Whaaat? That was the reaction of one tweeter to the Liquid Death ad during the Super Bowl. Said ad, which is embedded here, showed a group of preteens partying, “breaking the law” in the parlance of the 30-second spot, while chugging Liquid Death from tallboy aluminum cans. Don’t be alarmed, though: Liquid Death is just water that will “murder your thirst” and, incidentally, “kill plastic pollution.”
The ad probably raised a few eyebrows, but it’s all part and parcel of the brand’s marketing strategy that extends from the goth/metal lettering on its cans, merch that includes T-shirts with slasher-style graphics, and gimmicks like betting $50,000 on the Super Bowl underdog — the Cincinnati Bengals, as it happened — and then sending a certified witch to the game to cast spells and help that team to win. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.
So, if nothing else, Liquid Death is masterful at marketing. Except that it doesn’t really care about marketing, at least not the corporate kind. Here’s what it writes on its About Us page: “We’re just a funny water company who hates corporate marketing as much as you do. Our evil mission is to make people laugh and get more of them to drink water more often, all while helping to kill plastic pollution. But enough about us and our boring marketing story, tell us about you.” Nothing corporate about capturing your name and e-mail address for their list, right?
But here’s my real beef with them. None of us want to see plastics polluting the Earth, and there are many avenues for achieving that. If you want to go the #deathtoplastic route, that’s reductive, but OK.
But I have to assume that you care about the planet in other ways, too. So, I was curious about where the water came from. On the Liquid Death website it only says that it springs from a “deep underground mountain source protected by a few hundred feet of stone.” Want to know where that mountain source is? Well, you won’t find the answer on the Liquid Death site. You’ll have to surf the net to find out it comes from the Austrian Alps. As the New Yorker noted in a recent article, “aluminum may be light to transport and easy to recycle, but the industrial costs of mining and processing are considerable. Then there’s the environmental cost of freighting thousands of gallons of water from one continent to another . . . .”
Former Netflix creative director Mike Cessario is behind Liquid Death, which was founded because he considered other water brands to be catering to “Whole Foods yoga moms” and, thus, to be insufficiently punk, he told Business Insider. Commenting on the brand’s identity, he also said that “everything metal and punk is extreme. Being vegan is extreme. Protesting the deforestation is extreme.”
What about the environmental cost of shipping water from Austria to the United States and elsewhere? That’s pretty extreme, but maybe not in a way that fits neatly within the Liquid Death narrative.