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How Social Turned the Stanley Cup into an Influencer Icon

STANLEY SALES HAVE BLOWN UP TO £750M. HOW DID WE GET HERE?

By Chiara Yeomans and Bella Hales

Wednesday, 31st of January 2024

Wisteria, Orchid, Lilac, Cloud, Tiger-Lily…@doesnttiktok kicks off. But this isn’t your typical baby name brainstorm; instead, this TikToker is actually naming all 120+ of her beloved Stanley Quenchers. Holli Silva is just one of the hundreds of women all over the globe proudly documenting their ever-expanding Stanley collections, and the craze doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. Just recently, a viral clip showing customers fighting to claim their very own exclusive Valentine’s Day Stanley Cup took over our TikTok FYP, sparking a whole conversation about consumerism and the sway of influencer marketing in the social media realm. 

But it didn’t start off so cute. Back in 2016, the Stanley 40oz Quencher model was introduced by the brand it wasn’t an instant hit. Traditionally, Stanley products were targeted at workmen, with the marketing being directed at those who enjoy outdoor activities like camping. In 2012, Stanley mentioned that its products resonated with “a 30-year career veteran policeman” and “a retired Army soldier.” 

That was until ✨social media✨ stepped in. Fast forward to 2023, and the #StanleyTumbler has over one billion views on TikTok and the tumbler found itself as now one of Gen Z’s most in-demand Christmas gifts. This newfound popularity among Gen Z and Millennial women certainly stands in stark contrast to the brand’s original target audience.

So, what happened to cause this shift? 

There are four things we accredit to this development, so let’s dive into them

@thefifthagency Read our new trendsetters piece ‘How Social Turned the Stanley Cup into an Influncer Icon’ to find out how Stanley got to this point✨✨ #stanleycup #thatgirl #agencytiktok #socialmediaagency #london #workhumour #officetok ♬ That Gworl - ADVNCE

INFLUENCER MARKETING

In 2017, the Stanley Cup had limited recognition among female Gen Z and Millennials. This was also around the time when influencer marketing really started to build momentum, which has since evolved into the thriving multi-billion-pound industry we are (very) familiar with today. 

The turning point came when the Stanley 40oz Quencher garnered organic exposure on The Buy Guide, a shopping blog by Linley Hutchinson, Ashley LeSueur, and Taylor Cannon. These influential women, avid fans of the product and genuine believers in its quality, gave it a glowing review and introduced it to their predominantly female audience. Despite being available in limited quantities on Amazon, every mention led to a swift sell-out, revealing the product’s unexpected popularity among millennial women—an untapped consumer group for the brand.

However, this success faced a setback when Stanley decided to discontinue selling the product altogether. Recognising its potential, the three women took matters into their own hands and started gifting mumfluencers on Instagram, and word-of-mouth quickly spread. Women loved the product and couldn’t get enough of it! The ladies behind The Buy Guide said  it took a while to convince the brand just how much spending power and influence Millennial women have on social media, but Stanley eventually took a leap of faith, and the rest is history.

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Despite Gen Z and Millennials being fairly educated on the future of our planet and the effects of unsustainable consumption, it seems the impact of social trends and the desire to fit in online are still having a huge impact on the way we shop. Stanley claims their productswill last a lifetime when properly cared for” with a #BuiltForLife ethos, yet consumers are purchasing multiple versions of the same cup in different colours and styles. In line with this ethos, consumers should only really need to buy up to two Stanley cups in their lifetime. So why do people feel so compelled to buy the newest version of a cup they already own? 

This is due to the way social media markets this cup towards Millennial and Gen Z audiences. The Stanley Cup is now positioned not just as a practical addition to our lives but as a symbol of an aspirational lifestyle. Priced at around £45, it stands higher in cost compared to similar products in the market. Considering the dynamics of social status, consumption trends, and the overarching influence of social media in selling a curated lifestyle, the Stanley Cup has seamlessly carved its niche. The frenzy around it taps into the fear of missing out, creating a sense that not having this product, not stocking up on the newest iteration and exclusive colour-way, means missing out on the lifestyle that it represents. 

