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Stanley Cup Craze

When did a cup become something we fight each other for? When did it become something that made us push people aside in stores to get the last one? When did we need to carry a particular cup with us everywhere and post it all over our social media feed?

I could ask the same about Cabbage Patch Dolls, Air Jordans, Beanie Babies, Olympic pins, or iPhones.

When a brand becomes addictive, there’s almost nothing you can do to stop the snowball effect that is I. MUST. HAVE. THIS. NOW.

In this CNN article, they use the term endowment effect to discuss how something becomes more valuable over time, and, thus, people want it even more. And while there are various terms we can apply here, the bottom line is there is an addiction for the brand. And that addiction comes in various ways, and has over time, but in this case, social media is the driving force behind the “must have” value of the Stanley cup.

In my new book, Strategic Brand Licensing, which is set to come out later this year, I created a case study on the Stanley brand, long before this cup became such a sought-after item. I use an example of Stanley from the 1990s. Though they were a strong brand, they had some disappointing sales results and wanted to strengthen their overall financial position. To accomplish this, they decided to bring in a licensing agency. However, the agency did not completely understand their Brand Positioning, and brought them deals with products such as portable fans, desk organizers, and Christmas light timers. This caused a significant disconnect between the brand and consumers in terms of what Stanley represented, and it ultimately harmed the brand. Later, the Stanley brand focused on hand tools and work gloves aligned with their Brand Positioning and found success in the marketplace.

But this cup…this “get into a fight at the store so you can grab the last one off the shelf” cup may seem out of alignment with a company known for their tools. This newest iteration of a vessel for hot and cold beverages is a brilliant reinvention of a brand that has been around since 1913, when William Stanley Jr. fused vacuum insulation and steel in a portable bottle, inventing the all-steel vacuum bottle we know today. 

Once again, when the brand was lagging in sales and trying to find traction in a marketplace crowded with cups, they proved you can still make something old new again.