Stanley Looks to Replicate the Water-Bottle Hype Among Guys - Kanebridge News
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Stanley Looks to Replicate the Water-Bottle Hype Among Guys

Company wants to widen consumer base and product lines after its blockbuster growth among thirsty women

Sat, Mar 23, 2024 7:00amGrey Clock 3 min

Stanley has spent the past few years turning a vacuum-insulated, 40-ounce water bottle into one of the most-desired womenswear accessories on the planet. Now it is widening its focus to include the customer it was first designed for more than 110 years ago—men.

The company, which is owned by Chicago-based HAVI, next year plans to release new products geared toward guys beyond its current male audience of outdoor enthusiasts.

The new Stanley man might not require a steel canteen to take into the wilderness, but he might want a sleek water bottle to take from the office to the gym to date night in a wine bar, according to Jenn Reeves, Stanley’s vice president of global brand marketing.

“He’s not a fashionista, but he cares about how he’s put together. He’s into grooming and how he looks, and into sports,” Reeves said. That hypothetical male customer wants water bottles that are a little sleeker and subtler than the brightly colored giant flasks coveted by Stanley’s female audience, she said.

The bid for diversification comes as Stanley looks to hold on to the brand equity it has accrued in a remarkably short time.  

Stanley’s annual revenue jumped to around $750 million in 2023 from $73 million in 2019, and scores of articles and think pieces have in the past year been written to explain how a company originally targeting construction workers became one of the trendiest brands of the moment. Much of the success comes down to the recent rise of the brand’s 40-ounce Quencher, which it introduced in 2016. The $45 metal cup with a straw and a handle has become a status symbol among women and tweens, caused new-product frenzies in stores, and generated a “Saturday Night Live” skit lampooning women who drink out of comically “big dumb cups.”

Imitators and competitors for thirsty consumers are hot on Stanley’s heels. They include cooler-maker Yeti , which last year introduced a 42-ounce straw mug similar in design to the Quencher.

Stanley’s latest release is a collection of cooler bags and a carryall holder for its 40-ounce Quencher bottle, slated for release in April. The wearable coolers were developed in response to women’s complaints that the market’s existing offerings were too heavy, too clunky and too ugly, and the crossbody was designed to ease the burden of carrying a water bottle and a purse around all day.

Beyond hammertone green 

The Stanley customer only became known internally as a “she” in 2020, when Terence Reilly, the former chief marketing officer of Crocs , joined as president. Reilly, who liked to say his team had turned Crocs’ divisive shoes “from a meme to a dream,” learned that the Quencher was becoming popular among a group of women in Utah, a few of whom ran a shopping blog called the Buy Guide according to one of the blog’s co-founders.

The group, along with a female Stanley sales account manager, suggested that the company start selling its cups in colors outside of black, white and its signature hammertone green, and it did. Sales lifted, while the company began to lean more on real women to spread the word about its products.

The Stanley marketing team has grown slowly since Reilly’s arrival but is still tiny by industry standards: only seven full-time staff members across advertising, brand, marketing, media and social media, said Reeves, who joined in 2022. The company spends money on traditional direct marketing, such as email campaigns, but its biggest focus is social media and working with real women and influencers who promote Stanley to their followers.

Stanley got a big, unexpected break in November, when a TikTok user named Danielle Lettering posted a video claiming that the only item to survive her car fire was her Stanley Quencher. The clip went viral, and Stanley bought her a new car and covered related costs including taxes.

Influencing men

Many of Stanley’s male consumers are already Quencher fans, Stanley said, and guys sometimes feature in its ads. The company heading into 2025 has to translate its social-media momentum among women into a marketing strategy designed to attract more men with the planned sleeker range.

The typical male consumer is also swayed by the recommendations of influencers, but he often spends time on different platforms than his female counterpart, said Chris Anthony, the chief revenue officer of media company Gallery Media Group, which works with social-media content creators. He is likely to track interests, teams and channels, as opposed to following specific influencers across all platforms the way some women do, he said.

“Guys rely more on their feed versus the people,” Anthony said. “And letting the influencers tell their stories, and not being so prescriptive, will especially resonate with guys in the right way.”

Some of those influencers might be Stanley’s current best customers, Reeves said. “We have the women, and they love us,” she said.


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The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.