Stanley is a good tumbler. It keeps your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold, even in a burning car. But it’s not okay to “commit an act of violence”, and there are plenty of tumblers who do it better. So why are we so obsessed with them that we’re willing to camp out in front of a Target to buy them? Cosmo pink?
This is partly due to the scarcity effect, according to a New York Times article on the phenomenon. The tumbler is a fashion item and the exclusive colors are only available for a short time, making people more likely to buy them when they drop them. But TikTok is also a huge piece of the puzzle.
After attracting the attention of an Instagram blog, the ExtinguisherStanley’s 40-ounce tumbler, has become the app’s flagship item, with people showing off their collections of Stanley cups that take up entire walls at home and sharing affiliate links to accessories for their cups. If TikTok users didn’t already have one before Christmas, they probably had it on their lists. And each cup costs around $50, making them expensive for a cup but still accessible for most shoppers.
Our favorite TikTokkers of 2023
The frenzy for the cups points to a sensation that’s becoming all too popular on TikTok: the app makes us feel insecure and unsure of ourselves, and those same insecurities and uncertainties are exploited for purchasing power.
Expenses to see
The Stanley cup became a $50 status symbol because the Wall Street Journal underlines, usurping the status symbols of yesteryear: Jimmy Choo shoes and Armani suits. It speaks to the rise of a centuries-old trend, with a new social media-fueled twist: conspicuous consumption.
Conspicuous consumption – a term coined by economist Thorstein Veblen that describes buying something specifically to show one’s economic or social status – is not new, but is most often associated with the upper class who have abundant disposable income. It’s like someone who wasn’t particularly interested in collecting watches would spend thousands of dollars on a Rolex instead of a Timex with the same features. And like @resumeofficial on TikTok underlines“We, as the middle class, have taken (conspicuous consumption) and adjusted it,” even though we don’t have the same type of spending privilege.
This is partly because wealth inequality has pushed us to far from considering luxury products as aspirations — and some of that aspiration has been replaced by parasocial relationships that encourage us all to spend on whatever the influencers we see have. Not all of them hoard luxury goods, but many of them offer smaller, in-demand items like the Stanleys.
“Many parasocial relationships between online content creators and their audiences are based on aspirations,” Ali Fazal, vice president of marketing at GRIN, told Mashable. “Consumers have always been fascinated by the lifestyle of those they follow, but in 2024, instead of being athletes or major celebrities, they are often influencers and online content creators whose style of life seems more within their reach. Sharing products, goods, or services that someone you aspire to be similar to also helps deepen the connection.
The Stanley Cup was quietly announced to you via TikTok, but not all of those videos were ads. Instead, a few influencers posted messages saying they loved them, and the trend snowballed. A Binus University study showed that there is a direct link between TikTok use and conspicuous consumption, fueled by a “ripple effect.” As the The Association for Consumer Research highlights“this effect is an attempt to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ in order to preserve one’s self-esteem.”
Are you willing to spend $50 on a Stanley Cup instead of $20 on one? Hydro Flaskwhich tends to perform at a higher level regarding keeping the temperature of your drink consistent, because of what it symbolizes. You want the Stanley so others know you’re in the know; you are in their same social status; you can afford to spend $50 on a mug; you’re the hottest mom on the football field and the most desirable vet tech in the office. According to Lending Tree search, nearly 40 percent of Americans spent too much money on clothes, shoes and accessories – like the Stanley Cup – to impress others. And in 2022, social media apps brought in $11 billion from kids and teens. The TikTok algorithm feeds us videos that make us feel uncertain and insecure in our lives, showing us something to buy to fit in better or fit a certain ideal.
Buy to get out of uncertainty
In a study by the National Library of Medicine, “The link between self-uncertainty and conspicuous consumption: uncertainty tolerance as a moderator“, researchers found that people who are insecure about themselves were more likely to engage in this type of spending and that people who feel less comfortable being insecure about themselves -themselves are even more likely to engage in conspicuous consumption.
While conspicuous consumption isn’t new, the way we interact with it is. Fazal said one of the most significant changes in conspicuous consumption has been that “consumer attention now follows influencers more than anyone else and, therefore, social media is where this trend is on display.” most “. We’re no longer trying to fit into our close-knit community, we’re trying to fit into a community of thousands of people online. TikTok is changing the way we see ourselves and how much money we’re willing to spend to prove it.
And these trends could accelerate. Urvashi Ajmera, senior strategist at digital agency Barbarian, told Digiday that TikTok Shop will transform the experience we have on social networks even more than it already has.
“More and more organic content will have Shop functionality, and you’ll scroll through an endless stream of shop and sponsored content,” Ajmera said.
Social media will only further convince us that we need to spend money to fit in, enjoy life, or get closer to our favorite influencer’s transformation. And trends will change.
Now that Stanley Cups are SO popular, consumer trend analysts are predicting we’ll all hate them soon – and Stanley’s obsession will inevitably be replaced by something new that you’ll also be convinced to buy. The cycle still continues, but it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is being advertised to us and the true motivations for our purchases.
Pay attention to what your mind does on social media; Before you know it, you might be reaching for your wallet.