BlogSpirits & Wines

Introduction By: Peter Marshall

No, this is not a Halloween prank from It is a serious piece of copy, written by our guest contributor this week, Cenk Akerson, on the extraordinary success of a brand in the US.

Well, with a brand name like this, you might expect a doomsday sci-fi movie or a shock/horror news item on TV – certainly something horrific happening in the world.

Actually it’s nothing of the kind. In fact, Liquid Death is a new water brand in the US. Absolutely nothing different than just plain water! The twist around the branding comes from the fact the brand uses aluminium cans as opposed to plastic bottles. And the tag line?

Kill Thirst, Kill Plastic!

It makes for a fascinating feature. This brand has created organic marketing in extremis and, arguably, there is much the rather one dimensional Travel Retail business marketing teams could learn from such radical marketing.

At least consider an approach that will help the travelling passenger rediscover the magic that our great industry is capable of delivering.

Cenk Akerson writes: So what could be the key learnings for the Travel Retail ecosystem?  Is there room for a brand such as this in the channel?

Liquid Death water has actually broken the record for the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage since its first entry to market in 2021. In October 2022 the company was valued at $700M (yes US Dollars , you read it right).

One wonders…. how can a product like water with no value added benefits like vitamins, alkaline sport drinks, caffeine, etc make such an impact in such a highly competitive market in such a short time?

Of course, everyone will say “marketing”. Well, that’s easier said than done. If that was the case then how come the mega powerhouses of water in the US like Dasani and Aquafina have not made an impact in their history like this?

When Mike Cessario, ex-Netflix advertisement executive, started his company, his plan was to expand to bars, tattoo parlours and certain barber shops in Los Angeles and Philadelphia as a “lifestyle play”.Cessario stated the brand was initially marketed towards straight-edge adherents and fans of heavy metal music and punk rock. The drink began selling to consumers on its website in January 2019

The power of Liquid Death’s narrative and its execution plan got this project invested with over $200M in less than 2 years. In Travel Retail, brands, retailers, airports and other stake-holders invest much more than this number. The question is: what new narrative is there to communicate to travelers –  or people who are not traveling – to get them engaged to create value to the ecosystem?

Liquid Death is gaining more and more new consumers and distribution partners faster than any preceding new brand in the world. Remember,  we are just talking about plain water!

The power of the narrative always wins the heart of the public. Yet, what about the sustainability of it all?  Well that’s another question altogether.

As we know, Travel Retail assets of the many brands, key retailers, airlines etc. have not really been able to offer an exciting, new narrative to the public for many years – it still largely revolves around price promotions.

Let’s hope that Liquid Death’s success will inspire someone in the channel  to come up with an exciting new story, a new value proposition to inspire the ecosystem and end the tired story of Duty Free of better price and great assortment (which arguably is not even true anymore).

According to Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer of The New Yorker and author of the highly regarded book, Tipping Point, a powerful narrative has a mixture of two key factors:

  1. Power of Context  2. Stickiness Factor

These two pillars are closely followed by people communication.

There are three rules for a message/narrative to become a social epidemic:

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.

  • Connectors are people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.
  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or people we rely upon to connect us with new information.
  • Salesman are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills” 

Liquid Death has managed to tick all these boxes. They have mastered Social Media marketing and word of mouth marketing via sponsoring edgy parties, concerts, and leaving the burden of content creation and communication to everyday consumers.  Now even well-known celebrities are onboarded. Doubtless we’ll see the impact of this soon.

Special Edition of Liquid Death with Martha Stewart.

Now, as their packaging looks like a beer can, they have given the burden of social media content generation to users which all go viral (at least as it seems they are not paid). One example:  kids buying the water where an adult warns the shop cashier  that ‘’you can’t sell beer to kids’’. Then one kid says “Dude relax, it’s just water”. This has also become a trending tag on the most popular social media platforms: “relax, it’s just water @LiquidDeath’’

Certainly the company has revamped this creatively with their youtube advertisement with kids drinking liquid death as if they are drinking beer at party, with rock music and words that shout out “breaking the law” Or maybe it’s ‘’drinking a lot’’?

Kids partying like a college students , as if drinking beer…with the message: “calm down it’s just water”

Every venture capitalist will say that, for any given project, they will look for a niche market that the company can monopolize. Liquid Death with its branding and affiliation to a target market, heavy metal, punk music audience – an audience that one would not think to sell water to – has achieved remarkable success. With the right funding and execution, in two years they have taken over a 1% market share in the US bottled water market , with expected sales of $125M in  60,000 retail locations in the US.

It’s a great result for a company with such a negative name/statement to have such a massive, positive impact as a water brand.

Arguably, a question mark remains over their sustainability mission that they communicate and their business model. Aluminum cans produce CO2 emissions that are twice those of plastic. In the ocean these cans do turn poisonous and kill marine life. Their DTC model with 15lbs (7kg) packaging cost of freight and CO2 emissions may remain a big question for their investors to think about.


Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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