Terence Reilly of Stanley Brand: “Live out your company values”

Live out your company values: People want to buy from companies that espouse values in sync with their own. Stanley consumers identify with our commitment to creating a better world. We want to leave this world better than we found it by providing our consumers with re-useable, built-for-life drinkware and foodware. Our consumers buy from […]

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Live out your company values: People want to buy from companies that espouse values in sync with their own. Stanley consumers identify with our commitment to creating a better world. We want to leave this world better than we found it by providing our consumers with re-useable, built-for-life drinkware and foodware. Our consumers buy from us, in part, because they want to save the planet one re-use at a time. We are with our fans for a lifetime of chills, thrills and no spills.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Terence Reilly.

Terence Reilly is Global President for PMI Worldwide’s Stanley® brand, leading global brand, sales, marketing, e-commerce and product design for the Stanley family of products. He also heads PMI Worldwide’s private label division.

Reilly joined the company after seven years with Crocs, most recently as its Chief Marketing Officer where he led the brand’s resurgence with innovative marketing, social media excellence, collaborations and celebrity partnerships. He has also held leadership positions at American Express, Prudential Financial, Footaction and Famous Footwear.

Reilly started his career in public relations, following the completion of his degree at Rider University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

People. People brought me to this specific career path. I’ve been blessed to have incredible people take a chance on me at various and critical moments of my career. From Michael Kempner to Bill Borduin, Lisa Mastronardi to Will Smith, Andrew Rees to Bob Keller, I’ve been very lucky to have these people either give me my first job or my biggest job as well as all the major career moments in between.

Of course, being ready for the audition was also important. You never know when you’re auditioning for a role and you never know if and when you’re actually in front of that person looking for their next hire. Fortunately for me, I was ready. I passed the most important audition after college when I landed my first job in public relations. It was here that I developed my spark for taking brands to new heights, both for building brand love and driving the business. This is where I learned to think big and deliver those unexpected ideas to our client roster. The legendary Michael Jackson actually played a role in my early career trajectory but that’s a story for another day.

From here, I moved into leadership positions with American Express, Prudential Financial, Footaction and Famous Footwear. But nearly each time I landed one of those roles, it was from passing an audition for which I did not know I was auditioning. I spent the last seven years with Crocs, most recently as its chief marketing officer, where I led the brand’s resurgence with innovative marketing, social media excellence, and headline-grabbing collaborations like Post Malone, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Luke Combs, Peeps and so many more. Thanks to these ideas and the amazing team who implemented them, we fueled record sales and an all-time high stock price.

Since early 2020, I have had the privilege of leading the iconic Stanley brand as the global president, partnering closely with talented and passionate teams across sales, marketing, e-commerce and product design.

How a kid from New Jersey became president of a legendary, Seattle-based brand is amazing. To lead an iconic 107-year-old brand that provides consumer-centric, sustainable solutions drives me every day. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes? There are too many mistakes to count. Funny that the one which immediately comes to mind was at my first job in public relations when I forgot to bring Velcro to hang a client banner as a press conference backdrop. Seeing coverage the next day with a barren background still gives me an occasional nightmare. Ironic that a Velcro mistake stuck with me.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Stanley brand has a rich 100+ years of history. Founder William Stanley Jr. forever changed the way hot beverages were consumed when he fused vacuum insulation and the strength of steel in one portable bottle back in 1913, inventing the all-steel vacuum bottle we love today.

The vacuum bottle has become an icon — the Stanley brand has been part of countless adventures and even more shared memories. We have so many Stanley stories. So many that we have a book of them.

I’m always touched by how many customers refer to their Stanley product as “a friend.” That gets me every time. Just recently I heard from a Stanley fan who instructed his family to place his ashes in his trusty Stanley after he dies. Talk about brand loyalty!

What makes us stand out is the innovative work of my colleagues — with each passing year we continue to push ourselves to create timeless and modern gear for adventurers.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have many exciting product launches, brand programs and collaborations in the works for this year and beyond!

