How Stanley President Terence Reilly Skyrocketed the Brand’s Revenue From $70M to $750M by Chasing Hearts Over Wallets

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Jan 10, 2024

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with the brand Stanley—if not for their vibrant Quencher water bottles, which are practically glued to the hands of women between the ages of 18-35, then certainly for their viral moment this past November. 

In case you need a refresher: Danielle Lettering posted a video on TikTok showing how her Stanley cup survived a fire that destroyed the rest of her car. The video has since accrued 94 MILLION views, along with nine million likes. It also caught the attention of Stanley president Terence Reilly, who responded by offering to replace her car. This heartwarming show of generosity prompted an outpouring of support for the brand online, with Terence’s video earning nearly 54 million views and 6.7 million likes. 

According to our data, Stanley achieved $7.0M EMV in November, its highest monthly total of 2023, and garnered an estimated 251.5M impressions and 15.1M total engagements—687% and 605% month-over-month surges, respectively. 

But the hype didn’t die down after November. The brand made good on its promise to replace Danielle’s car (you can watch the video here), with the TikToker thanking Stanley for “changing my life.” The brand also launched highly sought-after, limited-edition colors of its Quencher for Valentine’s Day, which led loyal fans to camp outside Target in an attempt to get their hands on them. The brand closed 2023 with $750M in annual revenue—10X its $70M total from a few years prior. 

It’s been quite a busy few months for Stanley, but we were somehow lucky enough to wrangle president Terence Reilly onto our Earned podcast. And trust us, you’re going to want to tune in to this one. 


We start by unpacking Stanley’s explosive growth in recent years—well before the viral car incident—and Terence explains why he has a bias for action. Of course, we then dive into the brand’s decision to buy Danielle a new car, and Terence shares why he believes more brands can and should be taking similar action. We hear about the phenomenal impact this moment of generosity has had on the brand, as well as the learnings Terence has gleaned from it (one of which is that brands should be “chasing hearts” instead of “chasing wallets”). 

Next, we take a step back and discuss how the 110-year-old brand appealed to a new consumer base by repositioning from “male, green, and hot” to “female, colorful, and cold”—thanks largely to early endorsements from the bloggers behind The Buy Guide and Terence’s learnings from his time as CMO at Crocs. Terence discusses the brand’s increased investment in building out its community of consumers and social media advocates, and how Stanley’s rapid rise in popularity allowed the business to expand beyond DTC and take up entire walls of shelf-space at top retailers—or as Terence puts it, “no longer on the bottom shelf next to a dusty can of tennis balls.” We also learn about Terence’s approach to collaborations with other brands and creators, like Post Malone x Crocs and Stanley x Lainey Wilson, before hearing his guiding principles to brand building and leadership—and whether or not he wants to continue being the face of Stanley. 

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“We're all chasing wallets, and I think we need to be chasing hearts”: Stanley President Terence Reilly on his Learnings From the Viral TikTok Moment

Conor Begley: We've had a lot of CMOs on this podcast, and one of the things that I've observed across those that really do a good job is that they tend to operate very quickly. Looking at what you've done in the past, whether that was the first Post Malone collaboration you did with Crocs, or more recently with Danielle's car, or in the case of LinkedIn, where you scheduled this 72 hours after we talked about it, is that something that you try to emphasize internally?

Terence Reilly: Well, it's certainly how I'm driven for sure, and I think certainly part of that is in the culture. As you alluded to, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for Crocs a few years back, and now I’m the president of Stanley, and so there's no time like the present, as my mother used to tell me. A good idea is worth doing right away. And that's certainly how I try to live my life and, to the extent that I can, bring that to the cultures of the organizations I'm part of. I do my best to do that within limits. Not everybody has the same motor, and not all ideas are good ideas or deserve the immediacy, but I certainly think I have a good instinct of what needs to happen right now, and so I'll choose those wisely.

Conor Begley: Yeah, I like that idea of saying this is the thing that we need to operate on quickly, but again, most organizations couldn't say, " Hey, we're going to give this girl a car” 24 hours after her car burns down.

Terence Reilly: I don't understand why. I've heard this a lot from people and I don't get it. What stops an organization from doing these things is a really perplexing question and it's almost said as a statement, Conor—like we expect organizations to not be able to do that. So I think maybe I'm blind to it because I'm the president and I just did it, so there was no red tape when you're at the top, and there were not a lot of entanglements for me. And so I think that's a lesson for leaders because I've heard [others say], “we can't do this. How could a company do this?” And maybe it's because it started at the top, and I just did it. And if it didn't start at the presidential level, then all these layers get in the way and then the idea is dead, and you don't have that immediacy that you talked about a few minutes ago. 

So I don't know what it is, but we just did it because it was the right thing to do. As I'm getting older in life, I like to channel my 16 year-old self and I said, "If I was 16, what would I have done if I was the president of that company and this person posted a photo or a video of our product surviving a fire?" I like to think my 16 year-old self and your 16 year-old self would say, "I’d just buy her a new car." And if that's the instinct, and I think it was everybody's instinct, do it. 