Let’s look at @kaelimaee as a prime example of this. Kaeli’s whole presence on social media has been meticulously crafted around living an ‘aesthetic’ lifestyle. Just one glance at her specially curated TikTok feed, and you’re left feeling like you want to get your life together! She’s amassed 14.8M followers on the platform and, of course, the Stanley cup takes centre stage in many of her videos, implying that it’s not just a product, but a lifestyle essential, and that you too should buy one if you want to emulate the ‘perfect’ lifestyle depicted by Kaeli. 

Stanley caters for everyone, with nearly all of their products being customisable with either text, monograms or graphics – not to forget the 26 colours the quencher comes in. This level of customisability has garnered attention from the likes of Molly-Mae, who recently posted her nails matching her Stanley cup. An organic post of this nature is something hundreds of brands would pay a large sum of money for – so this really shows just how popular Stanley has become today!

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(Screen-shot taken from Molly-Mae’s Instagram Stories)

VIRAL MOMENTS

Stanley walked right into a dream PR scenario last November. @Danimarielettering, posted a now-viral TikTok video of the remnants of her car after a fire, where just her Stanley 40oz Quencher survived the flames. The water inside the cup was still ice cold. While Stanley’s whole ethos is built on being #BuiltForLife – which we wouldn’t say was a largely known tagline. This video led to over 95.2 MILLION people being enlightened about the product’s durability. TikTok’s largely younger audience now knew that Stanley was not only socially ‘cool’, with its varying models and colours to choose from, but actually a quality product that’s worth investing in.

“Your brand is your public identity, what you’re trusted for” Lisa Gansky (American entrepreneur and author)

The Stanley team really took advantage of this situation, showing just how much their social media strategy has evolved over the years. The president at Stanley, Terrance Riley, publicly sent Dani a whole new collection of Stanley products alongside a brand new car! This naturally gave them some hugely positive PR. We guess this part of Stanley’s rise is part down to luck  (while also seeing an organic opportunity and creating reactive content in response to it), and part down to the actual benefits of the product itself. Humanising a brand is so important, something which Sam Mehrbod, contributor to Forbes encapsulates

“People want to do business with those they know, like, and trust, and building a personal connection with your audience can help to achieve this. Your personality and values humanise your brand, making it relatable and more appealing to potential customers.” 

And it is clear here that this is something that the Stanley team have mastered. 

@danimarielettering What a journey, thank you all sooo much for being here for it. I cant say it enough, this wouldnt have happened without every single one of you. Love you and @Stanley 1913 ♬ The Champion - Lux-Inspira

DROP CULTURE

YouTuber and historian @philedwardsinc believes people are missing a key component when analysing Stanley’s success, and that is Terrance Riley, the Stanley president himself. 

When looking at Riley’s career history and successes, it is understandable why Edwards thinks the success was more down to a well-planned strategy than simply luck. Terrance was previously head of marketing at Crocs, where he built the brand from a simple outdoor shoe into an iconic fashion statement, where collaborations with brands like Levi’s and PALACE were the norm and people like Post Malone were the average fans. All of which was achieved through his ability to make the drop style culture of sneakers work for Crocs where collaborations with top industry names were frequent…and who’s to say he didn’t do the same with Stanley.   

With the help of Terrance, Stanley began collaborating with bigger iconic names “albeit influencers of different styles” to create limited edition collections. Take the Lainey Wilson collaboration for example, a country singer from Tennessee with a dedicated fanbase, yet completely unrelated to the traditional target audience of Stanley, allowing them to explore new spaces and reach new people. Through these limited drop-style collaborations Stanley were able to create this perception of scarcity, causing fans and people to feel pressure to buy a tumbler before they miss the boat. 

(Photo via HerCampus)

An even greater example of drop culture and FOMO marketing is the recent limited edition Stanley x Starbucks Valentines collection. The cups come in two bright Barbie pink and red shades. Not only have the videos of shoppers been storming our FYP’s as we’ve mentioned, but the cups are even being resold for double the price on sites like eBay. It’s crazy to think a cup can create such high demand – but this is exactly how exclusive drops can make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t purchase and add to your collection.