For starters, Stanley is bringing a new line of drinkware geared toward personal hydration as a direct response to rising consumer interest and awareness in personal health and safety. We see sports stars carrying their own drink solutions for that very reason. COVID-19 has given rise to well-rounded, hyper-personalized drinkware and foodware solutions.

The product series is our foray into thirst-quenching, versatile and colorful drinkware. The products are designed for the active lifestyle, whether it be shuttling the family to and from practice, deskside hydration for your next virtual meeting, your at-home yoga session and more.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

To me, branding is sharing stories and finding connections with consumers — those who love the Stanley brand, and those who are getting to know us. This encompasses our rich brand history, sharing where the brand is today and where we’re heading.

Brand marketing involves conveying our values to our core Stanley community and inviting them to join us in the magic of what our products make them feel and experience — like a fond memory and the new ones they create.

Our consumers share a common adventurous spirit — whether it be planning their next camping adventure, an RV road trip, or a socially-distanced outing to the beach, Stanley brand invites and awakens adventure in all of us. Branding invites people to emotionally connect to your product and your mission and values.

Product marketing, on the other hand, is about creating touchpoints for consumers to try our products and envision Stanley as part of their lives. Both branding and product marketing are essential to our business; Stanley brand continues to explore, evolve and excel on both fronts. And with apologies to Sy Sperling, I’m not only the Stanley President but I’m also a customer. I’ve watched our how-to video for our Classic Perfect Brew Pour Over Set many, many times in an effort to make a perfect cup of coffee. And, now, each morning I excitedly pour hot water over my coffee grinds into our amazing product and start my day in caffeinated bliss surrounded by an amazing coffee aroma. I begin each day living a consumer touchpoint!

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Branding goes beyond recognition; it is about finding a place in consumers’ lives. How do we make them feel? How do we add delight to their days when they are down? How can we provide a sense of comfort and security as they camp, commute, or spend time in Zoom calls as they work from home?

Our mission is clear, we want to relate to consumers, to share common values and to feel — they may be aspirational feelings, feelings of comfort, feelings of belonging, etc.

Your brand may invoke cherished memories in your community, as Stanley does for many Stanley owners. Our brand’s 107 years in existence spans many generations. We hear stories from Stanley ‘families’ who have passed a treasured Stanley down from generation to generation. Or they share memories of carrying their Stanley with them on their first hike or fishing trip with dad or grandpa.

Without brand awareness, recognition or affinity, your brand operates in a void. There’s no connection. And that makes your sale that much more difficult.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

1. Be authentic: Eighty-six percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support (Stackla, 2019). Consumers want to buy from a trusted, believable brand. Prioritize your brand’s integrity.

I read a great Medium post on authenticity by Christopher D. Connors recently. He wrote: “There’s never any doubt or questioning the integrity of an authentic individual. Their behavior, in terms of ethics and morals, is as predictable as snow during wintertime in Minnesota. You know what you’re going to get.”

The same is true of an authentic brand: be “predictable” in this regard. Although given Stanley is based in Seattle, we’ll be swapping rain for that snow.

2. Be transparent: Transparency goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. Be open with your consumers to build trust and rapport. If your company makes a mistake, own up.

3. Make it meaningful: Consumers are looking to brands for much more than just products and services today. They seek connection and community. They want to follow and invest in brands with shared values, such as sustainability.

This can be done through listening and engagement — from going above and beyond in customer service to creating product features that help solve a problem and delight them.

4. Live out your company values: People want to buy from companies that espouse values in sync with their own. Stanley consumers identify with our commitment to creating a better world. We want to leave this world better than we found it by providing our consumers with re-useable, built-for-life drinkware and foodware. Our consumers buy from us, in part, because they want to save the planet one re-use at a time. We are with our fans for a lifetime of chills, thrills and no spills.

