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This Startup Just Raised $1.6 Million to Sell Water in Tallboy Beer Cans

May 07, 2019

By Diana Hubbell, May 07, 2019

The video opens with a lederhosen-clad cartoon character cheerfully drinking water in an Alpine meadow—before being decapitated by muscle man with an axe and a can for a head. The same figure proceeds to go on a gleefully blood-soaked rampage, slaughtering civilians until the ad concludes with the tagline “Murder Your Thirst.”

Introducing Liquid Death, a startup’s weirdly metal attempt at rebranding water that just scored a whopping $1.6 million in seed funding from Science Inc today. It’s the brainchild of co-founder and CEO Mike Cessario, a copywriter and creative director whose clients include Netflix and DiGiorno, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Chemically speaking, this H2O isn’t notably different than any of the other options in the $185 billion water industry. What sets it apart then? Instead of being sold in cute, little Evian-style plastic bottles, it comes in skull-bedecked 12-packs of tallboys that look exactly like bro-targeted craft beer and come bearing a slogan practically ripped from the cult classic Idiocracy.

"We wanted to take more inspiration from the beer category because one thing we know in marketing is if you want younger people to want something you have to market to people in their 20s because teens want the thing they can't have," Cessario said in an interview with Business Insider.

Unfortunately, Liquid Death appears to have borrowed one of the less savory aspects of beer marketing: good old-fashioned sexism.”

That thing, according to Cessario at least, involves a hypermasculine aesthetic geared more towards straight-edge punks. Ostensibly, the aluminum cans are an eco-friendly decision and the brand has stated that it will donate $0.05 from the sale of each can towards cleaning plastic out of the ocean. The brand’s website reads “plastic water bottles are shit. But aluminum cans are far and away the most sustainable beverage container by virtually every measure. #DeathToPlastic.”

Of course, they don't bother to actually name the recipient non-profit and all that water has to be transported via carbon emissions-belching methods from the Austrian Alps, but real punks, apparently, do not pay attention to such technicalities.

It’s hard not to see this all this as swiping a page from a beer marketer’s playbook. With the demand for non-alcoholic beers and alternative beverages like hop water on the rise, this feels like an obvious attempt to cash in on the trend. Hell, if even Coca-Cola and Pepsi are borrowing from beer marketing, why not water?

Unfortunately, Liquid Death appears to have borrowed one of the less savory aspects of beer marketing: good old-fashioned sexism. Cessario has stated that this stuff isn’t for “Whole Foods yoga moms” and in a banned ad, an actress insists that water isn’t some “girlie drink” while simulating torture with the product.

None of this is meant to be taken seriously, but the joke feels tone-deaf. Still, either in spite of or because of the testosterone-drenched trappings for something that literally comes out of your faucet, Liquid Death seems to be striking a chord. By now, the brand has racked up a total of $2.25 million in investment and more than 150,000 followers across social media platforms with its so-called extreme ethos.

"If you think about it, it makes sense, everything metal and punk is extreme," Cessario continued. "Being vegan is extreme, protesting the deforestation is extreme. There are more vegans at a heavy metal show than [a] Taylor Swift show.”

Okay.

Somehow the idea of using "extreme" marketing tactics to shill a product with dubious eco-credentials leaves behind a nasty aftertaste.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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