Just in time for Halloween, canned water brand Liquid Death hired a practicing witch to cast a hex on its October stock. Consumers of Certified Cursed Liquid Death will become "magnets for demons."
Don't believe us? That's cool. See for yourself.
Before we dig into the ad, here's a primer on Liquid Death: Launched last year by former Netflix creative director Mike Cessario, in May it raised $1.6 million to take water in a tallboy can to the straight-edge punk crowd.
The appeal for this is broader than one might believe: The funding round was led by Science Inc., with tech contributors that included Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and Away co-founder Jen Rubio.
Let's return to that Halloween curse. The ad is long and melodramatic, more a play on stereotypes than anything serious—even if, for pagans and practicing witches, it can feel trite and potentially dangerous. Historically, stereotypes kill minorities, now as then, and not just witches.
Given Mystic Dylan's profession, and its reliance on his legitimacy, it's also a rather flagrant way to invite harm on customers themselves—though in the end, maybe it's not much more serious than locking yourself in the bathroom, lights off, and whispering "Bloody Mary" three times into a mirror, trembling with belief and anticipation.
Belief is everything, right? Belief in money, in the personhood of corporations, in the idea that college should cost 80 grand, in wearing a suit. Belief is the glue that holds society together. And Liquid Death is all about toying with the superficiality of that construction. (Though should demons actually come for you, they're selling an antidote online for 99 cents.)
When Cessario launched Liquid Death as a side project, it was to explore "exciting ways to rebrand water as a substance that was totally opposite of the current yoga accessory stigma, while also having a truthful insight that isn't complete bullshit," he told Adweek last year. "And since we are competing with the most explosive rebellious brands on the market, our healthy water brand had to be even more punk and fuck-you than energy drinks."
It's hard to overstate how much he actually means the "truthful insight" part, on top of everything else. Under a section labeled #DeathToPlastic, Liquid Death's website reveals that the brand donates 5 cents of every can sold to helping clean up plastic pollution. Its water is sustainably sourced in Austria, delivered to homes in 12-packs monthly. And the choice to can it is more than marketing; "aluminum is infinitely recyclable," the site reads.
To be fair, you might miss all that when you notice the "SELL YOUR SOUL" button on the top-nav, and click on it to discover it's not a joke. Here's actor Joe Manganiello selling his, blood-signature and all, to join the "Liquid Death Country Club."
So, cursing product for Halloween is much in keeping with the brand identity, designed to ruffle feathers in a category that plays by "1950s bland and boring rules."
But living punk doesn't mean dying punk, even if you do opt in to swallowing cursed water. Cessario continued: "The youth of today care more about health than ever. Even the fuck-you punk rockers and skateboarders. They are even drinking less alcohol and getting less fucked up. But they still like explosions and extreme sports and heavy music and blowing zombie heads off in video games."
Have you seen their last release, "Hey Kids, Murder Your Thirst"? It's fun in a Garbage Pail Kids kinda way.
"Only unhealthy brands, whose products they don't love, are speaking their language from a brand perspective," said Cessario. "No healthy brands are actually trying to fit into real youth culture. It's likely why we keep getting hundreds of messages from our target audience telling us how much they love the brand. Plus, it makes it easier when the people behind the brand are also the target audience."
Below is the first ad Liquid Death ever made. Pushed with just $600 in media spend on Facebook, it yielded over 1 million views in a couple months.
Do you now believe water is the most extreme and dangerous beverage on earth? As with demon invasions and soul-selling, maybe it depends on who you ask, and when. To wit: A marketing guy pitching Fiji might respond very differently than a marketing guy being waterboarded.