Liquid Death Marketing Strategy: Making Water Cool Again

Liquid Death Marketing Strategy: Making Water Cool Again

Unpack Liquid Death's bold marketing strategy that's revolutionizing branding in the beverage industry with a cool edge.

Seems a little excessive for a company that mainly sells cans of water, doesn’t it? Not when you look at the brand Liquid Death has built. Here’s how they harnessed the “cool factor” that makes mountain water as exciting as heavy metal and values the company at $700 million.

Liquid Death’s Rise to Popularity

During his travels with The Warped Tour, co-founder Mike Cessario watched the show’s sponsor, Monster Energy, struggle to maintain relevance. The headlining stars were desperate for refreshment, but not from the likes of sugary energy drinks.

And sponsorship dollars would certainly go to waste if the young crowds watched them down bottles of water instead of their product. The solution? Specially made canned water to provide the illusion of punk rock drinking Monster. The outcome? Kids fully believed Monster was the coolest drink in the world – and the inspiration behind Liquid Death and its marketing strategy.

Taking that “bottled cool” element into consideration, Liquid Death included other components to create the most outlandish water company to exist – primarily sustainability and entertainment.

Traditionally bottled water is also inherently wasteful, which is partially why Liquid Death began reinventing drinking water. But it isn’t the whole reason – knowing that other bottled water brands against single-use plastic pollution exist, Cessario redirects the entire advertising campaign budget strictly towards branding efforts.

Why? In his words, elaborating on the benefits of aluminum cans packaging only gives potential customers information on why they should shop with the competition. Allocating that energy to their “murdering your thirst” awesome branding (and sprinkling in the fact that their bottles are infinitely recyclable) forces customers to take notice of Liquid Death – and Liquid Death only.

How? Throw away the notions of peaceful waterfalls and gracefully melting glaciers – Liquid Death’s ads range from tasing participants to tricking audiences into believing children and pregnant people were consuming alcoholic beverages. Because of their hilarious marketing stunts and insane campaigns, Liquid Death created highly sought-after entertainment that pushed them front and center in consumer minds and against water competitors.

A Taste of Liquid Death

According to Liquid Death’s Vice President, Andy Pearson, “[they] don’t spend… money on media because [they’ve] decided to prioritize making entertainment instead of making marketing… [they] just make stuff that people genuinely want to see and interact with, and then [they] don’t have to pay money to force people to watch it.”

Here are a few of their most off-the-rails marketing campaigns to give you a taste of what it means to “murder your thirst” – and why they’re wildly successful.

1. Deadliest Stuff on Earth

Perhaps the biggest ad you’ll recognize that started it all. This campaign introduces Liquid Death as an actual product and as a personality. Their team paired inspiration and hopeful orchestrations with shocking statistics and profanity – narrated by a self-proclaimed “professional actor” guiding audiences through to the hysterically horrible twist at the end. Watch it here.

Why it works

Introductions can be hard, and it’s even more difficult to break the ice when your audience’s attention spans have shortened over time. That’s why this ad doesn’t give the viewer a moment to think – quick cuts between actors, action shots, and stock footage retain the audience’s attention well.

There are also multiple storylines at play to pique interest – the actor and their ever-full can of water reach a full circle when the water’s purpose is revealed, while the information narrated shatters the public perception of what water can do when not sitting pretty in plastic bottles, accompanied by stone-cold delivery on the actor’s part. All of this makes Liquid Death “a brand that parents will hate, but kids might love… made from the deadliest stuff on Earth.”

2. Big Game

Through their campaign antics (and sales), Liquid Death secured a coveted commercial slot in the 2022 Super Bowl. And right off the bat, it’s jarring – a fictional rock song blares the lyrics “breaking the law” over and over while children no more than 10 years old pass around aluminum tallboy cans, dancing and screaming and drawing on their faces.

Towards the end of the commercial, a pregnant person enters, smiles, and drinks from the same can. The knot in viewers’ stomachs immediately unravels when the screen changes and the words “don’t be scared, it’s just water” appear. Watch it here.

