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You can have Liquid Death or something worse!


For the uninitiated out there, Liquid Death is a bottled water company with a tagline ‘murder your thirst’. Its water is sourced from, and canned in, the Austrian Alps. The company has just released three new flavours: Severed Lime, Mango Chainsaw, and Berry It Alive.


In time-honoured tradition, the brand puts its drinks up as a blind taste test against some of the priciest liquids (or liquidised products) around. At $1.99 a can, Liquid Death is a steal against (liquidised) lobster béarnaise sauce ($50), Japanese wagyu cheeseburger ($51), Spanish squid ink ($58), and beluga caviar ($580).


The results, which you can see here, are predictably very amusing. I completely get what Liquid Death’s co-founder says, “At the end of the day, we’re not actually trying to get people’s opinions. We’re pulling a prank. This is just putting that prank in a familiar advertising format. It’s almost like a watered-down Jackass, to give people something funny to watch.” By subverting the advertising form, brands are telling you that you’re smart. Others might fall for the blind taste test routine, but not you.


From a commercial conflict perspective, there is another layer of sophistication here, offering choice is great (option A or option B, - which do you prefer?). It can demonstrate flexibility and importantly the answers given should help to identify the other side’s priorities.


There are times however when we can ‘artificially’ promote choice. As someone who regularly travelled to western Siberia for work in the Oil and Gas sector – I was often disappointed with the variety and quality of hotel food available. Arriving one night at the hotel (I use the term loosely), I asked what the choices for dinner were. I was told Pelmeni (grey sloppy dumplings) or fish. The waiter quickly followed up with a comment that the fish was ‘absolutely fine’. I found this an odd comment to make, so I asked him to tell me more about the fish. He said that the fish were caught in a river 10 kilometres away - some time ago, there had been a nuclear reactor leak close by which went down five layers into the water aquifer. As the fish came from the top layer (i.e., the river) it was allegedly, ‘absolutely fine’. Faced between the prospect of the glow in the dark fish or the sloppy dumplings – you guessed it; the dumplings won me over!


In a similar vein, I would hazard a guess that for people taking part (or watching) the blind taste there may have been some concern with an option called ‘Liquid Death’. I’m guessing that once they’d tried the liquidised alternative though, Liquid Death seemed very attractive by comparison (as for the name, I still can’t get 80’s slasher films out of my head, sorry!).


This kind of ‘least-worst option’ approach is a form of ‘covert coercion’ which we sometimes see in a commercial context – where the ‘illusion of choice’ can make it psychologically more palatable for the recipient to agree to the only real option available to them. This also assumes that the person presenting the options holds the power - with no alternatives for the recipient. Although often people assume they have no power when actually they do.


Quite honestly though, why you’d want to waste a perfectly good $580 worth of beluga caviar (liquidised) for a taste test against a $1.99 drink called 'Liquid Death' is beyond me!


Sam Macbeth, 14th June 2022



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