Ten Unexpected Brand Collaborations That Made Us Say "What? Yes!"

Ten Unexpected Brand Collaborations That Made Us Say "What? Yes!"

Ten Unexpected Brand Collaborations That Made Us Say "What? Yes!"

by Emma Levin

From bagel-dazzled Nikes to (literally) cheesy nail polish, these creative partnerships surprise, and delight.

Velveeta Cheese and nail polish. Oscar Mayer and skincare. You're not alone if you’re scratching your head over these peculiar pairings. It’s now incredibly common to see two very different brands coupling up and working together. But, as unexpected as these collaborations might be, the marriage of two creative powerhouses can lead to the most innovative, inspiring, and original products – sometimes with an angle for social good.
Sneakerheads know it best. Nike, Converse, and New Balance love to drop limited-edition sneakers that get their fans buzzing. Nike’s latest creation is a sesame Montreal Bagel splashed onto their iconic Dunk Low sneaker. The anticipated release (which is still TBD!) has generated a lot of hype amongst sneaker and bagel-heads alike.
The attention from these unlikely pairings could push consumers to reach for their wallets. But is this creative connection pure innovative genius or quick and dirty clickbait? Read on as we explain why unusual brand collaborations can have such a huge impact, followed by unexpected collabs that caught our eyes.

When worlds collide: Why do brands collaborate?

Many brands may go for bold as a means to orchestrate a viral splash. Thousands of social media impressions mean expansion into a new customer base, which translates into money to be made.
However, for some companies, it’s not about grabbing every group’s attention but the right ones. Striking a tone with a niche audience can pay off much more than casting a wide net.
Joe Grondin, the Senior Manager of Global Collabs for New Balance, told Hypebeast, “We’re just trying to occupy as many subcultures as possible and picking the most authentic brands to do that.” Speaking to a loyal subculture of another brand can generate more profit than if the companies stick to their own lane.
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Are brand collabs actually effective?

It’s clear that brand collaborations can cause a lot of excitement and buzz among fans. When companies band together, they prove to consumers that creative innovation is a priority. Plus, these partnerships can create a more diverse product range, and the two companies can share the cost of marketing and promotion.
The right pairing can also lead to increased brand recognition. Hilda Batayneh, the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Reunited Clothing, shared her thoughts on kooky collabs with Forbes Magazine, “It is oftentimes the most unexpected of partnerships that create the most buzz and the opportunity for both brands to mutually benefit each other. The odd pairing is, in a way, simply genius.”
However, Nike’s Special Projects Senior Director, Fraser Cooke, prefers to be intentional with his collaborations. “There's no real point in collaborating with somebody unless it allows you to achieve something that you could not do otherwise. It has to be worth the while.” Cooke told high-end retailer SSENSE.
So, let’s put it to the test. Do any of the following brand collaborations strike a chord? Are they instantly old news, or are you searching for your credit card?
Let's dive in and explore ten creative brand collaborations worthy of a closer look.

1. Montreal Bagel x Nike

At the top of our list is an upcoming Nike collab: Montreal bagels and Nike Dunks. A tasty combination, a Montreal bagel is thinner and sweeter than your traditional New York, Jewish-deli style bagel. Be aware that buying this sneaker may ignite a bagel craving (and maybe your next Montreal bagel will get you thinking about sneakers).
Nike has a history of being bold when it comes to its brand collaborations. Mike Parker, Nike’s CEO, explained to HypeBeast his beliefs surrounding the crux of brand collaboration, “Collaboration takes people from different worlds to places they might not have gone on their own…In my experience, when the right creatives connect, it can be like setting off a chemical reaction. I find that incredibly stimulating and potentially very powerful.” The shoe will be released later this year, selling at $120.

2. Museum of Ice Cream x Sephora

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Who could think of a sweeter collab than this one? The Museum of Ice Cream teamed up with makeup giant Sephora in 2018 to design a line of products straight out of Candy Land. The previous Head of Product at the Museum of Ice Cream, Trina Chan, spearheaded this project with the museum’s fashionable customers in mind. The launch did quite well, as it got over 15,000 views on Instagram, and the above set sold out on Sephora.com within weeks.

3. Dolce & Gabbana x SMEG

If you have an eye for design, then you’ll love the marriage between Dolce & Gabbana and SMEG. These Italian brands united to create a line of kitchenware exceptionally pleasing to the eye. Originally meant to be a one-off collaboration, the first product launch in 2017 of 100 hand-painted fridges did so well that they teamed up again in 2018 and 2019.
Their latest product launch, “Sicily is My Love,” employs highly skilled Sicilian artists to paint scenes from traditional Sicilian folklore. SMEG’S Australian Managing Director Wayne Campbell said of the pairing, “We are honored to once again collaborate with Dolce & Gabbana to curate a passionate collection with a true Italian icon and globally renowned design powerhouse.”


▲ © Rheanne Hil. Art Direction: Alex Beatie. Styling: Andreas Chrysostomou Hair: Cort Bray. Makeup: Florence Lee
Beyond profit and creativity, some brands choose to unite over an important and worthwhile cause. Activewear company ASOS and LGBTQ+ non-profit and media organization, GLADD, joined forces to create a unique apparel line for the Together Movement.
The Together Movement encourages diverse communities to fight against the discrimination of marginalized people. The campaign highlights different queer activists, including Adam Eli (the founder of Voices4). The pairing proved successful since the two brands have now worked together four times.

