BOSTON - In a sea of water bottles, the Stanley cup is the hot item across America right now. They've become so ubiquitous so fast that they've already been mocked on SNL.
They're the must have product of the year, being resold online for thousands, even starting fights inof the iconic water bottle.
Weird, right? It's a fantastic water cup, but it's just a cup. So why the craze?
Buying cultural cachet
Professor Shelle Santana, a branding expert at Bentley University, said the scarcity of the cups plays into its popularity compared to other costly water tumblers like Yetis.
"Brands are super important because brands reflect who we are," said Professor Santana. "It's not just the functional benefit of 'I'm buying a water bottle or I'm buying a tumbler.' You're buying much more than that. You're buying a brand. You're buying some cultural cachet. You're buying a moment in society. So, when you put all that together, it becomes pretty compelling."
She calls it an extension of the ego.
"The other thing about it is that it's a great story, right?" Professor Santana said. "So, it's not just about I have this daily tumbler, but part of this is, here's the story of how I got the Stanley tumbler, I stood in line for two hours, I had to fight off people in the aisle, what have you... that's part of being in this community of people in the know who got the thing."
This kind of phenomenon happened before the jet fuel of social media.
In the 70s, you had the pet rock.
In the 80s, if a Cabbage Patch doll wasn't under the tree, what kind of parent were you?
By the 90s, it was Beanie Babies, and fights broke out over PlayStations.
It even pre-dates advertising.
In 1637, people became so obsessed with buying tulip bulbs that it was blamed for crashing the Dutch economy.
Therapist explains the phenomenon
So, this story isn't really even about Stanley cups, but more about why we all suddenly buy the same thing.
Jeff Zeizel, a therapist from Woburn who works with people who have addictive behaviors, broke down this phenomenon.
"I think we all want to belong, so if the perception is that I own this product, I'm special, and I belong. I really want to have this," Zeizel said.
As for the lengths of fighting with another person in a store?
"It's amazing how it's so easy for us to become more primitive," Zeizel said. "So, we think we have this, and we really want to fight for this because it elevates our status, we will have a fight."
Zeizel explains what happens inside our brains.
"So, we have these neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, etc. Where when we purchase something, we get a chemical boost. So, purchasing something like the Stanley cup creates a dopamine rush, we get this release, and we get pleasure," Zeizel said.
That feeling is ancient and powerful.
"There is an element of tribalism. You know, we all come from tribes or clans. So, if I want this item, the Apple phone vs. the Android, I belong to a group and I'm not so isolated. And I am not alone, and I tend to feel better," Zeizel said.
So, the next time we see a craze explode like this, and scoff, who would act like that? The truth is, for the right product, we all would.
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