Liquid Death: How Brand Positioning Made Canned Water Worth $700 Million
It’s canned water, Michael. What could it possibly be worth? Following the latest round of fundraising and valuations, about $700 million! What on the surface seems like a simple idea (good, clean water served in a tallboy beer can) is made unique with an irreverent brand positioning that aims to murder your thirst.
Liquid Death has seemingly nailed their target market. Namely, me. I don’t think I’ve ever been more firmly in the center of a venn diagram in my life.
- Delicious and refreshing product? Check.
- Excellent design and illustrations? Check.
- Killer name? Check.
- Skulls? Check.
- Cause-based marketing? Check.
- Ridiculous campaigns and executions? Oh yeah.
- Am I jealous of the branding team? Absolutely.
It’s for those reasons that Liquid Death has supplanted itself atop the beverage market. Some reports suggest it may be the fastest growing brand in the category’s history. Destroying behemoths like LaCroix, PepsiCo backed Bubly, and even White Claw, an alcoholic competitor.
That doesn’t happen by accident.
How did this seemingly simple idea take over an entire shelf of premium real-estate in my beer fridge? You read the title of this article right? Spoilers: it’s brand positioning.
It started with an aim to serve water in a unique way, free of wasteful single-use plastics. Enter the “infinitely recyclable can of stone-cold sparkling water” and a direct shot across the bow of big plastic with the hashtag #DeathtoPlastic. 10% of the profits from every can sold is donated to “help kill plastic pollution.” This cause-based approach informed much of the brand positioning, in a unique death-centric kind of way. Not only is it a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it also directly addresses a serious crisis in the abundance of plastic waste.
— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) November 14, 2022
#DeathtoPlastic became the anchor to which the rest of the brand would be tied. Floating along the river Styx is where the brand truly comes to life. From the cans to the merch — yes, canned water has merch — everything plays within the graveyard of plastic. The can is adorned with large gothic lettering emblazoning “Liquid Death” above a melting skull grounded by a gold ring declaring “Murder Your Thirst.”
Want to sign up for the Liquid Death newsletter? It’s not that easy, you’ll need to fill out a form that requires you to sell your soul to Liquid Death for all eternity. Or pay cash. Your call.
There’s the severed hand candle from Martha Stewart, the blood-infused skateboard deck from Tony Hawk, and even a water jet tattoo for Steve-O. Yes, I’m sure this is all to promote a canned water brand.
Oh to be a fly on the wall when the brand team proposed it all:
“Okay hear us out, with this beverage we aim to remove as much plastic from the environment as possible.”
“But we want to use keywords like death and murder. Also we’re going to create an elaborate story about a sentient aluminum can of water that has an insatiable bloodlust for thirst victims. Plus a bunch of cool stuff with unrelated celebrities.”
Damn it Jenkins, you’ve done it again!
But therein lies how Liquid Death was able to amass such success and a cult following. Every single element of the brand is unique, ownable, and anchored back to the original positioning, “Death to Plastic.” One simple phrase gave the team permission to explore the seemingly absurd and explore they did.
Here’s the thing, it clearly worked. I bought my first can of Liquid Death solely because of the name and can design. Now it’s on auto-order from Amazon and a mass grave of cans litter my desk. Maybe that says more about me. My decision to support Liquid Death was further solidified with a review from noted water sommelier (yeah, that’s a thing), Martin Riese. It’s not just good branding, it’s damn good water too.
Good branding and marketing begins with those deep, probing questions that drive at the why of your company or product. At LimeLight our process follows this proven methodology and informs each and every output we create. Your brand is capable of more than you think, are you the next canned water or even better? Let’s talk.