Words by Danni Levy
Writer-come-director-come-ultra-marathon runner Andy Pearson blows every other creative brain on earth out of the water. As he sits at the helm of the water brand worth £700m and hands a heavily pregnant woman a can of “Liquid Death” he leaves the previous “victim” of the same, a young child, keeled over in his wake…
It was the advertising campaign that didn’t just disrupt the water market but destroyed it.
And it seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Nobody really wants to see another glacier plastered onto a plastic bottle. Instead, Liquid Death comes in a tin embellished with a terrifying-looking skull that promises to “murder your thirst.”
But don’t be scared! And certainly don’t believe what it says on the tin. It’s just good old homogenous water and iced tea!
Muscle and Health Editor Danni Levy catches up with Andy Pearson, VP of Creative for Liquid Death to find out what makes his marketing campaigns tick…
Flipping the script on the water industry…
“I had this teacher in sixth grade who went outside of the curriculum and spent part of the year teaching us about the ‘evils’ of advertising,” recalls Andy. “I found the right in everything that was supposed to be wrong. I loved it, and it inspired me.
Advertising can be so boring and dull. I wanted to enter that world and do something nobody else was doing. The industry felt stale.”
Having combined copywriting with creative direction, Andy bagged what became one of the most high-profile advertising gigs on the planet.
“For my entire career, I’ve been eager to do something people will love,” he says. “I joined Liquid Death, and there was my opportunity right there. We hate marketing as much as you do. We made a product entertaining, and that was the marketing. Entertainment first, marketing second. We created a brand we really don’t need to advertise.
“Companies have been putting water in plastic bottles for decades as a marketing strategy for showing the purity of the water. But the irony is, plastic is the most impure thing on the planet.”
Water was being sold on its purity, but the containers were destroying nature. When you think of all that waste being generated by plastic water bottles that are clogging up landfills and oceans just because no one had bothered to question that one little thing, it’s crazy. And so we thought, ‘What if we didn’t put water in plastic bottles?’
We put water in cans and questioned the entire industry. Every step of the way at Liquid Death we question how things are made, how they’re marketed and how they’re advertised. And we keep it fun.”
Fun indeed. It feels as if only Andy Pearson could get away with giving a pregnant woman and a child a can that says “Liquid Death” and have them drink from it for a Super Bowl commercial.
“I look at Liquid Death as a character rather than a brand,” explains Andy. “When I wrote the Super Bowl commercial, I was simply putting the character, Liquid Death, out in the world. So the same way you have people writing TV shows, and they know the characters, we got to know Liquid Death. We were like, ‘Ok, if we’re gonna do a Super Bowl spot, what would the character of Liquid Death do?’ The product looks like beer. But it’s water. Usually, beer occupies the Super Bowl commercial spots, so we decided to use people in the ad who should not be drinking beer. We added the comedy in and the pregnant woman at the end as the last big joke.
“You shouldn’t name a water brand ‘Liquid Death’. The can shouldn’t have a skull on it.
But we did it because it’s funny; it feels like a fake Saturday Night Live brand, like it’s come to life. Part of the fun is imagining this thing that shouldn’t exist, but it’s real.”
Pushing the limits mentally, physically and creatively…
“It took me 98 and a half hours over four days,” says Andy. He’s referring to the teeny-weeny 250-mile ultramarathon he’s just casually completed.
“Mentally, physically, and spiritually, you train for running 250 miles by running a lot of miles,” he says. “There’s no way around it. But I mean, you just have to learn, you have to accept all the pain and misery you’re gonna go through, and I really think anyone can do it. You have all kinds of people from all walks of life out there doing it. You just have to commit to going through that.
“There were so many times along the way that I wanted to drop out, and nearly did at mile-97 I couldn’t even walk. I literally couldn’t walk. I just kind of gutted it out because you know that the sun is going to rise the next morning. It’s gonna rise on you two or three or four times when you’re doing that, and you have to get to that sunrise.”
Andy recounts what he describes as “the most challenging thing” he’s ever done.
“I did this thing called Vol-State,” he says. “It’s 314 miles across Tennessee, starting in Missouri. You go all the way across and end up in Georgia. There’s no support; you’re just running on the side of the road. You’re running on the side of the highway, stopping in gas stations for food without any aid. You sleep on the side of the road or in someone’s driveway. Some people sleep on park benches. It’s a crazy race. I suddenly got horrific shin splints around mile 250. For 64 miles, I was running on pretty much the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It was pretty tough.”
Andy goes on to speak of his experiences running the Barkley Marathon, which he describes as “the most infamous race in the world.”
“I think only 16 or 17 people in the world have finished it in about 35 years,” he says. “You’re running around in the mountains of Tennessee looking for ripped-out pages from books that are hidden at different checkpoints in the woods. It’s hard just to get on the list in the first place. Of course, I didn’t complete it. I wouldn’t be sitting here if I had! I’d be, like, in the Olympics or something.”
Andy Pearson typically runs five days a week, even when he’s not prepping for something crazy.
“I run five days a week mostly,” he says.
“If I’m training for a big race, I’ll aim to do about 100 miles a week. If it’s just a standard week, I’ll do 50 miles or so. I’ll do eight-to-ten miles in the morning, then on the weekends, I try to do a marathon on both Saturday and Sunday. My wife runs too, but she runs like a normal person,” he jokes. “We have two young kids and they’re just nuts; it’s a crazy house for sure.”
Andy has harsh words for the health industry when asked whether there are plans to soften the Liquid Death brand as it continues to expand. “We certainly don’t plan to soften our marketing or branding,” he says. “To the contrary, actually. Health brands don’t have to suck, and most of them do. We vow to continue bringing humor to the industry.
“Running opens your eyes to the choices you make every day; for your body, your family and the environment. Water is pure and clear, but plastic bottles are not. If anyone can change the industry, Liquid Death can!”