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The Hype Around Stanley Tumblers & Owala Water Bottles 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

There is no doubt that both the Stanley and Owala are the new, cute aesthetic. When trying to understand how both brands became so popular, marketing has an immense impact.  

University of Connecticut Marketing Professor Heidi Bailey, in a phone interview, mentioned the importance of “STEPPS,” which is a way to look at how to spread word-of-mouth virally, a framework by Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. 

STEPPS stands for Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories. In connection with the first principle — social currency — Bailey said that with Stanley tumblers, people like to share what kind of collection they may have.  

“Word of mouth about the brand spreads as consumers carry their ‘rare’ water bottles around in public and talk about them on social media. The scarcity of the collectibles generates interest and buzz,” she shared. 

Regarding triggers, both the brand itself and the logos of Owala and Stanley trigger our minds to think about the product.  

Moving on to emotion, there have been concerns about lead inside the Stanley tumblers. Even though there is, no lead is present on any part of the Stanley that encounters the consumer. “Contagious Content: STEPPS and the Science of Shareability” by Daniel Yeo stated in relation to emotion, “If we see something that genuinely makes us laugh, cry, or smile, we are far more likely to want to share that emotion with others,” making content go viral and increasing the brand’s exposure. 

In terms of practical value, the Stanley tumblers have a giant handle and Owala has a straw on the inside of the bottle allowing for convenient sipping. Both brands are public, considering their digital footprint, and lastly, the story-telling aspect comes from consumers themselves. 

“People trust their friends and family and reputable influencers more than companies,” Bailey added. 

She mentioned that influencers are “hyping” the Stanley brand as well as Owala. 

Observations at UConn 

As I was in a workshop, I noticed a girl with a Stanley on top of her desk. Out of curiosity, I asked her, “Did you buy your Stanley?” 

“No, I’m not stupid,” she replied with a chuckle.  

She then followed up with how expensive a Stanley is and added that her mom gave it to her as gift. 

Although many students do purchase their Stanley tumblers, a handful receive them as gifts.  

Naiiya Patel, a junior majoring in Accounting at UConn, received three Stanley’s as gifts; one from her friend for Christmas, one from her sister during Thanksgiving break, and one from her old internship as a National Intern Day gift. 

Looking around the UConn campus, an overwhelming number of students either use a Stanley tumbler or an Owala water bottle. Whether they are in the hands of students at the Recreation Center or on top of the dining hall tables, they are present anywhere there are students. 

Features of a Stanley tumbler 

Stanley tumblers range from $20 to $60, depending on the size, with the most popular being the 30 and 40-ounce bottles costing $35 and $45, respectively. 

For those who love a cold beverage, Stanley tumblers keeps drinks “18 hours cold, and two days iced.” Riley Hines, a senior at UConn majoring in English got her tumbler last Christmas as a gift from her brother. Sharing what she likes about the bottle, she said matter-of-factly, “I like that it keeps [the water] cold.” 

The Stanley tumbler comes with a reusable straw and is made of “90% Recycled 18/8 stainless steel.”  

Lastly, a unique feature is that the Stanley bottle is much thicker toward the top than the bottom, purposefully designed this way to perfectly fit in car cupholders, while holding more liquid. It also contains a comfortable handle that can also serve as a snack tray holder, a brilliant idea shared by TikTok user @the_dealparty. Stanley users can also purchase a cute silicone straw cover from places like Amazon making their cup personalized while protecting their beverage. 

The popularity Stanley tumblers have gained

Even though the Stanley brand has been a company since 1913, in 2019 — as shared by Today — started to gain exposure for its bottles, partly thanks to the Buy Guide’s Instagram and social media personality Emily Maynard Johnson’s Instagram, who showed off the Stanley tumblers to her over 600,000 followers.  

Stanley tumblers have an immense audience impact. A viral ABC 7 news story shared a TikTok of a woman’s car that was demolished in a fire and the only thing that survived was her tumbler. The woman who uploaded that video to TikTok was @DaniMarieLettering, who garnered a massive 60 million views.  

Celebrities such as Olivia Rodrigo also help promote the tumblers. Rodrigo emphasized how she saw this subculture on TikTok praising the Stanley cup, and how users would make “soda concoctions” in the bottle and add flavored water. She then added how she thought getting a Stanley for herself would change her life and later verified that it did.  

Related to how even just word of mouth can help convince others to purchase a particular item. Rodrigo shared that she got several of her friends and the people on her team in on the “Stanley Grind.” 

Similar to how Rodrigo is getting people in on the “Stanley Grind,” Michaela Elam, a sophomore majoring in Nursing, bought her Stanley in August 2023. She needed a new water bottle for school and added, “All of my coworkers had them and recommended I get one.” 

