How Liquid Death Startup Made Billions Selling Water in a Can

In an era where bottled water is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, Liquid Death has made a splash by taking a unique approach. With edgy punk rock branding and a focus on sustainability, this upstart company is capturing attention and significant growth.

The Origin Story

Liquid Death was founded by Mike Cessario, a creative director who previously worked at Netflix and other major brands. The concept was born in 2017 when he was chatting with friends about starting a premium water bottle company as a joke. But soon Cessario realized it could be a real sustainable business. He trademarked the name Liquid Death in November 2017 and spent the next two years developing the concept and branding.

What Makes Liquid Death Different

So what sets Liquid Death apart in the bottled water space? Two key factors:

1. The Edgy Punk Rock Branding

Liquid Death’s motto is “Murder Your Thirst“. The cans feature ominous white font and a skull and crossbones symbol. The branding is deliberately irreverent and punk rock-inspired, poking fun at the bottled water industry. As Cessario describes it: “Liquid Death” is what water would drink if it wasn’t so damn wholesome.”

Liquid Death-branded water

2. A Focus on Sustainability

While the branding is edgy, Liquid Death takes sustainability seriously. The aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable and lightweight to ship. Liquid Death donates 5 cents from each can sell to help fund clean water access in developing nations. They also aim to use the brand’s appeal to make sustainability cool and mainstream.

Funding and Investors

In 2019, Liquid Death officially launched and quickly attracted investor attention:

– In 2019, raised $1.6 million in seed funding from investors like Science Inc. and Away co-founder Jen Rubio.

– In 2020, raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Velvet Sea Ventures and Live Nation. 

– In 2021, completed a Series B raise of $23 million led by AngelList’s Rolling Funds.

Total funding to date is $31.1 million. Top investors believe Liquid Death can make canned water a desirable lifestyle brand.

Liquid Death’s Cutting-Edge Marketing

A huge part of Liquid Death’s rapid growth is attributable to its edgy, unconventional marketing campaigns. Here are some of the standout marketing tactics they’ve used to drive brand awareness and sales:

Viral Stunts

Liquid Death is masterful at orchestrating viral PR stunts that garner media attention. For example, they placed Liquid Death-branded water vending machines outside of trendy health spots like Rehydrate IV Drip Bar in Los Angeles. The mockery of the wellness craze generated buzz. Another stunt was selling an upcycled electric chair sculpture for $25,000. 

Bold Advertising

Their social media ads featuring animals in punk garb swallowing people whole are bizarre and shareable. Liquid Death also ran a campaign with ads spread throughout the heavy metal magazine Revolver, resonating with their target demographic.

Grassroots Marketing

Liquid Death relies heavily on grassroots marketing by hiring brand ambassadors to sample products at events and festivals nationwide. Getting the cans directly into consumers’ hands helped rapidly build a cult following.

Edgy Can Designs 

Collaborations with rock artists and bands on limited-edition can designs made the cans collectible items. The “Thirst Executioner” can feature the Liquid Death mascot has become especially recognizable.


By sponsoring alternative music festivals and events like The Gathering of the Juggalos, Liquid Death associated itself with youth countercultures. This built authenticity and cemented the punk rock identity.

Influencer Partnerships

Getting influencers and celebrities like Joel McHale and Maynard James Keenan to post about Liquid Death expanded their reach to millions of new potential customers.


Their wide array of “death merch” like t-shirts, hats, skateboards, and other accessories lets fans flaunt the brand. The merch complements the beverages.

Through high-impact stunts, grassroots initiatives, and cultivating a community around the brand, Liquid Death executed marketing strategies as bold and creative as the product and branding themselves. The marketing will need to continue innovating as the company scales while retaining its authentic edge.

Revenue and Growth 

Since launching in early 2019, Liquid Death has achieved staggering growth:

– By June 2020, recorded $1.2 million in annual recurring revenue – a 6x increase over the prior year according to Ironfire Capital.

– Revenue run rate surpassed $45 million by the end of 2020. 

– Sold over 25 million cans by early 2021. On track to triple 2020 sales.

– Raised their self-imposed limit on sales from 50 million cans per year to 250 million cans. 

– Expanded distribution from 400 to over 20,000 retail locations in 2021, including Whole Foods, 7-Eleven, Target, and more. 

– Launched nationwide in Canada in 2021 to fuel international expansion.

– Introduced flavored sparkling waters in 2021. Set to expand product line through innovations.

Liquid Death is projecting over $130 million in revenue for 2022 based on the current trajectory.

Competitive Landscape

Liquid Death competes against:

– Mainstream bottled water brands like Dasani, Aquafina, and Poland Spring

– Other premium/eco-friendly waters like Ever & Ever, Vita Coco, and Waiakea

– Flavored and sparkling waters like La Croix, Bubly, and Hint Water

Liquid Death differentiates itself through branding and sustainability. While the water industry is crowded, their punk rock marketing gives Liquid Death a unique niche.

Challenges Ahead

As a young company, Liquid Death still faces hurdles on its punk rock journey:

– Maintaining brand identity and appeal as it scales to a mass-market product 

– Expanding distribution chains amid supply chain woes and competition for retail shelf space

– Ensuring quality and sustainability while meeting demand spikes

– Fending off legal challenges from groups unhappy with the branding or advertising

However, Liquid Death is certainly making waves and disrupting the bottled water marketplace. It will be exciting to see how they continue growing while remaining provocative.


Liquid Death stood out in the bottled water industry by embracing an edgy, irreverent brand vibe inspired by punk rock music. With viral marketing and a focus on sustainability, the young company achieved exponential growth since launching in 2019. Liquid Death’s unique branding and appeal show that even in a crowded marketplace, companies can thrive with the right positioning and product quality. While challenges remain, Liquid Death seems poised to murder more of its competitors’ market share.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I purchase Liquid Death water?

Liquid Death water is now available nationwide at over 20,000 retail locations including Whole Foods, 7-Eleven, Target, and local health food stores. You can also purchase it online through their website or Amazon store.

How much does Liquid Death water cost?

Pricing varies by location but is generally between $1.50-$2.50 per 16oz can, which is in line with other premium bottled water brands. They also offer bulk packs of 12 and 24 cans on their website and on Amazon.

Does Liquid Death contain any flavors, sweeteners, or carbonation?

The original Liquid Death product is straight mountain water sourced from the Austrian Alps with no additional flavors, sweeteners, or carbonation. In 2021, they introduced flavored sparkling waters in flavors like Mango Chainsaw and Berry It Alive.

What makes Liquid Death sustainable? 

The aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable and lightweight to ship. Liquid Death partners with organizations like Thirst Project to donate 5 cents from each can sell to fund clean water projects in developing countries.

Is the branding safe and appropriate for children?

While the punk rock branding is edgy, there is no profanity or inappropriate content on Liquid Death cans. However, parents should use discretion when purchasing for children due to the parody death/danger references.

So in summary, Liquid Death offers a refreshing disruptive take on the bottled water industry – murdering thirst with a unique brand and sustainable, recyclable packaging. It caters to eco-conscious consumers who appreciate the heavy metal-inspired vibe and stand out from mainstream water brands.

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