How Liquid Death Mountain Water Killed Traditional Marketing

Liquid Death Mountain Water logos on a brick wall for POLA Marketing Agency's SEO article about the company.

Why liquid death’s rejection of traditional marketing and illustrious branding sets the canned water brand apart from other beverage companies

Since Liquid Death stepped on the scene in 2018, the marketing world has been perplexed by the success of the brand’s touchy yet effective promotion strategies. Liquid Death sells canned mountain water by loathing marketing, thirst, and plastic. The brand’s $700 million net worth proves there’s gold in guerilla marketing and misrule. No wonder everyone and their mother are talking about Liquid Death.

The Birth of Liquid Death

A cold can of Liquid Death sparkling water with condensation against a a black background.

Everything about Liquid Death goes against the status quo, from conception to branding. Even the melting skull logo adorning the product’s signature king cans, also known as tallboys, proves individuality.

The founder is no stranger to alternative ways of marketing. Growing up in the hardcore and heavy metal scene of Philadelphia, Mike Cessario spent many years playing in bands and attending Warped Tour with fellow delinquents. One could say this was where Cessario’s rebellious creativity first emerged.

Cessario somehow found a path in corporate advertising which helped him gain footing for the birth of Liquid Death. It turns out that years of pitching creative ideas to boring business people can produce anarchist marketers. While attending Warped Tour in 2009, he recognized that plastic water bottle companies lacked the eccentric branding that various beers and energy drinks had in the same setting.

“Liquid Death was essentially the perfect combo of my passion for alternative culture, music, art, comedy, and health, along with my passion and experience for pushing the boundaries of marketing and advertising to make it suck less,” said Cessario.

It is easy to believe that Liquid Death’s success falls on the founder’s shoulders, but ongoing partnerships, social content, creative campaigns, and the company’s mission feed into the unconventional success of Liquid Death.

The #DeathToPlastic Manifesto

Liquid Death Mountain Water's logo on a sidewalk.

Liquid Death’s central mission is to end plastic pollution. To get the message across, the brand shames plastic water bottle usage and champions the consumption of its product — water in a recyclable aluminum can. Liquid Death dedicates an entire webpage to this campaign, where environmental facts and comically dark commercials live to enhance the power of Liquid Death’s mission.

“Plastic is not technically recyclable anymore because it is no longer profitable to recycle,” says the webpage. “But of all the aluminum produced since 1888, over 75 percent of it is still in current use. #DeathToPlastic.”

Instead of simply calling out plastic consumption, Liquid Death provides a solid solution to eradicate it. Every time the brand mentions #DeathToPlastic, it also states the perks of canned water.

The brand’s #DeathToPlastic is the primary driving factor behind each campaign launch. The character and voice Liquid Death uses to communicate its mission, combined with repetitive consistency, creates a powerful magnet that attracts key audiences most likely to commit to the brand eternally.

An Alternative Pairing: Liquid Death and its Punk Target Audience

Liquid Death uses its metalcore and punk audience to nail its branding. The best part is that the audience is complacent. There’s only one logical explanation for why this strategy works: the relationship is mutually beneficial. The audience can support a company with sick, oddball branding that aligns with its core values. Liquid Death gets a devoted crowd to model their brand voice after.

In an interview with Pittsburg Music Magazine, Cessario said, “People would be surprised that there’s a huge portion of the alternative, punk, and metal culture that actually cares about health and the environment, and that tends to be who instantly connects with our brand mission and humor.”

If rejecting corporate marketing, murdering thirst, and ending plastic pollution sounds attractive, welcome to Liquid Death’s target audience. Punk or not, the defiant audiences Liquid Death attracts complement the brand’s mission and marketing outlook in ways that open new doors and extend its success.

How Liquid Death Rocked Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Liquid Death Mountain Water Bonnaroo music festival promotion activation covered by POLA Marketing Agency.

Collecting human souls at a music festival in rural Tennessee isn’t a marketing tactic that most brands adopt. For the canned water company Liquid Death, there is no brand activation more fitting.

Liquid Death started partnering with music festivals shortly after its conception in 2018 and continues to utilize the market for brand activations and partnerships. In 2021, Live Nation, the world’s leading entertainment company, partnered with Liquid Death to regularly bring canned mountain water to concertgoers.

In June 2023, Liquid Death built an on-brand country club at the innermost point of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. A hot, sunny event built on community and positivity sounds like the last place one would find Liquid Death. Ironically, many rock bands like Knocked Loose, Korn, and Alex G, to name a few, appeared on the lineup this year. A brand partnership with Bonnaroo was the perfect opportunity for Liquid Death to connect with loyal customers while drawing the attention of ordinary folk.

Alongside the Liquid Death mansion, a sign read, “Sell your soul. Join the club,” a surefire way to attract lovers of the unconventional. Two golden grim reapers greeted guests who dared to feed their curiosity as an usher urged them to fill out a contract signing their souls to Liquid Death to enter.

The sell-your-soul contract reeked of Liquid Death. In line with its hate-for marketing tactics, the brand gathered customer information in the most extreme and ironic way possible. The contract was titled “Bill of sale for one eternal human soul” and promised the seller free membership into the Liquid Death country club in exchange for their soul. The deadly messaging is reminiscent of anything but corporate marketing.

Once participants signed the contract and continued their journey through the activation, Liquid Death bombarded them with sly brand recognition tactics. Visitors walked into a gallery of artwork and paraphernalia related to Liquid Death’s past and current marketing campaigns — a subtle way to reinforce the brand without abiding by traditional marketing standards.

The newly soulless could get a free airbrush tattoo while roaming the air-conditioned mansion with a free can of Liquid Death in hand. That’s right Liquid Death turned attendees into walking billboards. Inside the building, a makeshift tattoo parlor enticed participants to get one of four Liquid Death logo variations airbrushed on their bodies. They then could sport the tattoos around the festival grounds throughout the weekend. Another subtle reminder that Liquid Death does marketing differently.

Rejecting Tradition and Reaping Success

Liquid Death makes guerrilla marketing look too easy. The brand’s rebellious nature and intense mission to aid the environment are hard for many to resist in a world swarming in search of the next sale. Consumers have become tired of traditional ads and promotions. Liquid Death counters that by bringing humanity, edge, and honesty into the equation. There are many reasons why Liquid Death’s marketing scheme works, but at the end of the day, the company proves successful by rejecting the norm and selling its persona, not its product.

Call in a Branding Agency

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