when I choose to get dressed, and when I choose to take my water bottle.”
?Daniela Pierre-Bravo is a reporter for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a Know Your Value contributor. She is the co-author of “Earn It” with Mika Brzezinski. Her solo book, “’The Other: How to Own Your Power at Work as a Woman of Color,” is out now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram?@dpierrebravo