10_May_UK_Best in show- How liquid death rose to the top of the bottled water wars through marketing

How Liquid Death Conquered the Bottled Water Wars with Marketing

Leave a comment / / By Jena Hodgson

In an industry dominated by calm, positive, and health-focused branding, Liquid Death Mountain Water has emerged as a refreshing and rebellious force of hydration. Remember the first time you saw a can? Probably assumed it was a local beer, or high-octane energy drink.

Recognized for its tall cans adorned with a metal skull logo, this unique brand has transformed the simple act of drinking water into a bold statement through edgy branding, savvy marketing tactics, and an unwavering commitment to sustainability.

In our best of brand, we’ll dive into Liquid Death’s branding and marketing disruptive impact on the bottled water market. Their audacious branding strategy provides a compelling blueprint for marketers aiming to achieve standout results.

Sourced from an unlikely niche: punk rock

Mike Cessario, a former punk rock and heavy metal musician, founded Liquid Death in 2017 with a vision to fill a void in the beverage market. The music scene is saturated with beer, energy drinks, caffeine, but lacking healthy alternatives.

Thus, Liquid Death was born—a water packaged in tallboy-esque aluminum cans adorned with Old English lettering and a melting skull. Liquid Death initially found its place in tattoo parlors, bars, and liquor stores, quickly becoming a backstage staple at concerts before eventually evolving into a mainstream beverage product.

Similarly, marketers can succeed by tailoring an existing product or service to a segment whose “thirst” has not been fully satisfied.

Taking viral Facebook video to another level

Technically, Liquid Death’s journey began with a bang in 2018. Four months after its brand launch via a Facebook video with a modest $4,500 marketing budget, the brand garnered 80,000 followers and 3 million views.  As a result, Liquid Death became and remains among the most-followed beverage brands on social media. 

This viral success paved the way for investor interest and soon, Cessario was leading the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage company globally. Currently, Liquid Death is sold at thousands of retail locations nationwide (including Whole Foods and 7-Eleven). The addition of sparkling water and flavored options like Berry It Alive, Mango Chainsaw, and Severed Lime (I mean… cmon!) has only expanded its appeal with its target audience and beyond.

And in early 2024, Liquid Death became a billion-dollar beverage brand—$1.4 billion to be exact—thanks in part to a $67 million funding round raised from strategic investors and distributors.

How to disrupt an established market 

Liquid Death also has a mission to bury PET bottled water alive, which has influenced the entire industry. While it wasn’t the first to can still water or emphasize sustainability, it has led the charge in transforming the bottled water category. 

Established brands like Proud Source Water and Richard’s Rainwater have launched their own canned water products in an effort to drive sales through a sustainability approach. On the other hand, newer startups like NFT-themed Ape Water and GEN Z exemplify the many emerging water brands that are adopting a more quirky and irreverent take to the market.

As Liquid Death continues to innovate and expand, it serves as an inspiring example of how bold ideas and fearless marketing can carve out a significant place in even the most saturated markets. 

Cut to the chase

Liquid Death’s journey from startup to market leader is a testament to the power of unconventional thinking and the importance of finding and exploiting a unique niche. By combining a rebellious spirit with a deep commitment to sustainability, Liquid Death has not only shaken the bottled water industry but also set new standards for how brands can engage with their audiences.

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