So yes, whilst the rise of the Stanley Cup was part down to luck and part down to social media and influencer marketing, it’s also an effective example of how experimenting with drop culture can be a useful tool to implement for the success of a product.  

TO WRAP UP…

What was once a humble ‘camping cup’, has now evolved into social media’s ‘IT GIRL’ product of 2023. Stanley’s success story is one that brands should really look to as an example of the transformative influence of social media and influencer marketing on public perception. 

But like most social media trends, there is often an expiry date, and Stanley could be nearing theirs.  However, in the meantime, we think the brand is going to continue to enjoy riding the wave. But ultimately there’ll be another shiny and exciting rival to push Stanley off the top, stay tuned to keep track of what social trend is next in vogue.

P.S

We even spotted a couple of new Stanleys floating around The Fifth’s office after Christmas… very well confirming that a few of us here have also been easily influenced by Stanley’s social media takeover!

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The Rise of the UGC Creator

Who are they and what do they do?  

By Carla Watts

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

The Rise of the UGC Creator

The utilisation of user-generated content (UGC) to promote products or to tell a story is not a new concept to brands. However, the way this content is being developed professionally through UGC creators, is a new, cost-effective option that many brands are adopting and reaping the benefits of. This blog post will explain what UGC is, the effectiveness of UGC, the role of UGC creators and the differences between UGC creators and influencers. 

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (UGC) has been around for years, long before social media. It has been traditionally defined as brand-specific content that is created by customers and published on social media/other channels. User-generated content is shared organically by customers from their own platforms and can take many forms including images, videos, reels, TikToks, Facebook posts, reviews or blog posts. 

What are the benefits of User-Generated Content?

User-generated content can pose many benefits to brands, one being its ability to enhance a brands’ authenticity (this article from Nosto explains why authenticity matters). This is because it allows the brand to highlight their products/services from the perspective of their customers. As a result, prospective customers are more likely to relate to this type of content and thus invest in a brand, and buy their products. 

Another benefit of using UGC is the way it can cultivate a strong sense of community among customers by actively involving them in a brand’s content creation process. Customers can openly share their experiences with a brand, product, or service which can establish connections between customers who share similar interests or preferences.

UGC can also help increase conversion rates and drive sales by offering social proof and showcasing real-life experiences of other customers. Prospective buyers are more likely to purchase a product or service if they see UGC that highlights the positive experiences of existing customers. 

Furthermore, UGC can have a positive impact on SEO. Google, as well as other search engines, tend to prioritise websites which are regularly producing new and engaging content. This can effectively enhance a website’s search engine rankings and increase organic traffic. Additionally, by users interacting with UGC on social media platforms, social signals are generated which can also improve a website’s search engine rankings. 

Finally, UGC is often a more cost-effective option for brands as it reduces content creation costs. UGC eliminates the need for brands to create every piece of content themselves which can be both time consuming and expensive. Brands can instead use the content created by their own customers and now UGC creators to significantly reduce costs. 

UCG content creator recording a video for a brand

What is a UGC creator?

The value of UGC has become increasingly apparent which has contributed to the rise of so-called UGC creators. This refers to creators who are paid by brands to create specific content which showcases their products/services in a way that appears authentic and organic. This content is created to live on the brand’s social media pages which means UGC creators do not need a large following, nor do they even need to appear in the content. 

What is the difference between UGC creators and influencers?

UGC creators can appear deceptively similar to influencers as they both produce content for brands, however, it’s important to understand the distinction between UGC creators and influencers since they remain fundamentally different from each other. 

Firstly, paid UGC creators are paid to create specific content for a brand that emulates typical user-generated content which is distributed across the brand’s marketing channels. They typically don’t share the content on their own platform and so they do not need to have a large following. Brands are paying them for their ability to create quality content, rather than the value of their audience. 

On the other hand, influencers are paid to create content and distribute it across their own social media channels. Influencers usually have a substantial following on social media as brands use them to promote their products to their audience, thus using their influence to promote their brand.

