In May 2019, and several weeks after, the internet was lit up with chatter about a water brand that was good for you in a very bad way — Liquid Death.
The canned water company took water, the healthiest beverage on earth, and put it into a sustainable aluminum container to make one of the most entertaining brands and launches this year, all while causing a stir in the $240 billion bottled water market.
Founded by Mike Cessario, who upholds the company’s mission to #MurderYourThirst and bring #DeathToPlastic bottles, Liquid Death seemed like the irreverent healthy-meets-hardcore direct-to-consumer brand Science was built to back. Mold-breaking brands and founders have always been the core of our ethos and thesis, and Liquid Death didn’t disappoint.
Back up a couple years.
Before joining Science in 2018, Liquid Death was just an idea. Mike wanted to bend the rules of predominantly “boring consumer packaged goods” — his words — and he started quietly building a community of fans on the internet from the ground up while working as a creative director for brands like Netflix and Virgin.
Fast forward to 2018, a friend at Snap’s accelerator, Yellow, showed me Liquid Death’s Facebook page after we ran into each other on Abbot Kinney in Venice. As someone who successfully invests in consumer brands with gut instinct, I knew we had something special on our hands.
As a founder, Mike had the vision and the long-term attitude and embodied the brand with his history as a hardcore metalhead in the ‘90s. His head-turning idea and detail for execution made him the perfect addition to Science’s incubator. Mike understands social reaction — you obviously love or hate it— and grasps the life cycle of virality. This resonated with me and Science co-founder Mike Jones, because we worked at social sharing sites Photobucket and Myspace. We saw, as a fund, how this could be a big market opportunity that no one had explored in the past.
Upon launch, which earned more than 1 billion media impressions in one week, Twitter went nuts for the brand. Stars like Kevin Smith, Luke Beard and Broman all tweeted about it.
They were excited about a new concept that hadn’t been done before — and one that is both sustainable and healthy. Millennials and Gen Z were both on board; the two demographic cohorts are more interested in living a lifestyle that doesn’t always involve alcohol, known as the “sober curious” movement.
Since launching earlier this year, 2019 has proved to be a busy time for the Liquid Death team. In this year alone, they’ve created a Country Club — a genius marketing campaign that required members to sell their soul away to join (70,000 members and counting) — partnered with actor Joe Manganiello as an ambassador, and worked closely with the Thirst Project and 5 Gyres to donate proceeds from every can sold to helping people access safe drinking water. They may have even inspired an SNL segment.
Its viral presence and #DeathtoPlastic social campaign has put pressure on some of the largest CPG companies in the world to think more sustainably about packaging -- PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Danone, and more.
Incubating, launching and scaling Liquid Death has been one of the best challenges at Science, and we look forward to seeing more of the company’s well-deserved (and hilarious) success.