Fatal Attraction

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The irresistible appeal of death-themed brands

Metalheads, rejoice! There’s a tallboy beverage on the market just for you—Liquid Death. Look for the death’s-head logo on the 500ml can wherever your favorite Goth-inspired potables are sold. Perfect for Halloween!

One thing: It’s just water.

Liquid Death CEO Mike Cessario says the name is about environmental sustainability, not toxic spirits. “We’re trying to bring death to plastic bottles because most plastic isn’t actually recyclable,” he says. But there’s another agenda as well—to make the water, which is sourced and canned in the Austrian Alps, “look fun and unhealthy like beer or an energy drink.” One assumes he’s referring to the rich bounty of death-themed spirits (play on words intended) such as Black Death Tequila Silver, Death’s Door gin, Anthrax XL Bourbon and La Muerta beer.

Since Cessario founded Liquid Death in 2019, the company’s value has soared to $700 million and its beverage line, which also includes Severed Lime, Mango Chainsaw and Berry It Alive, is sold at 16,000 US locations—compelling evidence that in the consumer products arena, death sells.

Of course, marketers have known that for years—at least since the early 1980s, when since Los Angeles restaurateur Jeffrey Fields first put “La Mort au Chocolat” on his dessert menu. Today, it seems, there’s scarcely a white-tablecloth eatery in the country that doesn’t serve some version of Death by Chocolate. Not that that’s the sole use of the “Death by” trope.

The US Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) lists over 80 “Death by” brands on its website, including Death by Gummy Bears, Coffee, Peanut Butter, Coconut, Taco, Tequila, Selfie, Denim, In-Box and Paint. Rejigger the search terms and you’ll also find Death Wish Piano Movers (“We’re so good, it’s scary!”), Death & Co. restaurants in New York, Denver and LA (proof of vaccination required) and Blair’s Sauces, purveyors of such mouth-scorching flavorings as Sweet Death, Original Death, Mega Death, Ultra Death, Beyond Death and Pure Death.

Before we lay the topic to rest, so to speak, it’s worth marveling at the creative energy that real-life deathcare companies—casket makers, funeral homes, crematoria and the like—put into naming their brands. Again, our guide is the USPTO web site, which lists Better Off Dead Casket Company, Fantasy Funerals, Caskets ‘N’ More, The Glam Reaper, It’s Your Funeral, It’s Your Loss (end-of-life planning services and grief counseling), He Died Laughing and our favorite, After Party (funeral ceremony services accompanying cremation).

Presumably refreshments are served. Just not Liquid Death.