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3 big takeaways from Stanley's viral TikTok moment

Happenstance made it happen, but every brand can learn something here.

One person’s car fire is another brand’s content gold mine… that’s how the phrase goes, right?

If you’re so plugged into marketing that you subscribe to a newsletter like this, I’d wager you’ve already heard about Stanley’s viral TikTok moment(s). They’ve had quite a week.

  • 84 million+ views on their mug surviving a customer’s car fire

  • 32 million+ views on their brand reply, buying her a new car

  • 364,900 new TikTok followers in 6 days (+168.6% increase)

Here’s the content in question in case you missed it.


#stitch with @Danielle Stanley has your back ❤️

Learning #1: how to gift for viral UGC

Between the Stanley moment and when OceanSpray gifted Doggface a truck for drinking cranberry juice while skating to Fleetwood Mac, it sure seems like the exchange rate for user-generated virality is an automobile.

But hey, maybe your brand can’t just roll up to the dealership. That’s okay! While a car certainly holds a certain weight as a gift, there are other ways to show appreciation to viral UGC through product & creative gifting.

  • Lifetime supply of product. I’m always surprised brands don’t do this more, especially those with inexpensive products, especially those who can gift digital products that incur no cost to the company.

  • A thoughtful experience. Let your social & creative pros brainstorm a meaningful experience. Is it a dinner & show? A little two-day getaway? Why not an adorable picnic? Just like gifts for loved ones, custom gifts for fans can go a long way.

  • Customized product. Get that fan’s name, colors, face, or something personalized onto the product you already know they love. An unexpected-but-great example: the New York City Marathon gifting YouTuber Casey Neistat a racing bib with his name instead of a race number.

Learning #2: casual > production value

The brand’s stitch TikTok reply is wonderfully casual. Stanley President Terence Riley’s delivery isn’t overly practiced, or perfectly lit, or even ideally framed. He repeats a few phrases, says “wow” more than once, and comes off as a sweet dad trying to skype his kids away at university.

And that’s exactly why it works. It’s kind! It shows care! It’s human! And comes off like a regular ol’ TikTok. It’s everyone’s favorite buzzword: authentic!

And yes, the car certainly helps and is the right move here, but if we go back to Oceanspray’s truck gifting, your heartstrings aren’t nearly as moved due to the resulting content—unnatural for social filming, camera crews, and misunderstanding how to get a great reaction out of their giftee.

Always lean on the human side & create content that’s true to social.

Learning #3: brands should try to recreate this sort of scale for social

A huge part of the original TikTok’s virality came from the dark humor & heart of it all. Her Stanley survived an awful happening—her car is totaled, but there’s that mug, still keeping her drink cold. It’s quite literally the This Is Fine meme.

I’m not suggesting you go hunting for travesty, but I do think there’s a learning here about spectacle.

I don’t think Stanley testing their mugs by exploding a car creates nearly the same virality as replying to the tragedy that happened, but I know that type of thinking would significantly outperform 99% of brand social metrics.

You want better social views? You’ve got to think more in stunts. To be clear: stunts that fit your brand & the messaging you’re going for. But dedicating a bigger portion of your budget to big ideas will take your social further than spreading it across your basic graphic designer salaries.

I’m building my work-from-home megadesk.

If I’m gonna work from my living room, I’m at least making sure I love my desk, love my set-up, and everything looks as pro as if I was in an office. When I took Future Social independent, I hit up my pals at elgato for a little tech & set-up help, and boy, they delivered. I’m not sure I realized how mediocre the typical laptop camera & mic are until I got some proper equipment.

That’s my desk you’re looking at up there. Here’s some equipment I’m using that every work-from-home pro could benefit from:

I’ve got other gadgets and doodads from them since I’m throwing webinars now—gimme a shout if there’s something on my desk you’ve got questions about. They’ve been such an awesome partner—I owe a lot of what’s happening to them. Check out their full catalog of products right over here.

Social Cues

There are so many social big thinkers out there, writing all kinds of amazing strategies, analysis, and breakdowns. All ships rise with the tide, so here are a few reads from other places I think you could learn from.

Us millennial are such an interesting bunch. We mostly acquired Facebook during our hormonal teenage years—the last generation to be born without modern social. Now, we’re wondering where we head on the internet.

Jack Raines has rapidly become one of my favorite writers—love his takes on both money and life building. This piece on why most creator-focused companies don’t work is a great read.

You know by now that I wish you’d worried less about best practices and more about telling great stories through content. You’re better off taking a screenwriting class than a marketing boot camp—or you could just read Jay, since he’ll give you both.