5. Clinique x Crayola Crayons

▲ Clinique x Crayola Chubby Lip Crayon Box Credit: CLINIQUE
This makeup collaboration was designed for adults reminiscing about their childhood. The creative minds at Clinique and Crayola Crayons teamed up to create a joyful 58-piece crayon-themed makeup collection. The two brands came together after fans noticed how closely Clinique’s original Chubby Sticks resembled crayons.
The two took that as a sign to work together and released a limited-edition crayon kit in early 2017. Janet Pardo, Senior VP of Product Development at Clinique, offers her thoughts on this partnership.
"To us, the point is that when you look at one, it makes you smile…It brings you back to a carefree time in life—when you didn't have stress because you were a child. You could create whatever you wanted, you had endless amounts of time, and you could just play."

6. Fendi x Skims

▲ Photo © Vanessa Beecroft, FendiSkims.com
Kim Kardashian stuck the landing with her sold-out Fendi x Skims product line. The influence held by both brands helped the pair earn one million in the first minute of its product launch last November.
A loyal fan base can really make or break a brand collaboration. Fendi’s iconic artistic director, Kim Jones, recognized this crucial fact. He told Instagram, “The idea for the collaboration came about when my team and I were sitting around a table at the @Fendi studio in Rome. Suddenly, all the women went silent and started looking at their phones. I didn’t know what was going on, but they were waiting for the launch of the new @SKIMS collection. It was then that I thought: let’s do something together.”
The right fan bases from two successful brands can certainly be an undeniable force.

7. Velveeta Cheese x Nails INC.

One of the zaniest collabs to end up on our list, Velveeta Cheese and Nails.INC partnered to create a nail polish product that mimics and smells like cheese. Modeled by drag performer Gia Gunn, this pairing quickly made a splash on socials and the news.
Soon, many nail and cheese enthusiasts tried out the product and offered their thoughts. Kelsey Rice, Senior Brand Communications Manager at the Kraft Heinz Company, is proud of this odd partnership, “Velveeta is known for its rich, creamy texture and cheesy, melty goodness, so what better way to bring this to life for our fans than with something equally as rich and creamy — nail polish.”

8. Ikea x Off-white

Ikea and luxury designer, Off-white united unexpectedly to create a limited home decor collection known as MARKERAD. Simple bedroom essentials have been turned up a notch thanks to American fashion designer Virgil Abloh.
The unusual collection was intended to spark playful curiosity, as reported by Henrik Most, the creative leader at Ikea, Sweden, “This collaboration has been characterized by a curiosity for each other’s ’playfield’ and a genuine willingness to test new paths." It obviously hit the mark because long lines were waiting at IKEA’s doors the morning of the launch, and the collection sold out almost immediately.

9. Oscar Mayer x Seoul Mamas

Do you remember being a kid eating holes in your baloney during lunchtime? Oscar Mayer took that childhood memory to heart and teamed up with Korean beauty company Seoul Myers to create a bunch of baloney. The companies partnered together to create limited-edition face masks that resemble deli meat. The product immediately went viral and reportedly sold out within the first few days of its launch in early 2022.
One of the creative minds behind this tasty idea, Oscar Mayer’s Senior Marketing Analyst, Lindsey Ressler, explained that this collaboration aims to bring a playful innovation to their industries.
“Oscar Mayer has a legacy of bringing levity to things that have gotten too serious, and beauty is a ripe territory to playfully subvert. This is the latest in our brand movement to create work that feels more like pop art and less like traditional commercial advertising.” Keep in mind that the company had to include a disclaimer that the masks are inedible.

10. Covergirl x ‘Star Wars’

This last collaboration arguably received the most media attention. Covergirl and Star Wars united for the release of “The Force Awakens'' movie to launch a limited edition makeup collection featuring eyeshadow, lipstick, nail polish, and many other products.  Developed and designed by legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath, this cross-over proved to be one of the biggest collab releases in the makeup company’s history.
Modeled by singer and actress Janelle Monáe, who posed as a Resistance pilot, this creative endeavor upped the bar for future brand collabs.
LucasFilm actually paired up with some other major companies like Verizon and General Mills for the film’s ambitious promotional campaign. They explained this strategic marketing move in their press release, “The seven best-in-class global partners were chosen for their creative excellence within their fields as well as their collective diverse global reach.”

Final thoughts on brand collaborations and what makes them successful

Even if these odd couples appear completely wrong for one another, they still manage to create magic together. All of the above brand collaborations intentionally push the boundaries of the ordinary. They move beyond their traditional line of products and place an emphasis and priority on creative innovation.
The right brand collab can expand a product line, profit from another customer base, and infuse new life into an old, tired brand. If the launch is successful, then a new allyship is formed, and the brands may have an exciting future together. Hopefully, these unexpected collaborations inspire you and may even shift your loyalty toward a new brand.
Emma Levin
Emma is a freelance content writer living a nomadic life. She writes about meditation, travelling, and the upsides of freelance. In her spare time, she's either chugging coffee or falling off her skateboard.
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