Thousands of brands reap the benefits of working with both influencers and UGC creators every day. To find out more about how brands use UGC, check out my other article Eight ways brands work with UGC creators and why 

EIGHT WAYS BRANDS WORK WITH UGC CreatorS

Here are eight different ways brands can effectively utilise user-generated content

By Carla Watts

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

Nike #justdoit

In today’s digital landscape, the rise of UGC creators has transformed the way brands utilise user-generated content. By harnessing the power of UGC creators, brands can effectively connect with their target audience, build trust, and leverage the creativity and authenticity of their customers. This cost-effective approach enables brands to tap into the power of user-generated content to drive meaningful engagement, increase brand credibility, and ultimately boost sales. 

Here are eight different ways brands can effectively utilise user-generated content with real-life examples. 

Nike #justdoit

1. Social Media Campaigns:

Brands often incorporate user-generated content by encouraging customers to create content featuring their products/services with a specific hashtag. This enables them to collect a wide range of UGC and showcase it across their platforms.

One example of this is Nike who often urges its customers to share their achievements using the hashtag #JustDoIt. This UGC helps to build a sense of community online. 

Trivago competition

2. Contests and Giveaways:

Running UGC contests where customers submit photos/videos/written content for prizes can help build a buzz around a brand and get more people talking about them on social media.  

For example, Trivago ran a UGC contest on Instagram with a $500 prize. Participants were asked to post a picture of their favourite hotel listed on Trivago using the hashtag #trivagofaves. 

3. Influencer Marketing Campaigns:

Brands can also collaborate with influencers who can create content in the style of UGC that features the brand’s products/services. This helps expand the brand’s reach and credibility among the influencer’s audience. 

Glossier, for example, frequently collaborates with influencers to showcase pictures and videos of how they incorporate Glossier products into their daily routine. 

Quay Australia website

4. Product Reviews:

Brands can encourage customers to leave reviews and share their thoughts which can provide new customers with valuable feedback and build trust. 

On Quay Australia’s website, visitors can view photos of real customers wearing different sunglasses styles in their ‘styled by you’ section, providing social proof for prospective buyers. They also showcase written reviews from customers on their website. Therefore, UGC product reviews help to enhance customer engagement and boost conversion rates.

5. Testimonials/Success Stories:

Brands can also ask customers to share their stories and experiences about how a brand’s product/services have improved their lives. These testimonials can then be used for marketing purposes. 

For instance, HubSpot highlights customer case studies and testimonials on its home page so it’s the first thing that potential customers will see. They often share figures, such as “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Grows Its Audience By 81% With HubSpot. By outlining impressive statistics and notable brands, site visitors are made aware of the capabilities of HubSpot which can help improve conversion rates. 

6. User-Generated TV Commercials:

Some brands involve their customers in creating TV adverts by inviting them to submit videos showcasing their brand experience or explaining why they love the brand. 

An excellent example of user-generated commercials was the ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ Campaign by Doritos that ran for ten years. This gave fans the opportunity to submit their own commercials with the premise that they may be aired during the Super Bowl. Every year, Doritos would pick a few commercials that would be aired, as well as a winner who would receive $1 million. This campaign generated significant attention and media coverage, and gave aspiring filmmakers and content creators the chance to gain considerable exposure. 

7. Social Change:

Brands can also incorporate UGC to help advocate for social change and engage their audiences with meaningful causes. 

For example, Lounge Underwear is dedicated to empowering women, as well as advocating for women’s health. They launched their #FeelYourBreast campaign in 2019 and each year they share content created by their customers which encourages people to #FeelYourBreast. In 2022, the company raised over £500,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness. As a result, UGC allowed Lounge Underwear to build an online community which is based on shared values and a common goal of empowering women everywhere. 

IKEA Open Source Sofa Design from Royal Academy of Arts workshop

8. Innovation and Product Development:

Brands can ask their customers to contribute ideas or suggestions for new products or improvements to existing ones. This UGC can be used to drive innovation and better meet customer needs.

IKEA is a prime example of a brand that actively encourages its customers to submit ideas and improvements for new and existing products. They do this through their co-creation platform and initiatives like IKEA Bootcamps. This interactive approach enables IKEA to engage with their customers, gather valuable insights and enhance their product development process. The Privacy screen and Baby’s crib in the photo from The Wall Street Journal below were proposed designs from the Royal Academy of Arts during an IKEA sponsored workshop.