Liquid Death Marketing Strategy Case Study: Slaying the Beverage Industry with Killer Branding and Marketing

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Liquid Death, a canned water brand founded in 2019 by former Netflix creative Mike Cessario, has become a remarkable success story in the beverage industry.

With an unapologetically authentic brand identity and unconventional marketing strategy, Liquid Death has disrupted the market and captured the attention of consumers looking for an alternative to traditional bottled water.

This case study explores the brand and marketing strategies that have contributed to Liquid Death's rapid growth and cult-like following.

Liquid Death marketing strategy components:

  • Liquid Death's Unique Branding and Messaging
  • Liquid Death Points of Sale (PoS): "Death Dealers" and Direct to Consumer Sales
  • Liquid Death Marketing Strategies
  • Liquid Death Marketing Results

Liquid Death's Unique Branding and Messaging

Embracing the Outlaw Brand Archetype

I always enjoy taking a look at brands through the brand archetype lens. Brand archetypes give us a template, or "brand role model," to compare a brand to.

In this case, Liquid Death's marketing and branding aligns well to the outlaw brand archetype. Brands with this archetype are rebellious, disregard norms, and aren't afraid to stand out. Liquid Death's bold, ironic, and sometimes shocking marketing and advertising tactics put it squarely in this category.

Embracing being an outlaw is core to the brand's positioning, and it certainly has consumers' attention.

Death to Plastic Bottles

Liquid Death's branding centers around its mission to "murder" plastic bottles. The brand's irreverent tagline, "Death to Plastic," capitalizes on environmental concerns and positions their product as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bottled water.

Heavy Metal Aesthetic

Liquid Death draws inspiration from heavy metal music, using skull imagery, dark colors, and edgy designs for its packaging. This unconventional approach sets it apart from the sterile and clean aesthetics typically associated with bottled water.

Punk Rock Packaging

The tallboy-style aluminum cans, resembling beer cans, further differentiate Liquid Death from its competitors. This packaging choice not only aligns with their branding but also promotes the idea that water doesn't need to be boring.

This video from Shipping Things gives an in depth look at Liquid Death's packaging. Side note: if you haven't watched Shipping Things' videos before, I highly recommend them. Equal parts entertaining and educational.

Social Responsibility

While Liquid Death employs a rebellious image, it also highlights its commitment to environmental responsibility. The brand donates a portion of its profits to organizations working to clean up plastic pollution.

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Liquid Death Points of Sale (PoS): "Death Dealers" and Direct to Consumer Sales

Before we get into Liquid Death's awesome content marketing, let's take a look at where Liquid Death sells its products. Liquid Death has been able to penetrate the beverage market through a combination of a direct to consumer (DTC) sales strategy and distribution partnerships.

Liquid Death Direct to Consumer (DTC) Marketing

Liquid Death sells its own products on the Liquid Death Amazon store. Here consumers can shop Liquid Death's full product line and order products with Amazon's efficient purchasing and shipping options.

Liquid Death Reseller Partnerships - "Death Dealers"

Liquid Death also has its "Death Dealer" partnership program, where it has partnered with major beverage retailers like 7-Eleven, Target, and Bevmo. Check out Liquid Death's store locator to see its full distribution network. It's fitting that even the company's reseller and distribution partner program has an edgy, humorous name.

Complementing its DTC marketing strategy, having partnerships with these major retailers allows Liquid Death to take advantage of their established customer bases, in-store advertising opportunities, and digital marketing partnerships. Accessing this large network of partner-led customers and marketing channels enabled Liquid Death to quickly establish its presence and scale its brand awareness.

Related: Lululemon Marketing Strategy - A Closer Look

Liquid Death Marketing Strategies

Liquid Death might take a humorous, offbeat approach to its brand message, but there's nothing off about its marketing strategy.

The brand deploys a multi-channel integrated marketing strategy that sees it create content and establish a presence across channels like social media, paid digital advertising, influencer marketing, and experiential marketing events.

