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The Liquid Death strategy

Let’s explore some of the genius of this super-successful American canned water brand, Liquid Death….. Trends futurist guru Jonathan Cherry reports….

The story is that Mike Cessario, the guy who started the brand, was at a summer music festival and noticed that some of the kids were filling Monster Energy drink cans up with plain water and then drinking them on the dance floor (obviously to look cool, while keeping hydrated and semi-sane).

This sparked a question in his mind, ‘Why hasn’t anyone marketed water as if they were marketing Monster Energy drinks?

This is indeed an excellent line of enquiry and it immediately formed the kernel of what would later become his market-beating strategy.

Water packaging and branding (let’s be honest here) is universally dull, conservative and forgettable. There’s a saying that we have here at the Cherryflava HQ that water marketing is where old, sleepy insurance salesmen go to take it easy.

By simply packaging water to appeal to a cool, young, outgoing crowd – Liquid Death exploited a no-brainer opportunity that had been lying around waiting to be explored since bottle water was invented.

Initially the brand was made available exclusively in bars, tattoo parlours, and selected barber shops in Los Angeles and Philadelphia and then was made available directly to customers online.

Since then the brand has gone a lot more mainstream, making use of celebrities like Travis Barker, adult film star Cherie DeVille (WARNING: Do not Google this actress while at work, please), Tony Hawk and Martha Stewart in their promotional material.

Since its launch in 2019, Liquid Death has attracted more than $200-million in funding and the brand is valued currently at around $700-million.

There are apparently plans for the business to publicly list in 2024.

The take out?

Far too many people think that strategy is just about setting goals or making plans, when it’s actually about making hard choices and trade-offs. Strategy is about taking a tightly-defined position in the marketplace to gain a competitive advantage. It’s about creating meaning for some people, not everybody.

Brands get scared as they grow.

They fear alienating a potential customer and rather try to appeal universally. The brand ends up looking like it was created by a committee (and in many cases it is); and for consumers…. we get to enjoy the mind-numbingly bland water shelf at the local supermarket.

Great strategy means standing out by doing something so singular and radically different to your competitors that you can’t be ignored and actually make them look like they’re permanently napping.

Water is a commodity. Liquid Death has turned it not only into a stunning brand, but have reframed its utility.


More on Liquid Death here on CNBC…