Question for you: have you ever traveled (short or long distance) to purchase a product from a social media advertisement? What was the product for? What about their marketing impressed you?
Over the past year, I’ve been pummeled with social ads from a wide variety of products and services. Most of the ads I routinely see on Instagram are carefully targeted by my interests and followed accounts, and those ads are placed in front of me so that I spend more time engaging with that specific brand. I just might even visit their retail site to peruse the catalog to find something to purchase.
Unfortunately for the store, I’m not usually going through with a full purchase. Instead, I’m placing the desired product in my cart for it to never make its way to a full checkout – I like to challenge the brand’s e-commerce team ;).
Anyways! Among all the other social ads I’m pelted with every 4 scrolls on Instagram, it’s extremely rare that I ever make a purchase. However, there was one product that was so compelling to me that I traveled to my nearest Whole Foods to see what the hype was all about.
A can of water.
If you’re on social media as often as I am, then I’m sure you’ve been bombarded with Liquid Death ads. For those who don’t know, Liquid Death is a canned water brand, and they’re bringing so much branding heat these days, I don’t think a fire hydrant spouting their own water could extinguish their blaze!
I’ve been fascinated with a few brands over my time, some including Jeep, Black Rifle Coffee Company, RVCA, and Vans to name most of them. I always ask myself, what’s the intrigue of these brands that makes me keep coming back?
Now, you may already be familiar with branding and its importance, or you may be a branding noob that can gain some valuable knowledge to sharpen your marketing skillset.
Regardless, I’m going to go over five ingredients to building a brand that will differentiate your brand from one-time purchasers to a powerful cult of brand advocates.
Today’s test subject: Liquid Death!
Among the five ingredients that we’ll be diving into, authenticity is the most important ingredient for me. Has one of your friends ever acted a specific way around a group of people that’s totally different than when it’s just the two of you hanging out? You know…they’re super reserved and chill when it’s just the two of you together, but they turn into this wild, loud-mouth, poser when they get around a large group of people, desperately craving approval and attention anywhere they can get it. You just want to shake them and say, “HEY! JUST BE YOURSELF!”
The same goes for branding. People want to buy into a brand that remains true to themselves and never waivers from that path, no matter how risky it may get at times.
Liquid Death’s brilliant marketing and branding efforts are as authentic as they come. In a time where individualism is more consistent and championed more than ever before, Liquid Death sells water that encourages you to untuck your shirt, slap on your favorite sneakers, take a ride on your skateboard, and most important, be yourself. Many of the water brands use safe designs and color systems (blues, whites and reds) in their packaging to appeal to buyers of all types. It’s a safe play. Liquid Death goes 100% in the opposite direction. Their cans feature goth-style lettering, a wild-looking liquid skull and their famous slogan MURDER YOUR THIRST. They march to the beat of their own drum and truly don’t care how they appear stacked up against the Dasanis, Evians, Fijis and Smartwaters of the world. Their choice to stay true to themselves has paid off tremendously!
Of course, a brand wouldn’t be successful without providing value to its consumers. When observing the price points of the purified water industry, you can spend as little as a dollar for your store brand water or pay as high as $3.99 for your boujee waters that claim to be descended from the highest peaks of the heavenly Swiss Alps. The reason you choose that $3.99 bottled water over the other practical options — branding!
What value does Liquid Death have with its market? Very simply, they offer their canned water in both regular and sparkling versions at a lower cost than the boujee Fiji water brands, but slightly more expensive than store brands. Liquid Death is able to find the pricing sweet spot where its consumers feel like they’re investing in a high quality product without feeling ripped off.
With their hardcore skull logo and overall design of their packaging, some Liquid Death advocates view the cans like a piece of art. The sense of the value of the packaging itself brings value for many first-time buyers.
I still have your attention, heck yeah!
As I was getting to, there’s no question that among a few other brands, Liquid Death sparkles more in the refrigeration aisle because of their design. That same design, paired with the authenticity of their story enables a consistent approach to how they market their water.
When you think of brand consistency, keep in mind that your goal is to create a positive, loving relationship with your customers…much like a relationship with your significant other. An inconsistent and erratic brand strategy will result in your customers getting cold feet and breaking up with you. A consistent, well-executed brand strategy will put you on the fast track to walking down the aisle in Canon in D and securing a long-lasting relationship with a new customer.
Liquid Death’s consistency is involved in every aspect of their marketing. Whether it’s the niche market of skaters, surfers, rock stars, artists, young people, or the other facets of their demographic, they always remain steady in their approach towards their target audience. I’m sure that several of the larger retail shops have asked Liquid Death to tone it down on some of their messaging and visualizations in order to secure distribution deals, but all you have to do is observe their social media profiles or website to know that they have no desire to stray from the unique image that they’ve built just to make a few more bucks. They’re sticking to what they believe in. They’re choosing to stay consistent with their rebellious image instead of selling out just to make a few more bucks. Since they’ve stuck to their guns and always stayed consistent in going against the norm, they’ve achieved buy-in from millions of customers and secured partnerships with some of the most influential entertainers and athletes (Tony Hawk) on the planet.
So, when you’re thinking of developing your brand strategy, remember to always be consistent with your messaging so you can build awareness, generate buy-in and cultivate long-lasting brand advocates!
You might ask yourself, how does a water company as edgy and punk as Liquid Death display empathy? You also may ask yourself what’s the purpose of canned versus bottled water? Does a can of water have emotions?
Plastic is bad for the environment, and Liquid Death is fully aware of this. This is why they are on a mission to protect our planet from the harmful waste of plastic pollution. In a recent global study, 92% of Gen-Z and 90% of Millennial respondents said they would act in support of a purposeful brand; compared to 81% of Gen-X consumers, 77% of Baby Boomers, and 73% of respondents aged 74 and up (Matures).
When your product gives back in a humane way, younger generations will be more likely to support and advocate for your brand.
Among other branding ingredients as mentioned above, this is particularly why I support and advocate for brands like Black Rifle Coffee Company who give back to veterans and first responders (Marine here!), RVCA supports artists and the mixed martial arts community (I’m also a graphic artist and MMA practitioner) and Vans reminds everyone to never give up being a kid (Shoutout to Jamie who did my Vans tattoo!).
See a trend here?
Well if you’ve made it this far, I must’ve really intrigued you!
You can have all the value in the world, but if you’re not presenting your content in a way that captivates your audience, you’re going to be lost in a sea of other brands that are all playing it safe and have zero substance.
How can you intrigue your audience? Well, by everything that I’ve stated so far in this article.
Through their brand authenticity, value, consistency and empathy, Liquid Death made such a positive impact on me that I got in my car and drove miles (plural) to buy their water. I could have just mailed it in and went to my nearest gas station and picked up a Dasani, but I wanted the Liquid Death experience. It was totally worth the drive.
For the record, I bought one sparkling, and one regular too!
Authenticity, value, consistency, empathy, and intrigue will all play vital roles in developing your brand. If you can check off all of those boxes, then you will be well on your way to building an army of influencers and loyal brand advocates that will proudly promote your product and scream it from the mountaintops. It’s exactly why a Vans sneaker has been in style for decades and Jeep owners wave to one another when they pass by…and it’s exactly why millions of customers are purchasing Liquid Death water that…quite frankly…tastes just like all the other purified waters on the market 🙂