I used to love drinking Mountain Dew. The soda marketed strongly to young males, as their commercials featured dudes competing in extreme sports who stayed hydrated by “doing the Dew.” The campaign worked and it spawned countless imitators.
The latest is arguably Liquid Death, a canned water company whose tagline is “murder your thirst.” The company was founded in 2019 and sold water from the Austrian Alps in 16.9 ounce “tallboy” cans. The company uses 100% recyclable aluminum material because it is committed to environmental sustainability, as evidenced by their mission to “bring death to plastic.”
The brand’s edgy marketing resonated with young, environmentally conscious consumers. According to Eater.com, when Liquid Death was released in Whole Foods store, it became “the fastest-selling water brand on its shelves.”
The beverage company later released four flavored carbonated beverages including Mango Chainsaw, Severed Lime, Convicted Melon, and Berry It Alive. Then, in March of this year, the company announced three tea flavors: Grim Leafer, Rest in Peach and Armless Palmer, which is a combination of tea and lemonade.
Not surprisingly, the tea caught the attention of the estate of Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer who was arguably the first person to make the half-unsweetened tea and half-lemonade concoction while he was touring with the pro golf circuit in the 1960s. His likeness has been synonymous with the drink since, and in 2001, he partnered with AriZona Tea to sell the ‘Arnold Palmer’ drink. The trademark to the beverage is owned by Arnold Palmer Enterprises.
After Armless Palmer was announced, social media exploded, with many golf enthusiasts equating the use of Palmer’s name in this new drink as blasphemous. In response, the golfer’s estate sent a cease-and-desist letter to Liquid Death and threatened to sue if the company didn’t take ‘Palmer’ out of the name. Shockingly, Liquid Death feigned surprise after being contacted by Palmer’s lawyers. The company then rebranded the drink as “Dead Billionaire,” which, while compliant, is arguably just as distasteful.
“If you like our Armless Palmer tea/lemonade, then you are going to LOVE our new Dead Billionaire tea/lemonade,” Liquid Death wrote in an Instagram post. “Why? Because it’s the EXACT same thing, only now it has a way cooler name that won’t require us to fight a senseless legal battle with a large enterprise who sent us a letter saying we can’t use the word ‘Palmer’ and who are also partnered with a giant iced tea corporation. Both of whom have far more $$$ to burn on legal fees than we do.”
“Our new Dead Billionaire cans have started to trickle out on Amazon and will begin hitting retail shelves in the spring,” the company added. “Experts are predicting potential brawls in retailers as customers fight over remaining Armless Palmer cans before they become extinct forever and reselling as collectors’ items for billions of dollars.”
While Liquid Death seems to excel at hyperbole, the company is right about AriZona Tea Company being successful, as Forbes values it at about $4 billion. Palmer’s estate is extremely valuable as well, with Forbes estimating its golf courses, real estate holdings, and merchandise licensing to be worth about $875 million.
Although Liquid Death is a relatively new company, claiming it has no money to pay lawyers is a tad deceiving. The company was valued at $700 million in October of 2022, arguably because of shrewd tactics like the Armless Palmer campaign.
Apparently, when it comes to branding tea, Liquid Death’s motto is if at first you don’t succeed, chai, chai again.