If you’ve been existing in the universe at any point over the last handful of years, you’ve likely encountered a can of Liquid Death. At first, you might have been scared— the sinister gothic word mark, the black and gold color scheme, the melting skull icon. Then, you probably rolled your eyes at the ridiculousness of the overt machismo. Even the name: Liquid Death? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Well, they are.
Liquid Death is a beverage company with a brand built around playing with levels of parody and satire. Hyper-self-aware, Liquid Death takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to all aspects of their branding, thumbing their nose at typical marketing strategies, campaigns, brand systems, and packaging. From the tone of their copywriting (see the “MURDER YOUR THIRST” tagline), to their provocative social media posts, Liquid Death continues to put on a masterclass in creating an authentically compelling brand consumers can’t look away from.
I put myself in that category of captivated consumer, and reached out to the wild minds over at Liquid Death to learn a bit more about what in God’s name they’re up to over there. Their VP of Creative, Andy Pearson, was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions below.
Where does your brand voice come from? How did you go about developing this cheeky, nose-thumbing POV?
Liquid Death is really the product of everything that we’ve ingested over the years, thrown in a paper bag, mixed up, and then shaken out— skate videos, metal shows, Mad Magazine, George Carlin standup, shitty TV ads, Jackass, design annuals, SNL, Adult Swim. If you look at the kind of stuff we make, it’s always a satirical take on the world around us, particularly the world of marketing. And we’re trying to mix high-brow, thought-provoking ideas with low-brow humor. It appeals to all parts of your brain, which is what the best humor and entertainment in the world does.
How did the concept for Liquid Death originate?
Our co-founder and CEO [Mike Cessario] was an advertising creative himself, so he saw how everything was marketed from the inside. He had a realization that all the brands that were good for you had boring, stale marketing that only talked to the same group of people. But brands that were bad for you— like beer, soda, candy— were insanely fun and sucked people in. So the idea became, What if we could take something good for you but act like it wasn’t? Then we could make it so fun and compelling, it might actually outdo all the bad-for-you brands. No one had ever thought about it that way.
Why do you think the masses have responded so favorably to this brand voice/Liquid Death?
Because there’s never quite been a brand like Liquid Death before.
We’re willing to put ideas and content out into the world that no brand would dream of. I sometimes like to think of it as one of those crazy SNL commercials… but it actually came to life and you can really buy it. It seems almost too insane to be real, but it is. Obviously we sell amazing water, iced tea, and merch, but at the end of the day, we’re really selling entertainment.
The world is so serious. It’s nice to bring people from somewhere they least expected it: a random beverage company. And on top of that, we’re using that entertainment to help people feel better about making healthier and more sustainable choices for themselves, their families, and the planet. No matter who you are, that’s something we all want.
What is your biggest pet peeve or hang up when it comes to typical marketing strategies?
Marketers and advertisers think the world needs more marketing and advertising. I spent 13 years working at ad agencies. I had a great time, but everyone is a) in their own bubble and b) does everything the same way it’s always been done. Very few people stop to question if there’s a better way to do things. That’s the whole idea behind Liquid Death: There’s a better way to do everything if you just stop for a minute and think about it. Water in plastic bottles? That’s all from the marketing strategy to sell bottled water based on purity. No one stopped to question it for decades, and think about the countless billions of tons of plastic waste that has been created as a result. Too many smart, funny people are using their skills on things that aren’t helping the world get better.
How do you keep pushing the envelope of absurdity as a brand?
Just like any entertainer, the more stuff we put out in the world, the more we understand what works. A standup comedian tests material on stage. TV shows generally find their footing in subsequent seasons. For us, we just keep trying to put more genuinely hilarious stuff out in the world, and it gives us more ideas about what we want to do next. We have a queue of so many things we want to make. We just wish we had more time to make them all.