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The Clipper

The student news site of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington

The Clipper

The student news site of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington

The Clipper

Should we ‘stan’ the Stanley?

Hailey Warren
The average Stanley mug costs around $40. However, some limited edition mugs have posted online for more than $400.

Trends pour in and out of our lives like water, and one trendy product that keeps shifting form is, incidentally, the container we use to hold water.

Trending cups have included the classic Starbucks straw-and-lid cup, the Hydroflask, the Owala, and now, the latest iteration, sold in a variety of colors, the oversized and overpriced Stanley mug.

As with most trends, an inciting viral incident brought this cup to the forefront of social media. On Nov. 15, 2023, Danielle Lettering posted a video on TikTok in which she pulled her Stanley mug from the burned wreckage of her car and found the mug intact, with ice still rattling inside. Lettering’s video has since garnered over 90 million views.

In response, the CEO of Stanley, Terence Riley (former Vice President of Global Marketing at Crocs), gave her a free mug and promised her a new car. According to Lettering’s TikTok, the company has since delivered on its promise.

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With his marketing experience, Riley likely realized Lettering’s viral video was the best advertising Stanley would ever receive. He seized the opportunity to repay her, prolonging the publicity for the company in the process. It appears the move paid off.

According to Forbes, the brand finished 2023 with a staggering $750 million in revenue, up from $70 million only four years prior. That’s a lot of profit for a company that makes drinkware.

Since then, videos of eager collectors lining up outside of department stores before dawn to buy limited edition versions of the $40 mugs have gone viral. The double-insulated mugs don’t appear as anything special–they have a lid, a straw, and are shaped in such a way that they fit in most cup holders. So what is it about the mug, or any other viral product, that makes people stand in line in sweatpants before department stores open?

Running Start student Nevaeh Soto, 16, isn’t sure what the big deal is.

“I think it’s a cool cup, but very similar cups are much cheaper,” Soto said.

The mug is popular with online influencers, some of whom showcase shelves lined with more mugs than any one person could ever use. Companies like Stanley hire influencers to create paid promotional videos including their products on social media sites like TikTok, which are generally targeted toward a younger audience.

Soto said she believes young people tend to buy fad items when influencers, also known as content creators, promote them.

“Parasocial relationships will give people a feeling of closeness to their favorite creator. If this creator raves about a product or is sponsored by a company (people) are more likely to want to buy this product.”

This may seem harmless, but when owning a trendy product–or not owning it–becomes tied to a young person’s self worth, the dark side of consumerism comes into play.

“I do think there is a big connection between branded items and self-worth. Name brands will often show a status of wealth,” Soto said. “It’s very ingrained in me to try and fit in with everyone else, especially because I am still in high school. My appearance is a big part of my confidence so I want to be a part of a standard that is pushed to me through social media.”

Another troubling facet of product influencer culture is its overwhelmingly female consumer target audience. Whether it’s a cup, a makeup product or an expensive pair of yoga pants, the quantity of trends skewed toward women seems out of balance.

“I feel especially targeted by ads for clothes or makeup products because I am young and a woman,” Soto said. “I spend a lot of my money on impulse because I think I might want (a product). Beauty products are also things that are pushed towards me, as a woman trying to fit into a beauty standard is difficult, and these products are pushed to help me fit into it, whether I want to or not.”

Soto believes the trend of young people hankering for brand items is slowly coming to an end. Whether this will affect the Stanley brand is yet to be seen.

Perhaps the most concerning question posed by viral consumption: What happens when a product is no longer in fashion? When the Stanley mug is inevitably replaced by a new water bottle, where will all of the Stanleys go?

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About the Contributor
Hailey Warren
Hailey Warren, Managing Editor of Digital
What is your dream job? In a perfect world, ten years from now I'll be editing novels, either as a freelance editor or for a publishing company. My dream is to work with women/LGBTQIA+ authors from diverse cultural backgrounds within the literary and romantic fiction genres. What interests you about journalism? Writing is in my blood. My grandfather is a songwriter and nonfiction short story author, and my other grandfather was a journalist who worked in the field for decades, covering everything from David Bowie's early career to the fall of the Berlin Wall. For me, journalism is a gateway to my dream career as well as a way of honoring my family. While I love to write, my true obsession lies with copy and content editing. Journalism abides by stricter rules than any other kind of writing, so it seems like an ideal way to strengthen my red pen's skill set. When you aren't doing things for the Clipper, what can you be found doing? In my free time I'm either reading, working on one of several unfinished novels, playing guitar, or spending time with my huge and close-knit blended family.

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    Nataya FossJan 30, 2024 at 6:52 pm

    The lede is strong with this one 😉