LIQUID DEATH: A LESSON IN BRAND DISRUPTION
I have always been a fan of the unconventional and this has carried over into my love for great marketing. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about a brand that has used very unconventional marketing to inspire positive and negative emotions from the public by invigorating a rather basic industry through hyped up marketing. This brand, while devoted to a social cause, does not yield to the norm. So strong is their audience’s love for this brand that several customers have gotten tattoos of the brand. I’m talking about none other than the canned mountain water brand, Liquid Death. And yes, I said canned water.
A Little Backstory
Liquid Death was founded in 2019 by Mike Cessario, an advertising creative director who had previously worked for brands like Netflix and Organic Valley. Cessario was brought up as a vegetarian and wanted to encourage young people to drink more water. He came to the conclusion that the only reason why people preferred energy drinks over water was good marketing. He then resolved to change the way people think about bottled water and thus, Liquid Death was born.
As a start up, the brand raised an initial $2.25 million capital in 2019, $9 million in a series A round in February 2020, and $23 million in a series B round in September 2020. As of January 2022, the company is valued at $525 million. Not bad for a product that has been accused of bad marketing and catering to devil worshippers.
Reasons To Love This Brand
1. The Name
Is it just me or does the brand name make you curious about the brand and its product? The name alone conveys the sense that you are not dealing with your everyday brand because what kind of name is Liquid Death? Water is supposed to be a lifesaver after all. Some would call it liquid life. But instead, they took something as basic as WATER and went rogue with it. Unconventional, yes, but it seems to be working..
2. The Branding
How many water brands do you know of that use aluminium cans rather than plastic bottles? I can think of none. If this isn’t a powerful differentiator, I don’t know what else is. The logo, typography and all other stuff that make up the visual elements of this brand give it a hard edge/punk rock look- a brand image very unlike that of any other water company. If you had to take a guess at first glance, you’d probably make it for an alcoholic drink/beverage; which was exactly the idea Cessario was going for. You’d never guess that it was mountain water. The brand totally veered away from the straightforward and repetitive packaging style that most water brands seem to go for. Rather, the product comes in aluminium tallboy cans. Then there’s the taglines “Murder your thirst” and “Death to Plastic”. Their product promises to not just “refresh your body but to also murder your thirst”. And really, what more could you ask for from your water?
3. The Dedication to Sustainability
You’re probably wondering, “Why does Liquid Death water come in aluminium cans?
Well, the brand’s mission is “to make people laugh and get more of them to drink more water more often, all while helping to kill plastic pollution.” They weren’t joking about that last part. Liquid Death is passionate about eradicating plastic pollution one bottle at a time, which is why they use recyclable aluminium for their packaging. The brand also donates a portion of its earnings to charities that help kill plastic pollution. To further raise awareness of plastic pollution and the danger it poses to marine life, Liquid Death released a series of plush marine animal stuffed toys called Cutie Polluties. No, these toys aren’t your regular toys. These Cutie Polluties are bloodied and choked with plastic garbage to show the kind of damage plastic causes to the ocean. Gory? Maybe, but you can’t deny it sends a message.
4. A Lemons-To-Lemonade Attitude
As is to be expected with the controversial, not everyone is a fan of Liquid Death’s branding and marketing strategies. There are so many negative reviews about the brand online. Newsflash: the brand is not in the least deterred by that. Rather, they’re using it as fodder for their content game. In 2020, the company released two volumes of an extreme metal album, “Greatest Hates” made up entirely of negative reviews and harsh social media comments about their product. The albums, which used actual death metal musicians, are available to stream on Spotify and other digital music outlets. For a company with such extreme and irreverent marketing, this just seems fitting.
Lessons To Learn
- Sometimes, it pays to disrupt the status quo. Whatever product/service you offer, your marketing and branding doesn’t have to be rigid and confined. Make an effort to step out of the conventional box. It may seem silly at first but in the words of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman: “Great ideas often seem silly at first. If the idea doesn’t seem silly, people are already doing it.”
- The best products solve problems. A surefire way to have your brand stand out is to solve a problem no one else is solving. This makes your product meaningful to people and differentiates you from your competitor. Just like Cessario did, identify an existing problem and provide a solution.
- Make your brand human. It’s easier to connect with brands that support meaningful causes and/or use their voice to impact change. Find a cause your audience can tap into. In the same way, give your brand some personality. Liquid Death’s brand voice/personality is sarcastic and memorable, compared to other water brands.
- Focus on your customers and they’ll become your fans. Knowing your audience and what appeals to them is key to building great brand affinity. Ensure your content captures your audience’s attention. Tailor your brand experience to cater to your customers and watch how they become loyal fans.