Liquid Death x Martha Stewart Candle Commercial hed 2022

You may assume a brand with a name like Liquid Death made energy drinks, rat poison or maybe lighter fluid. But no. Liquid Death sells one of the most homogenous goods on the planet: plain, old mineral water. And it’s one of the most refreshing new fmcg brands of the past few years. 

Just because the product you’re selling is boring, it doesn’t mean your branding needs to be. That’s the philosophy at the heart of everything Liquid Death does, and it has helped the independent startup (which launched in the US in 2019) reach a valuation of $700m in October 2022, turning over an estimated revenue of $130m last year. 

Liquid Death is not sold in UK supermarkets (yet), but even though it’s not on the shelves of Sainsbury’s or Tesco, British brands would do well to pay attention to this premium water brand that doesn’t play by the rules.  

Most water brands boast of their hydrating properties or natural sourcing, but Liquid Death has achieved its success by challenging these category conventions. Instead, it relies on unashamedly distinctive branding and immensely entertaining marketing.  

Liquid Death’s aluminium cans, replete with gothic lettering and a melting skull, stand out amongst the transparent plastic bottles on most supermarket shelves. Marketers often talk about the split-second decisions consumers make at the point of purchase, and how products can earn their place in shoppers’ baskets. A brand immediately puts itself at a disadvantage if the product fails to stand out from the pack.

Why can’t a water brand have a heavy metal aesthetic, or the tagline ‘murder your thirst’? Asking heretical questions that challenge everything we assume and accept about a category can help a brand reach new creative heights.

However, it’s not just enough to have a visually striking product to entice consumption. A new fmcg company needs to build its brand and give people a reason to choose the product – this is where advertising enters the equation. While other water brands are talking about babbling brooks and health benefits, Liquid Death instead focuses on creating laugh-out-loud branded content to increase its fandom, encourage sales, compete with the bigger budgets of its competitors and ‘win the internet’. 

As Mike Cessario, the CEO and founder of Liquid Death, told me: “Why does health food always have to be so quiet and responsible? How come all of this sh*t that’s terrible for you is allowed to have all the fun and explosions?”

In the past 12 months, we’ve witnessed Liquid Death collaborate with American TV personality Martha Stewart to make a $58 dismembered hand candle; film a ridiculous 10-minute ‘workout’ video with a comedian; and give Jackass star Steve-o a tattoo using water instead of ink. The team behind Liquid Death claim it’s the fastest growing non-alcoholic drink brand of all time.

And they attribute this growth to a never-ending cycle of fun, irreverent branded content. “As soon as Liquid Death starts trying to act like a big brand, that’s when we’ll start to lose,” Gregory Fass, Liquid Death’s VP of marketing, told me. “We need to stick to our roots of relying on entertainment, humour and content to tell our story over more traditional marketing avenues.”

We think all brands could dare to be different and act a bit more like Liquid Death in 2023.