Why it works

This campaign, in particular, is a masterclass in redirection. Liquid Death built a brand on shock value, which gets instantly delivered at the sight of what appeared to be underage drinking/drinking while pregnant on national television (during the Super Bowl, no less). Audiences live for a big, unpredictable reveal, and their marketing team knew a short, anxiety-riddled lead-up to something harmless would not only shock but delight and entertain.

3. Blind Taze Test

You read that right. Like every brand, Liquid Death has amassed fans – and haters. Instead of replying snidely to disgruntled tweets, Liquid Death flew in the authors and challenged them to a taze test.

What’s a taze test? That is exactly what it sounds like. Participants were hooked up to a taser and presented with different unlabeled brands of water. If they could not identify the “worst tasting” water as Liquid Death, they’d receive a zap from the all-too-eager Liquid Death team. Watch it here.

Why it works

Receiving hate comments is difficult for all brands – and responding to them can be tricky. No one wants to drive potential (and existing) customers away from their brand with a rude reply – but the strong desire to protect the brand image can sometimes overshadow that judgment.

Liquid Death took their hate comments as an opportunity to clear their name and convert their haters into customers through a shocking (pun intended) game show-esque format that was easy to watch and share.

Their social media posts share the same bonkers energy that can be found in their ads. Like everyone’s favorite language learning app, Liquid Death has also enlisted the help of a mascot – but instead of a cute green owl, a disturbing chiseled… thing (for lack of a better descriptor) with eyes on its chest and a neck that grows into a Liquid Death tallboy can skateboards, terrifies passerby, and works out on their company’s TikTok and Instagram.

They also bring on popular personalities such as @yungjackkinnanen, @emilyzugay, and @therealdrmiami to create skits and logo redesigns and provide expert opinions.

All these elements make Liquid Death stand out in the best (or worst) ways because regularly canned water brands still follow the “traditional” marketing Liquid Death pokes fun at in its Deadliest Stuff on Earth ad. Water isn’t just for yoga moms and wellness girlies. It’s a force of nature to be reckoned with and doesn’t care if you’re a fitness instructor or not – and that’s exactly how Liquid Death gets remembered.

The Target Audience

Obviously, this bold marketing approach isn’t for everyone – their crude humor, profanity-ridden ads, and use of shock value would drive your great aunt Kathy away in a heartbeat. Liquid Death parades itself as an accessory to make one interesting.

The deception lies in the can, which gives it the image of a strong alcoholic drink when it’s nothing more than water. This makes Liquid Death the drink of choice for folks that want to flex on social media or blend in with their peers, and these people can look like this:

Sober folks: Don’t drink? Not a problem. Liquid Death’s packaging helps those avoiding booze appear like they’re holding something that is – which helps avoid unwanted questions that always pop up when people find out.

Teens: Can’t (legally) drink? Also not a problem. For similar reasons, sober folks like Liquid Death, teens love the concept because it makes them cool – without repercussions. It’s an easy way to appear effortlessly interesting that they can purchase themselves, no questions asked (and it always looks good in an Instagram story).

Heavy metal/rock fans: Take one look at the can’s design, and it’s a no-brainer that this demographic falls under the target audience of Liquid Death – it’s also unsurprising since they were sort of the original inspiration for the product to begin with since the physical product blends into their natural concert environment seamlessly.

Energy drink/beer people: A little different from the sober folks – Liquid Death also appeals to those looking for healthy alternatives to their usual brands of beer or energy drink while still feeding the illusion to them and others that it’s something more since the can’s design lends itself to the resemblance of a beer or Monster container.

Where to next?

An IPO, to start. With an estimated $700 million valuation, Liquid Death looks like a great future investment option if/when they decide to go public. And they definitely have the interest of the nation. Since skyrocketing to fame through unorthodox marketing tactics, Liquid Death’s ads have popped up everywhere – from your phone screen to the 2022 Super Bowl itself – and it’s captured the hearts and quenched the thirst of Millennials and Gen Z. Now we wonder how Liquid Death will continue fighting for relevance – and if Gen Alpha will see the appeal as they come of age.


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