Listen, Conor, the whole car thing has just been a ridiculous four weeks or five weeks for me personally and for Stanley, and people are calling it a “masterclass.” I've heard that so many times, it's almost embarrassing. It was just a dude responding to a consumer who had posted something in the most heroic way for our product, and I think I did what anybody else would've done who was in the position to do it. I would just buy her a new car and replace it. Maybe it's not as easy as that, but I like to think it is.

Conor Begley: Yeah, I think the problem is particularly as you get to be a larger organization, people often operate out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of doing something wrong. I think that culture can entrench itself much more deeply than people realize, and makes it very hard to operate quickly and agilely, which in this environment I think is quite important. You have to be willing to take some risks here and there.

Terence Reilly:  My old boss used to say, “Scared money don't make money,” and there's some truth to that. Life is based on some risk, and you don't want to be careless, but the response to the car video wasn't careless. It was care. And it just turned into something that, had I known it would have a hundred million views, my post on LinkedIn has 1 million impressions, had I known this would've happened, I probably would not have had the courage to have done it, because every word I said was analyzed. It's a really interesting thing. I learned a lot from it, and I'm grateful that it happened, most importantly for Danielle, and the effect that it's had on the brand has been phenomenal over the last few weeks. The pride in the organization that it unwittingly created and the response to consumers, it was just real. 

And maybe that's why people reacted to it. It was unscripted. I did it in one take. And maybe that's what the lesson is in all of it. We're all chasing wallets, and I think we need to be chasing hearts. I think that's the lesson that we all learned from this in the most accidental but kindest of ways. Pretty neat in the end, but most importantly, the reaction has just been 100% positive sentiment, which is rare to do in 2023.

How Repositioning the Brand and Investing in Creators Helped Stanley Grow 10x to $750M in Three Years

Conor Begley: I think what's interesting is obviously you have this moment that's very special, but looking at the numbers, this wasn't an isolated event. What I mean by that is, you guys have been building up your relationship particularly with that community over the last several years in a fairly intentional way. And so I think some of the magic of going viral is that Stanley was a brand that Danielle was excited to go and talk about in the first place, and that she thought her audience would connect with. So I'm curious: taking a step back from the Danielle incident, talk about the last few years from an investment perspective with regards to social media, creators, all these kinds of things that you guys have been investing in as a brand.

Terence Reilly: Yeah, thanks for that. This is a wonderful culmination of a lot of hard work, and somehow this face became the face of Stanley for five weeks. But it was the result of a lot of hard work for a lot of years by a lot of people who brought Stanley to proprietary eponym [status]. Proprietary eponym is like Band-Aid, Xerox, Kleenex. And we've turned a bottle into a Stanley, where people everywhere want a Stanley. All the kids at school have a Stanley, and that's hard to do, and that's the best part of the last few years. The financial success and all that is great, we are a business, but it's magic that we have countless TikTok videos of fit checks saying “here's my Stanley” before they're even talking about their fit. It's really a remarkable thing.

I joined as president in 2020 after a fantastic experience at Crocs where I helped Andrew Rees turn Crocs around. I like to think I had a hand in reshaping the brand, and that had granted me the opportunity to become president of Stanley in 2020. And we were a $70 million brand that appealed to guys with a green bottle that was 107 years old, and is one of the greatest products in history. It's an iconic brand, iconic product, but there was a big opportunity to reposition the brand and appeal to new consumers, and that's just what we set out to do in 2020. 

And so what I told the team is that we're going to go from male, green, and hot, to female, colorful, and cold, and of course nobody would have predicted what this team has accomplished. I didn't get this far in my dreams, but I knew there was an opportunity to make a difference and reposition the brand, because I saw other great brands were just doing what they were doing and doing it really well, but there was certainly an opportunity for us to do something different in this space. And we did it with an incredible team that just dug in and bought into what I wanted to do. And the new people who joined wanted to do that, and away we went to that 10x kind of growth in just three or four years.

Conor Begley: Was there significant internal resistance? You've got this customer that you've had for a hundred years, in some ways you could be perceived as leaving them behind. One, was that a challenge internally to get everybody bought in, and then two, how do you make sure that you're not risking the existing business while going after something that’s quite a bit different?

Terence Reilly: As Bob Dylan once said, “When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.” And so $70 million is nothing to sneeze at, but we could do nothing and be $70 million. Just trade on the legacy of the brand and sell a lot of green bottles to a lot of guys, and that's a crazy great thing, but there was so much more to get for the brand. 

Knowing just a little bit from my Crocs experience, color is something that consumers respond to. Youth culture drives culture, and now more than ever before, female youth culture drives culture. We could see an emerging wellness trend developing in 2020, and we put all those things together in this wonderful alchemy: let's create new colors and let's work with influencers who drive culture. We found one who was an organic fan, three women who refer to themselves as The Buy Guide, and they helped change this story for us. 

Right away we did a deal with The Buy Guide that has been an incredible partnership for many years now. They told their fans about their love for the Stanley Quencher, and we started small, selling a few units, and then selling out, which is a term Stanley had never heard before. It’s part of drop culture and exclusive culture and limited editions, and that's something I learned how to do at Crocs, and from my days way back at FootAction and things like that. We did that and then slowly 500 units became 5,000, became 50,000, became 5 million, and away we went. And it's also by listening to consumers, listening to influencers, listening to women, and doing what they say, because that's what they want. That's been a real hallmark of the last few years.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.