5. Let others speak for you: At Stanley, we invite content creators and Stanley consumers to share their stories with us. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see unique stories that speak volumes. Given that 79% of people say that user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (Stackla, 2019), consider giving others a voice.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Well, of course, I’m biased as I believe what I accomplished with an amazing team at Crocs deserves strong consideration. But, Starbucks has set the bar high in terms of a company that has built a much-loved brand. The company prioritizes the five strategies that I outlined above.

With Starbucks, you know you are going to get an authentic, consistent experience when you pull into a Starbucks drive-through or walk into a cafe. You also anticipate that when you take that first sip of your latte, you’re transported to a place that brings calm or rejuvenation, or simply might signal “break time.” Moreover, Starbucks provides more than a cup of great coffee — they inspire and connect consumers in ways not many brands are able to achieve. The Starbucks leadership team continues to impress me — their inventiveness, innovation, creativity and ability to think big and deliver. With each and every pull.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

There are measurable means of tracking your brand success over time, for example, via brand health surveys, brand impressions and social media metrics. But immeasurable successes include your impact on the consumers’ lives and community engagement and interaction. When I first started with Crocs, my teenage daughters wanted nothing to do with those “ugly” shoes. By the end of my tenure they were asking for pairs for not only themselves but their friends. I knew I had made it when my daughter’s high school musical castmates were all outfitted in pink Crocs for a Legally Blonde cast photo.

Branding success, for Stanley, means coming to the forefront of our consumers’ minds when prompted to think of drinkware or foodware built for life’s adventures. It’s seeing Stanley in a popular consumer publication, with the essence of our messaging captured and conveyed to our core audiences. It’s the growth of our social media platforms and the authentic engagement that we have with those who follow our channels. We’ve already started seeing this with fantastic coverage of our flask in The New York Times and soon you’ll see some amazing celebrity and brand collaborations too!

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Stanley’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages are beginning to amplify our branding initiatives as a company. They allow us to embrace culture moments, trends and have fun with our fans at the same time. Having a solid channel and content strategy that is relevant to our current and future Stanley fans allows us to continue to grow our brand footprint.

Overall, the use of social media is critical to listening to and engaging with our consumers.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

At the end of the day, be sure that you find meaning in what you do. This is one of our core Stanley values. Feel good about your work and put your best foot forward. I always encourage my team to seek out “resume building” moments such as moving the needle on our social comms strategy or creating a successful brand collaboration that generates buzz.

At the same time, while I’m very intense, I like to think I don’t take things too seriously.

Case in point, at meetings I’m known for delivering a cheesy pun or two and the occasional Dad joke whenever possible. And rest assured that with (nearly) every presentation I give, it’s going to include a dash of fanfare. That might mean you get to hear a few notes of a Springsteen classic, some Biggie lyrics or a “Stanley-ized” rendition of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” during the company’s virtual holiday party. I even introduced myself to Stanley colleagues with a bit of my amateur poetry. I always strive to make different, better.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Now is a critical time to pay attention to climate change. Our leading value at Stanley, “Create a Better World,” reinforces our aim to prioritize environmental considerations in everything we do.

We set ambitious environmental objectives both for ourselves and our suppliers. Stanley brand is in the midst of preparing its sustainability commitments, which we look forward to sharing more broadly this fiscal year.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Make different better.” In nearly all aspects of my life I try to do what has never been done before and chart a new path forward. Personally, professionally, with a team, a brand, family or friends, I try to think different, do different, accept different and always try to do it better.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

As a proud native of New Jersey, I’ve always wanted to have lunch with The Boss. I’ve seen him in concert 50+ times and he’s been a part of more great moments in my life than I can possibly count. So, if Bruce Springsteen sees this, I’ll fill a Stanley growler with cold beer, grab a couple of slices from Federicis’s and meet you on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow our adventures on social!

Instagram: @Stanley_brand

Facebook: @StanleyBrand

Twitter: @StanleyBrand

TikTok: @StanleyBrand

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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