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JAN 18, 2024

Stanley Cups in the Spotlight: A Cautionary Tale


Explore the fascinating journey of Stanley Cups, from practical drinkware to elitist status symbol backlash.

Read time: 5 minutes

You’ve all heard of the Stanley Cup, right? No, not the NHL trophy. Stanley Cups are a range of drinkware solutions from Stanley - a company that’s been around for over a century. Well if you run in certain circles online or have a TikTok account, they’ve been hard to avoid. What follows is the story of a product rising to the top, then creating a frenzy of obsession, garnering negative backlash and being whipped about by the rollercoaster ride of viral fame.

The Rise of the Stanley Cup

Back in the early 1900s, Thermos took the unpatented design of a vacuum flask and started selling it worldwide. Before long, similar brands were popping up everywhere, including the Stanley bottle. Fast forward a century and proper hydration is a hot talking point.

In 2016 Stanley started selling their new Quencher line - but it failed to find an audience. That was, until a few years later, when the bottle found itself in a handful of influential blog posts and eventually a prominent feature in the New York Times.

The benefits were listed as it can fit in a cup holder, it has a handle, and a straw. Which, if you’ll forgive the pettiness, is a pretty low bar to clear. But it connected with people, and from there momentum built and sales skyrocketed.

So congratulations to Stanley, right? This is a story of perseverance and forming a significant and lasting connection with customers, right? Well, not exactly. Because while this basic cup was growing in popularity, criticism and rebuke were brewing.

The Flip Side of Fame: Obsession and Backlash

With higher sales came notoriety and viral appeal online. Meaning the Stanley Cup became more than a product, it became a phenomenon. But with great popularity comes great scrutiny. Stanley’s fans, in their adoration, began to tread a fine line between appreciation and obsession: laminating labels to preserve them, buying entire color ranges (sometimes up to 20-30 cups each) solely intended for display rather than use, and generating intense peer pressure and bullying among younger people.

The idyllic image of the Stanley Cup was beginning to crack.

The real challenge came when critics started to question the integrity of Stanley’s eco-friendly promise. See, the cups are reusable, slashing the need for single-use bottles. And while this isn’t a unique approach - reducing single-use plastic is something many companies stand by - the scale of the sales to repeat customers began to chip away at that promise. Suddenly buying a bottle began to morph into something beyond mere drinkware solutions. They became symbols of status, a phenomenon I like to call the "Pokémonification" of products.

Pokémonification and Elitism: A Status Trap

For those of you scratching your heads, let me explain. Pokémon is a franchise that has been around for nearly 30 years. And the tagline for each range of products (card games, video games, TV series, movies, plush toys, etc) has always been “gotta catch ‘em all”. Because it’s not enough to have one, you have to complete your collection withe very single variation.

It’s a powerful tool but when it comes to owning 40 or 50 of the same reusable water bottle, something has gone awry. Stanley Cups weren't just containers anymore, they became collectibles, a way to showcase one's status. Meaning it became a ‘status trap’.

What is a status trap? Economists and sociologists came up with the phrase status trap to define when the value of a product is more about the status it conveys than its functional merit. People buy not out of need, but out of a desire to be part of an elite group. Which can put negative psychological and fiscal pressures on those unable to acquire or afford these goods.

The Backlash: From Desirable to Divisive

As the Stanley Cup climbed the ladder of exclusivity, the backlash was inevitable. What was once a hot property, became an emblem of elitism. Footage quickly circulated the internet of people fighting over limited edition Stanley Cups. And what was once praised for its simplicity and environmental friendliness quickly became embroiled in conversations of ridicule about grown adults using sippy cups, poor optics by partnering with certain brands, and the unintended environmental fallout of reusable cups being bought solely as trophy pieces.

PROMiXX: A Different Philosophy

Now, as you’ve been reading this you may have found yourself muttering, “well what makes you any different?” And it’s a good question. From our inception, PROMiXX has represented a philosophy that goes beyond simply selling products. And while it’s not unreasonable to say every company wants to be a success story around the world, the driving force behind a product has to be more than just “we want to shift units.” It's about creating a connection with customers, offering practical, aesthetically pleasing shaker bottles and water bottles that genuinely deliver value, and the ever- improvement of our design to better what we offer. We’ve always believed this approach respects the consumer as an individual, not just a unit in a sales statistic.

Reflecting on Your Stanley Cup

If you happen to own a Stanley Cup and feel incensed by this whole analysis, don’t worry - this isn't an indictment of your choice. It's an invitation to reflect. Does the Stanley Cup serve your needs, or has it become more of an accessory? A symbol of being part of a trend? Has the bottle you bought to stand out made you feel like you’re merely swept up in a crowd? Ultimately, the answer lies in how you use it, how you see it, and what it represents in your daily life.

This won’t be the last product to have a dramatic rise and fall but maybe they’ll have to work a little harder to earn your attention.

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headshot image of Matthew Stogdon

Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.

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