Bailey Brake, a sophomore double majoring in Political Science and Human Rights said she bought a Stanley because “It was a cool trend and I wanted the straw, wanted to see what the hype was about.” 

Like everything has pros and cons, Stanley tumblers are not immune to cons. 

Concerns about Stanley tumblers 

Most concerns for owners of a Stanley are that it spills easily if it is knocked over. 

Another concern is how for some students, the Stanley tumbler does not fit in their backpack cupholder. Jaclyn Armetta, a junior majoring in Secondary Math Education said that her Stanley “Doesn’t fit in my backpack so I really only use it at home and during the summer because I don’t want to carry it around campus.”  

Owala water bottle features 

A unique feature of the Owala FreeSip is that it has a carry loop, located at the very top, that also acts as a lock when closed. Isabella Mema, a sophomore, an English and Pre-Teaching major bought her Owala two months ago.  

“I wanted something convenient,” Mema said. She shared how she likes that her water bottle is easy to clean and that it does not spill. She also wanted a bottle where the opening had a cover. 

There is nothing she dislikes about her Owala and on a scale of one to five on how much she loves her water bottle — five being the absolute best — she rated her bottle a four. 

The Owala FreeSip has two openings. The smaller one on the top front of the bottle is attached to a straw for easy and convenient sipping. The other opening is large, intended for when the user wants to chug their beverage. 

Ana Pushi, a junior majoring in Accounting said, “I like that you can sip and chug from it and that the straw is covered.” 

Sindy Gorka, a senior majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology got her Owala bottle three months ago and liked how easy it was to travel.  

“I liked that it got me to start drinking water,” she enthusiastically shared. 

Owala water bottles are reusable bottles, and are “BPA, lead, and phthalate-free.” 

Besides the Owala design called FreeSip, Owala water bottles can also take the form of Stanley tumblers. Unlike the Stanley that spills if it is on its side, Owala tumblers do not. 

One TikTok from @trishamayec compared the Owala tumbler and Stanley tumbler to see how long each of these bottles can keep a beverage cold. Even after 59 hours, there was still ice in both brands. Of course, the ice continually melted, but showing this mini experiment on such an influential platform did prove how both brands keep beverages cold. Owala tumblers also preserve hot beverages. 

The Owala Freesip bottles range in size from 19 to 40 ounces and range in cost from $24.99 to $37.99, respectively. Unlike the $45 40-ounce Stanley tumbler, the Owala tumbler costs $37.99. 

Owala’s popularity 

Besides Owala having their own TikTok marketing their water bottles, users on the platform are sharing why they enjoy the brand. The trend #Koala is going around sharing that when users drink from the FreeSip bottle, the cap covers the users’ noses making them look like koalas. This mini-trend ties back to the story-telling aspect of Berger’s marketing framework, where consumers are creating and sharing a small narrative of an Owala design. 

Conclusions about the trends 

Owala water bottles seem to be more convenient for students. They fit in backpack cup holders, the design is practical, and they are cute. On the other hand, Stanley bottles are more of a hassle for students since they cannot fit them in their backpack cup holders, forcing them to carry them around if they want to use them. In addition, if users do not purchase a silicone straw cover for their Stanley, their beverage is exposed to pollutants and potential spillage. 

Although both the Stanley and Owala bottles are aesthetically pleasing and have many benefits, there are so many cheaper alternatives if students just want a water bottle. If a student loves the Stanley design, a cheaper version on Amazon is available. The 40-ounce Abotocup can be purchased for $25.99. Just like a Staney, it is made from stainless steel, has a comfortable handle and can fit in car cupholders. Another option is the 32-ounce “motivational water bottles” found on Amazon. They are only $9.99 and are BPA-free with a cute design to motivate users to drink more water. Another alternative is the 18-ounce BJPKPK bottles that are BPA-free, made from stainless steel, keeps beverages “cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours” and is only $13.48.  

Students are buying Owala and Stanley water bottles to be a part of the trend because if they just want a water bottle, there are endless options for consumers to choose from. 

Successful marketing is to credit for the immense demand for Stanley and Owala. 

Anna Heqimi is a writer for Her Campus at the University of Connecticut. As part of the Academics Team, she covers topics from academic resources students can utilize, to fun networking events students should attend to prepare for the professional world. She also enjoys to keep students informed about campus events. Anna is also a reporter for the news department at the UConn Student Television and a contributor for the Life section of The Daily Campus. In her free time, Anna enjoys hanging out with friends, swimming and dancing.