Between Two Names is a new series on The Word by Tanj. The column takes a lighthearted look at two brand names we’ve spotted in the wild. We’ll contemplate, compare and contrast how names work, and what it means for you the next time you name a brand.

The bottled water market is pretty saturated. (Pun intended.) There are hundreds of bottled water brands in the world and plenty of sources for your daily eight glasses of H2O. It’s a market with low differentiation, and arguably, the average consumer wouldn’t have a strong preference as to what brand of bottled water to consume. 

However, whether you get it bottled or from the tap, hydration is a daily need. Globally, the bottled water market is worth over $280 billion, so it’s clear that there are plenty of opportunities here. We thought it was worth taking a look at two very different names that have both made their mark in a crowded field: Dasani and Liquid Death.

Most bottled water brands have names chosen to evoke nature and freshness: Poland Spring, Evian, Fiji, Ice Mountain, Aquafina. Dasani achieves the same goal, but through a different path: it’s an empty vessel name that doesn’t refer to  anything specific, yet it sounds like it could be some ancient, mythical source of life. Dasani. A wellspring of well-being. That it’s easy to pronounce, spell, and remember is of course intentional as well.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Liquid Death. Packaged in tallboy cans, this isn’t your usual bottled water—and they make sure you know it. They’ve been rocking the boat with their unconventional approach since their launch in 2019, beginning with their name and tagline. (“Murder your thirst!”) Given Liquid Death’s edgy branding, and the fact that it was initially available at bars, liquor shops, and tattoo parlors, the name is certainly one that works. It’s intriguing, it’s unusual, it’s memorable. A unique name signals a unique format. For a brand that wants to buck the tide and make a splash, Liquid Death gets the job done.

A source of life. A thirst-murdering can of dihydrogen monoxide, a.k.a. water. It all depends what you want your name to signal. At the end of the day, here’s what we believe: a successful name is one that is rooted in strategy. Own your brand and everything it stands for—don’t water it down.

Liz Yap is a strategist for naming and brand language at Tanj.