Weird brand collaborations are everywhere these days. In fact, they're perhaps a little too abundant. It seems you're no longer anyone unless you've done a collab with a random brand from a completely unrelated segment.
The trend began in the fashion world, where we have collabs between high fashion and street fashion brands, luxury brands with sportswear brands, or fashion brands in general with celebs and artists. But the trend has spread into almost every sphere, from confectionery to gaming.
Schiaperelli x Dali is often posited as the dawn of fashion-art collab, while Karl Lagerfeld's collaboration with H&M was a big influence on the contemporary overabundance of surprising brand juxtapositions. The attraction is for the brands is clear. It offers expanded reach and credibility, media attention and the chance to make a quick buck from die-hard fans and collectors (see our pick of the best branding books to learn more about the history of branding)
And brand collabs can also be genuinely interesting, including as a way to measure the strength of a brand to see if it can stand up to combination with another identity brand and still be recognisable. But the trend has become so commonplace that many are starting to reach collab fatigue.
The weirdest brand collabs
And this overabundance means the collabs have to get weirder and weirder to still get our attention. Below, we recall the good, the bad and the ugly of some of the weirdest brand collaborations we've seen.
01. Nike x Tiffany
From its NFTs to that terrible advert, some of Tiffany's attempts to reach a younger audience have felt a little desperate. This collaboration with Nike felt paritcularly rushed and half-hearted affair. Paint the Nike swoosh robin egg blue, and you've got a Nike x Tiffany Air Force 1. Sure, there's a small silver plate on the heel, and the laces match the swoosh, but this was one time that we were left thinking that Nike probably should have reconsidered its "just do it" attitude.
02. Ralph Lauren x Fortnite
Some brand collabs that aim to help an old brand look young end up feeling like the brand is poking fun at itself. It would be nice to think that Ralph Lauren has a sense of humour and doesn't take itself so seriously, but I doubt that's the case. It probably genuinely thought that switching its traditional polo horse logo to a Fortnight 'Loot Llama' for this Ralph Lauren -x Fortnite collab would help it look down with the kids.
03. McDonalds x Palace
I'm sorry, but a McDonald's uniform is never going to be a great look for leisurewear, no matter how fashionable the brand making it might be. McDonalds x Palace attempted to do the impossible with its 15-piece collection inspired by the iconic golden arches... but it looked like the skate brand really hadn't tried that hard. Most of the pieces feel like generic items with text reading "Palace" in the McDonalds's font placed under a large McDonald's logo.
More understated black and white versions were made as well as the red, but the whole thing didn't sit well with Palace's core audience. "This is not skateboarding. This is real capitalism," one person complained on Instagram.
04. Supreme x Shrek
I'd be interested to know what that skater complaining about capitalism thinks of Supreme. The skate brand is perhaps the ultimate collab-monger going. Barely a week seems to go by without it announcing some random collaboration. It's got to the point where we might wonder if the brand could even exist on its own. One of its weirdest collabs (yes, even weirder than Supreme x Oreos) was Supreme x Shrek.
Skating? Shrek? Me neither. But Supreme wasn't even the first to get there. The skate brand Dime had done an almost identical collab back in 2019. Nevertheless, Shrekpreme served as a example of just how low fashion has sunk.
05. Billie Eilish x Amazon
This weird brand collab seemed like a win-win. Amazon might convince part of a large fanbase to buy an Echo Studio and Billie Eilish could treat her fans to her music in Spatial Audio. But unfortunately, the Billie Eilish Echo Studio Speaker was a very creepy device, with the singer's face plastered on a device that's constantly listening in on us. And Amazon didn't even replace Alexa's voice with Eilish's.
06. Hasbro x Babybel
I can see how the Hasbro x Babybel boardgame might have been born. Someone dusted off the old family board game one Sunday, set up the board to play and realised they were missing one of the markers. And all they had at hand was a handily portable mini cheese left over from lunch. No, really I have no idea.
The Babybel version of the 1948 Candyland boardgame, named Babybel Goodness Land, at least had more nutritional value than the original. But does anyone really want to play a game that's full of cheese branding? Even the locations on the board had names like Milk River, Big Bel Jungle and Cheesy Castle. Cheesy it certainly was.
07. Pringles x Caviar Co
Enough of the bad. Sometimes a weird brand collab can actually work. Pringles x Caviar Co may sound ridiculously contrived, but the reason it worked was because it was a response to an organic trend that had taken off spontaneously on TikTok. While I'm not recommending this combination at all, the collab was at least the result of popular demand. The brands saw that something was happening, they reacted quickly and the execution was nicely polished.
08. Heinz X Absolut
Here's another that worked, for a different reason. The Heinz X Absolut collab looked good, taking advantage of the strength of both brands' strong identities without one overpowering the other, and the artistic execution was on the ball. And although vodka and tomato sauce might sound like an odd combination, it actually makes perfect sense for anyone who's ever made creamy Penne Alla Vodka and lamented having to buy an entire bottle of vodka just to make the sauce.
So where can brand collabs go next? Can they possibly get any weirder? Chances are they can. In fact, people have been using AI image generators to imagine weird brand collabs of the future. Let's hope these brands don't take on the ideas.