Campaign of the Week

25 October 2022

Liquid Death partners with Martha Stewart for Halloween campaign 

FMCG brand sells gruesome candle on Martha Stewart's website to boost sales of canned water in the run-up to Halloween

Edgy water brand Liquid Death has partnered with businesswoman, TV personality and former federal prison inmate Martha Stewart to launch a Halloween-themed candle.

The Dismembered Moments luxury candle takes the shape of a life-sized severed hand holding a can of Liquid Death Mountain Water. The candle, which costs $58 and burns for approximately 60 hours, can only be bought on Martha.com.

The candle was promoted with a social film (released on 6 October) starring Stewart, made in-house by the brand. The one-minute film takes place in familiar TV chef-style kitchen, where Stewart proceeds to use a large knife to whack at a chopping board while screams ring out in the background.

The bloody reveal shows a screaming man, sans hand, as the chef unceremoniously plonks the amputated limb in a bucket (ready for waxing). The end of the ad reveals a long line of blindfolded men, unaware of their fate, excited to meet Martha.

Contagious Insight 

Homespun hit / When Contagious interviewed Liquid Death for our 2021 Brand Spotlight, CEO Mike Cessario said: ‘Why would you want to follow a fucking water brand that just posts photos of their bottles all day? If we create actual entertainment and not try to just sell, sell, sell, it will naturally create that fandom for Liquid Death that you can’t even buy with money.’ The Dismembered Moments candle is a great example of this in action, as is the gruesomely humorous social film, which is fun, entertaining and unexpected. Martha Stewart’s mix of wholesomeness and edginess (she spent six months in federal prison in 2004 for tax evasion, and is good pals with Snoop Dogg) in particular makes her a surprisingly perfect brand ambassador, selling the Dismembered Moments joke with aplomb (and also selling the quality of the creepy candle too). This kind of humour is an important tool in Liquid Death’s marketing and helps the brand to differentiate itself in a fairly dull and homogenous category, throwing the clichés of water advertising out and opting for skulls and messages of ‘Murder your thirst’ and ‘Death to plastic’ instead.

Cessario also told us: ‘We want to be one of the best things that consumers see that day because we have to compete with hilarious influencers, fitness athletes and movie trailers. The bar to earn someone’s attention is really high now.’ Since our Brand Spotlight, Liquid Death has delivered on this in spades, creating a 1980s style 10-minute workout video with dad-bod comedian Bert Kreischer, water-tattooing the Liquid Death logo on Jackass star Steve-O’s neck, releasing a PSA about single-use plastic featuring adult film star Cherie DeVille (which has racked up over 1.5 million views on YouTube) and creating an NFL-style scouting competition to sponsor its first official American football hydration assistant.

Macabre merch / Cessario also revealed to Contagious how important merchandise is in the brand’s marketing strategy as it helps it to compete with other brands that have bigger budgets to play with. As a result, this demonic drop is an astute way for the brand to generate revenue while also generating PR around Halloween – a consumption occasion that Liquid Death’s competitors have little authenticity to play in (although perhaps ‘apple bobbing’ is ripe opportunity for a challenger to Liquid Death’s dominance of the spooky season). For Halloween in 2019, Liquid Death hired a real-life witch doctor to curse its latest batch of product, then offering on its website a $0.99 option for people to remove said curse. You can read more about that story here.

Cessario also explained why a severed-hand candle was an appropriate choice to appeal to women, noting: ‘I always like to bring up this stat that a couple years ago in the US, the number two most popular scripted show for women was The Walking Dead – a show about flesh-eating zombies. But how many companies were making products with zombies marketed to women? None! Because they’re not paying attention to what's actually going on in the world and how your brand can leverage those things and become a part of it.’

Top of the mountain / The story of Liquid Death since it launched in 2017 is nothing short of amazing. Investors and retailers initially struggled to embrace the disruptive and unconventional aesthetic of the water brand but five years on, Liquid Death’s estimated revenue for 2022 was $130m (a huge leap from the $45m it made in 2021), and boasts a reported valuation of $700m. To read more about its unconventional success story, read our 2021 Brand Spotlight here.

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