Viral Content

Liquid Death has gained significant attention through its social media presence. Their marketing team creates humorous, viral content that often pokes fun at the bottled water industry and consumer habits. Memorable ads, like the "Death to Plastic" campaign and their "Cancel Plastic" events, have generated buzz and engagement.

For example, the "Death to Plastic" campaign featured this offbeat ad in which children's stuff animals were created to symbolize the terrible impact that plastic pollution has on wildlife and the ocean.

One person commented on YouTube: "I don’t think an ad has ever caught me more off guard than this one and I love it."

Content like this exemplifies how Liquid Death strives to stand out in its marketing, and at times, grab consumer attention with shock value style content.

Influencer Partnerships

The brand strategically collaborates with influencers, especially in the alternative and punk music scenes. These partnerships have helped Liquid Death reach niche communities and build a devoted fan base.

Even Liquid Death's influencer partnerships take an edgy, outside-of-the-box approach. An example of this can be seen in another piece of content from the "Death to Plastic" campaign.

This advertisement features an adult entertainment star, and uses humorous jokes related to the adult entertainment industry to get the brand's anti-plastic point across.

Experiential Marketing

Liquid Death hosts events that align with its brand identity, such as punk rock concerts and extreme sports competitions. These events not only engage their target audience but also provide opportunities for product promotion.

Limited Editions and Merchandise

Liquid Death regularly releases limited-edition cans and merchandise, creating a sense of exclusivity and urgency among consumers. Collectors and fans eagerly anticipate these drops, leading to increased sales.

Digital-First Approach

Liquid Death relies heavily on e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales, allowing them to maintain control over their brand image and engage directly with customers.

Related: The Effective Lego Marketing Strategy: Building Success Brick by Brick

Liquid Death Results and Growth

Since its inception, Liquid Death has experienced remarkable growth. The brand has expanded its product line to include sparkling water, and its distribution has grown exponentially. Liquid Death's combination of edgy branding, sustainable values, and innovative marketing strategies has attracted a passionate customer base, leading to a reported valuation of over $100 million in just a few years.

Final Thoughts on Liquid Death's Marketing Strategy

Liquid Death's success story demonstrates the power of a unique brand identity and disruptive marketing strategies in a crowded industry.

By challenging conventional norms, embracing a rebellious image, and effectively leveraging social media and influencer partnerships, Liquid Death has not only differentiated itself but has also made a significant impact on the way consumers perceive and consume bottled water. Its continued growth will be a fascinating case to watch in the evolving landscape of beverage marketing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Liquid Death's Marketing Strategy

What is the marketing behind Liquid Death?

The marketing behind Liquid Death centers on its unique branding and unconventional approach, utilizing humor, a rebellious tone, and an eco-friendly message to stand out in the beverage industry. Their campaigns often feature edgy graphics and slogans, positioning the canned water as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to plastic-bottled water, while also appealing to a younger demographic through viral social media content and merchandise.

Who is Liquid Death's target audience?

Liquid Death's target audience includes young adults, environmentally conscious consumers, and those with a taste for counterculture. This demographic appreciates the brand's commitment to sustainability, its unique marketing approach, and the product's alignment with a lifestyle that values health, environmental responsibility, and a sense of community.

What makes Liquid Death so popular?

Liquid Death's popularity stems from its distinctive branding, which combines a commitment to environmental sustainability with a punk rock ethos, and its ability to create a strong community around the brand. The product stands out with its bold canned design and humorous marketing tactics, resonating with consumers who are looking for a product that makes a statement. Their approach to treating water with the same marketing gusto typically reserved for beer or energy drinks has also contributed to its appeal and word-of-mouth growth.

What is the competitive advantage of Liquid Death?

The competitive advantage of Liquid Death lies in its unique brand identity, which capitalizes on an irreverent and bold approach to marketing, and its commitment to sustainability, with products packaged in infinitely recyclable aluminum cans. This distinct positioning not only differentiates Liquid Death from traditional bottled water brands but also aligns with growing consumer preferences for environmentally friendly and authentic products.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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