15 Seconds

Editor’s note: We’re throwing a block party next weekend at our office in Venice. If you’re in the area, come by. (There will be Liquid Death).

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When we talk about brand equity, we often talk about it in a “know-it-when-you-see-it” type of way.

That happened this week, when Liquid Death released a video of CEO Mike Cessario getting a tattoo of a customer’s face on his arm after that customer filmed himself chugging a Liquid Death in less than 15 seconds every day for a year:

But here’s the thing about brand equity: Because it’s more “know it’s when you see it,” commentary is usually specific to the situation at hand.

Example: If you have questions around this, it might be what prompted someone to chug a can of water every day for a year—and film it. Or it might be why the CEO of a brand would get a customer’s face tattooed on his arm.

Fair questions, but potentially the wrong ones when it comes to exploring brand equity. You need to zoom out.

How’d we even get to a place where a metal-themed water brand is selling on the shelves of Walmart, at Live Nation events, and in bars across the country?

Whether you subscribe to David Aaker’s model or Kevin Lane Keller’s pyramid (a good primer here on both), equity is about building non-monetary value in the brand such that it propels monetary value.

This is one of the challenges with attempting to hyper scale a brand. The work takes time.

A potential shortcut, however, is the one that Liquid Death has taken. You can tap into the zeitgeist.

As we explored in January, during the height of Wall Street Bets and Dogecoin mania (remember that?):

What’s happening on Wall Street is a clear expression of our postmodernism: We’re turning stocks into memes and memes into currency.

And we’re celebrating it.

Consider: There’s little discussion about what this means about our trust in free markets, the viability of economic stability, or how a fundamental disruption of power structure alters our daily lives. The only thing anyone wants to know is: Are you in on this?

This development overlaps with our desire to signal status and values in more ways than before.

As Banana Republic Chief Brand Officer Ana Andjelic has written, we’re now in an era of “flex commerce:”

The purpose of flex commerce is to establish one’s status as distinct to others. Unlike other forms of commerce, it’s unrelated to the cost of goods and services, but to their intangible, symbolic value. In flex commerce, price is secondary. Primary are the cultural, social and environmental capital that a good or service carries.

Not every brand can tap into this development, of course. But Liquid Death can.

What’s instructive, then, isn’t so much the specifics of what prompted a customer to film himself doing a year’s worth of 15-second chugs, but how the brand—along with its customers—tapped into a cultural insight to accelerate building brand equity.