Liquid Death brings marketing to life

The controversial drinks brand talks to Campaign Middle East’s editor about its funny and irreverent style

If you want an good example of how marketing can propel a new brand into the big leagues, look no further than Liquid Death.

The healthy beverage brand has built a huge following with its irreverent, edgy and at times controversial creatives that make it stand out in a crowded market.

CEO and founder Mike Cessario, who will be speaking at Cannes Lions this month, and  its VP of Creative Andy Pearson spoke with Campaign Middle East editor Justin Harper.

“Our goal is pretty simple. To make something that is the best thing someone will see that day. It’s a simple goal but a very high bar to clear,” Pearson said.

“So it forces us to constantly look into new spaces to mine for humour in ways that no brand has ever tried before.”

Indeed, humour is the main theme of its marketing strategy. Its eye-catching creatives, mixed with a smart social media strategy have been the secrets to its commercial success.

From its viral posts to its Super Bowl commercial, Liquid Death is the ‘must-have’ drinks brand — similar to the Prime sports drink last year.

‘Murder your thirst’

Liquid Death officially launched in 2019 but has a stratospheric rise in terms of brand awareness, sales and valuation.

Liquid Death CEO Cessario, a marketing professional with a background in design and the underground music scene, said he initially thought his water would have only a niche following.

He wanted to create a drink that was healthier than alcohol or existing sugary energy drinks on the market.

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The brand soon found a wide range of fans, from young people who love its cool name and design to parents who want their kids to drink something healthy.

Cessario is one of the headline speakers at Cannes Lions this year, along with Elon Musk and Deepak Chopra.

Entertain don’t market

He said: “Advertising is easy. Ask the average person if they could come up with a great idea for a commercial. Most will say yes. That’s because the bar for 99 per cent of advertising is so low.

“But if you ask them if they could write a hit comedy TV show or create an Instagram account with three million followers, almost none of them will say yes.”

His point is that entertaining is hard, but that people care about it.

“No one cares about marketing. We easily tune it out or skip it.”

In his session, Cessario will talk in detail about taking an entertainment-first approach to brand-awareness and brand-loyalty.

VP of Creative Andy Pearson

With its distinctive creativity, he will look at how can brands take smart risks and walk the line between ‘too far’ and funny, and avoid play-it-safe advertising.

Dumb ideas

In previous interviews, Cessario has said he has always shied away from thinking of the smartest idea, as your brain is hard-wired to think about successful examples that already exist. This stifles creativity.

Instead, Cessario asks what is the dumbest idea possible which opens the door to endless possibilities.

In one its recent marketing stunts Liquid Death offered a jet plane as a promotional prize, something that failed for Pepsi in 1996.

With a tagline of  ‘Murder your thirst’, it wasn’t all smooth for Liquid Death.

Initially, it was told  that the design for Liquid Death’s cans looked too much like beer, which could potentially confuse customers. Using the word ‘death’ in the name was also a cause for concern

Taking the bull by the horns, Cessario took a 3D model of his can design, and made a two-minute commercial on a very low budget.

Leveraging social media, and some paid media, inquires and sales started flooding in. Momentum built, the video garnered three million views and things took off.

Beverage distributors quickly got in touch, looking for a salesperson so they could stock it in stores.

Today, Liquid Death has more than 3000,000 followers on Facebook and 3.4 million on Instagram, while its valuation has soared. Liquid Death is Amazon’s top-selling still water brand.

Earlier this year, it launched a line of flavoured carbonated waters, with irreverent names such as Berry It Alive and Severed Lime.

It seems Liquid Death is full of life.