How One Brand's Viral Tumbler Is Generating It $750 Million A Year

The immense demand and hype surrounding a particular brand of tumbler has captured the internet’s attention, as it continues to generate millions for its company. 

Everyone wants a Stanley Adventure Quencher Travel Tumbler. Okay, not everyone, but it certainly seems that way in most corners of the internet. Those who’ve perused catalogs of drinkware may be familiar with American brand Stanley, which has always produced top-notch outdoor products like thermoses, knapsacks, and lunchboxes, for around 110 years, as per Nicolas Vega and Lauren Shamo of CNBC

Stanley's Quencher tumblers in a variety of vibrant colors
Stanley’s Quencher tumblers in a variety of vibrant colors/Photo via Instagram @stanley_brand

The company already possessed a solid reputation as a brand for a century, yet just when one thinks it can’t get any more famous, it does. In fact, the apt word would be “viral,” as numerous TikTok and other social media videos have shown hordes of customers raiding shelves of the trendy Stanley Quencher. 

In TikTok alone, the hundreds of videos featuring Stanley Quencher tumblers have gained billions of views and of course, a proportionate amount of earnings from media exposure, reports Dr.Marcus Collins for Forbes. Vega and Shamo of CNBC add that in 2023, experts projected that the brand would earn over $750 million in revenue. 

Yet how did Stanley, a brand that has catered to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and blue-collared workers for decades, suddenly turn into the hippest drinkware producer out there? As with most viral products, its secret to success involves a lot of strategic marketing and the power of social media. 

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The Quencher’s Beginnings 

For the longest time, Stanley has been producing its signature green thermoses that have kept water hot and cold for impressive periods of time. As someone who has seen the tumbler in action, I can attest that it’s kept cold water chilly for days. Yet on an aesthetic level, they’re rather militaristic, and not necessarily something to carry around while wearing one’s Sunday best. It’s a design choice that harkens back to its origins as a durable water container for World War II pilots, as the brand’s official website writes. As the old adage goes, why fix it if it’s not broken? 

A classic Stanley thermos built to keep things hot or cold for the outdoors
A classic Stanley thermos built to keep things hot or cold for the outdoors/Photo via Instagram @stanley_brand

Yet in today’s fast-paced world, brands that adapt and expand their market are often the ones that survive and meet incredible success. So Stanley ventured out into new territory, introducing a new line of more streamlined and modern tumblers in 2016, according to Moises Mendez II of Time. Their designs featured a 40-oz capacity, handle, cup-holder-sized base, and of course, a straw for sipping on the go.

The Stanley Quencher came in more colors and a sleek design that deviated from the brand's usual selection of drinkware
The Stanley Quencher came in more colors and a sleek design that deviated from the brand’s usual selection of drinkware/Photo via Instagram @stanley_brand

This was the beginning of the Stanley Adventure Quencher Travel Tumbler, which didn’t come in as many colors as it does today during its earlier iterations. Unfortunately, it didn’t receive much fanfare upon its release, so much so that the brand had ceased marketing the product in 2019, as per CNBC. Yet this wasn’t the end of the cup, but rather, the start of an unexpected rebirth for the company. 

A Step In the Right Direction

Stanley’s rise to viral fame would begin with the appointment of Terence Reilly as its president in 2020. As Connor Murray of Forbes reports, Reilly made the most out of influencer marketing, encouraging online personalities to talk about the Quencher on their platforms. This included The Buy Guide, a popular blog run by a group of women. After their first post about the Quencher, more than 30,000 people signed up for its waitlist, eagerly awaiting its grand return to the market in 2021, reports Megan Ziegler of Fox News

Quencher H2.0 FlowState™  tumblers in neutral and earthy colors
Quencher H2.0 FlowState™ tumblers in neutral and earthy colors/Photo via Instagram @stanley_brand

The Quenchers sold out just days after their release, and Stanley continued manufacturing them in new and exciting colors to keep things interesting. By 2020, the product had replaced the brand’s recognizable green thermoses as top product, according to CNBC. In the blink of an eye, Stanley’s revenue had jumped from $73 million in 2019 to a whopping $194 million in 2021. By 2022, the brand released a newer version of the model and saw its earnings increase to $402 million, CNBC adds in the same feature. 

Many women started collecting the tumblers in different colors to match their outfits, and little girls began dreaming of owning their very own Quencher (with one girl even crying in a TikTok after receiving one). Staying hydrated with a Stanley became the coolest thing on the internet; but the love for the tumbler further intensified after the release of one particular video. 

Viral Testimony 

In November 2023, a TikTok user posted a video showing the wreckage of her car, which had burnt down from a fire. The only survivor? Her 40-oz Stanley Quencher cup. Granted, it’s a bit beaten up and certainly not unscathed, yet she grabs it and shakes it, showing how it still contains the water and ice it had hours ago. 

A lone Stanley Quencher was the miraculous survivor of a car fire, and still contained ice water
A lone Stanley Quencher was the miraculous survivor of a car fire, and still contained ice water/Photo from @danimarielettering via TikTok

For clear reasons, the video went viral, as members of the online community were amazed with the cup’s durability and performance. Those who already knew of the Quencher or owned one got to attest to its greatness, and those who didn’t were likely curious enough to either buy one themselves or at least check it out. 

Stanley president Terence Reilly, as expected, jumped at the opportunity to elevate his brand’s status and reputation. Reilly posted a response video through Stanley’s official TikTok, offering to not only replace the damaged tumbler but—for only once in the brand’s history—replace the woman’s entire car. This earned the brand extra points in the eyes of many, and so the Quencher’s impressive fame continues today. 

Click a few videos, and one can immediately see the intensity of the trend, as owning the cup has become a kind of identity in itself. Like many status symbols, it works as a badge of honor. Of course, perhaps months after the release of this article, the hype would reach its inevitable end—but for now, anyone who owns the tumbler is pretty cool and fashionable. 

An Antithetical Hobby? 

Collecting Stanley Quencher cups has become a hobby for many customers, and while the joy and satisfaction they derive from the activity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does give way to concerns about sustainability.

After all, a tumbler is meant to be reused, and in the midst of a climate crisis, reused with the hope of lessening plastic waste from disposable cups. Isn’t purchasing and collecting dozens of these tumblers antithetical to their significance in promoting greener practices? 

Does collecting more Stanley Quenchers than one can use defeat the purpose of a reusable tumbler?
Does collecting more Stanley Quenchers than one can use defeat the purpose of a reusable tumbler?/Photo from the Stanley website

On one hand, collectors may say they’ll use all their cups, arguing that there’s no harm in a simple hobby. Stanley will of course benefit from its sales, and everyone comes out of this happy. Still, for the eco-conscious, questions about the effects of manufacturing large volumes of metal tumblers to keep up with consumer demands loom large. 

As writer JB MacKinnon expresses in an interview with The Guardian: “Everyone was supposed to buy one reusable water bottle 15 years ago and carry it to the grave. But now there’s a constant shift and look in the style of these bottles, and people enter into a constant replacement cycle. I’d be surprised if at this point reusable water bottles are accomplishing much.”

That said, one can’t help but admire the pervasiveness and strength of Stanley’s marketing, which has turned a simple tumbler into a cultural phenomenon, hobby, and for better or for worse, a way of life. 

Banner photo via Instagram @stanley_brand.

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