There are all sorts of stupid startups out there trying to sell consumers useless products, but “Liquid Death” is an odd one even by those metrics. Their whole business plan is to sell…water, in tallboy cans, with death-and-destruction marketing. And yet, they raised $1.6 million towards that goal in a funding round that closed Tuesday. Business Insider’s Megan Hernbroth has more:
With $1.6 million in fresh seed funding led by Science Inc., co-founder and CEO Mike Cessario is ready to bring Liquid Death, his direct-to-consumer canned water startup, to prime time. That’s right: Despite the name, Liquid Death is nothing but good old fashioned H2O, served in a tallboy can.
Cessario is familiar with eye-catching marketing, having worked on viral promotions for Netflix original series like “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things,” and “Narcos.” He tapped into his background playing in punk and heavy metal bands to come up with Liquid Death, because “nothing’s better than water at murdering your thirst.”
“When we first started, we wondered why is it that products and [consumer packaged goods] products have to play by these 1950’s bland and boring rules, while other entertainment things can play by much more fun rules,” Cessario told Business Insider.
Want to see what those “much more fun rules” look like? Here’s a commercial they put on YouTube, listing it as a “banned Super Bowl commercial” (highly unlikely, considering that the commercial has a 1:23 runtime, that Super Bowl slots were going for over $5 million for 30 seconds this year, and that this company has raised a total of $2.25 million so far), featuring a woman slowly pouring out a tallboy of water while talking about how many people water kills. By the end, it turns out she’s pouring it onto someone duct-taped to a bench with a bag over their head:
Let’s transcribe this:
“Hi. I’m a professional actor, and I’m getting paid to tell you about a revolutionary new product.” [Dark voiceover: “Liquid Death Mountain Water,” with screams.] “For years, a bunch of marketing fuckboys have tricked you into thinking that water is just some girly drink for yoga moms. Just look at all the cute brand names and dainty little bottles. Well, hold on to your hot dogs, because I got news. Water isn’t cute, water is death. It kills innocent surfers and snowboarders and kayakers. Every year, water is responsible for thousands and thousands of deaths. Energy drinks only kill, like, what, one or two kids? So please, don’t fall for the marketing bullshit. Water is not yoga, water is liquid death. And that is why this brand needs to exist, to finally give water the ice-cold can and ice-cold name it deserves. A brand parents will hate, but kids might love.” [Dark voiceover of “Liquid Death Mountain Water” again.] “Made from the deadliest stuff on earth. Please, enjoy responsibly.”
Yeah, even if they had had the money, this was never a serious Super Bowl commercial attempt. Beyond the torture-recalling images, “For years, a bunch of marketing fuckboys have tricked you into thinking that water is just some girly drink for yoga moms” ain’t gonna fly on CBS, especially when they rejected a tame medical marijuana ad and when everyone else went pretty bland.
Beyond that, yes, some people buy bottled water, and yes “sustainably sourced Austrian water” might interest some. And the tallboys may even be both a cute marketing gimmick and perhaps a more-sustainable solution than plastic; some recycling resources argue the benefits of aluminum over plastic, and the company is donating $0.05 from each can sold to help ocean cleanup efforts. But using a marketing campaign to tell people not to listen to marketing is certainly an approach.
And so is trying to talk up water being deadly as a selling point. That worked better when people did it to try and get politicians to ban “dihydrogen monoxide“; it’s unclear that it’s particularly a way to get people to drink it. And it’s also unclear that people will actually respond to an “edgy” company that’s raised millions to tell you how non-corporate they are, and how they’re the ones telling the truth rather than the “marketing fuckboys.”
But who knows, maybe this will take off. Maybe Cessario and his investors (including Dollar Shave Club founder & CEO Michael Dubin, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and Away co-founder Jen Rubio) will get rich from selling “Liquid Death” water. Or maybe they’ll just have everyone laughing at them.