Stacked Target shopping carts
Sundry Photography/istockphoto

Brand Mashups You Never Saw Coming

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Clam-O-Naise
Clam-O-Naise ®

The Odd Couples

Big companies know that one of their most valuable assets is their brands. So it follows that the only thing better than leveraging the power of one big name is joining forces with another — which must explain the dizzying number of brand collaborations we’ve seen in the past several years. These matches made in marketing heaven can make for some bizarre combinations, though, including a recent head-scratcher from Target and Cards Against Humanity.


Related: Companies That Changed American Culture for Better or Worse

Clam-O-Naise
Target

Cards Against Humanity and Target, 2022

This tie-up is an especially weird one, but somehow Cards Against Humanity convinced Target to carry its latest creation, Clam-O-Naise, a clam-flavored mayo. If you're on the fence about the flavor, each jar contains 30 new Cards Against Humanity and a mystery Clam-O-Prize inside, which might be a real pearl, a clam-themed vacation, or a more than slightly used Toyota Camry. If you're still unenthused, the themed merch might be more enticing.


Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

HEINZ and thredUP
Kraft Heinz Canada

Heinz and ThredUp

Have you always wanted a vintage designer T-shirt splattered with ketchup? No? Well, don't let that stop you. Heinz has released its Vintage Drip collection of second-hand clothes through ThredUp, with each item (ranging from Gap to Gucci) featuring a ketchup stain. On the bright side, Heinz says 100% of the proceeds from sales of the items goes to the charity Rise Against Hunger.


Related: Taste Test: The Best Ketchup Brands

Arby's and Old Spice Meat Sweats
Arby's / Old Spice

Arby's and Old Spice, 2022

Arby's and Old Spice are teaming up to bring consumers something they never knew they needed: a $60 "meat sweats" defense kit, to prevent the profuse perspiration that can result from eating carnivorous cuisine. A roast-beef-patterned sweatsuit is part of this gimmicky promotion for Old Spice's Sweat Defense dry spray and Arby's half-pound roast beef sandwich. The collaboration debuted June 30 and includes two cans of antiperspirant, a co-branded towel, and a sweatband.

Velveeta and Nails, Inc.
Amazon

Velveeta and Nails Inc., 2022

This collaboration is a bit "cheesy," but clearly someone out there must want their fingertips to smell like processed cheese? Velveeta has teamed up with Nails Inc. to offer a nail polish set that mimics the look of bright yellow cheese dripping off of red nails. The polish also smells like Velveeta … in case you didn't want to actually dip your fingers in your food to get the scent.

KFC & Proflowers
Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC and ProFlowers, 2022

For Mother's Day this year, KFC teamed up with ProFlowers to help clueless dads and kids put together a bouquet of roses and, yes, fried chicken. The special Kentucky Fried Buckquet kit came with a dozen roses, a KFC glass vase, and eight skewers to hold up her favorite fried chicken. It's better than just showing up with a bucket of chicken like nearly 400,000 people do each Mother's Day, making the holiday one of the biggest sales days each year for KFC.

Manolo Blahnik Birkenstock
Birkenstock

Birkenstocks and Manolo Blahnik, 2022

How can a shoe brand coveted by well-heeled fashionistas find common ground with a shoe brand beloved by the, well, anti-fashionista? No matter: A collaboration between Manolo Blahnik and Birkenstock is here, and it's definitely a head turner. A sneak peek showed a combination of comfort and bling featuring blue velvet and crystal buckles.

Oscar Mayer and  Seoul Mamas Skincare
Amazon

Oscar Mayer and Seoul Mamas, 2022

If you think applying deli meat to your face sounds like a bunch of bologna, guess what? Oscar Mayer has turned lunch into skin care. The cold-cuts maker teamed up with South Korean beauty company Seoul Mamas to offer face sheets that resemble bologna, but supposedly hydrate and moisturize your skin. The limited-edition masks, sold only on Amazon for $5 each, are sadly sold out, but let's hope for a restock. And just in case you're still confused, the masks are inedible and come with a disclaimer that you're supposed to wear them on your skin, not put them in your stomach.

Vans x USPS
Vans

Vans and the Post Office, 2021

Does the U.S. Postal Service even qualify as a "brand"? Is it possible for the post office to be cool? We're honestly not sure on either count, but now you can rep Uncle Sam's mail-carrying elite with Vans shoes and apparel. Emblazoned with the Postal Service eagle, four pairs of Vans are available in the unlikely collection. There are also a few apparel options, including a beanie, a hoodie, and a T-shirt. Select items are available online, but one pair of shoes, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, will be available exclusively at Foot Locker starting Jan. 20.

Facebook and Ray-Ban, 2021
Ray-Ban

Facebook and Ray-Ban, 2021

Do you remember Google Glass, or perhaps own a pair of Amazon's Echo Frames? We didn't think so. No matter, because Facebook is teaming up with Ray-Ban to give you another shot at owning the smart glasses you never wanted. Buy a pair of the specs, dubbed Ray-Ban Stories, and you can leave your phone in your pocket while you record video, take pictures, make calls, and play music, all by tapping the glasses. To Ray-Ban's credit, these $300-plus smart specs are a lot more stylish than the vaguely Trekkie Google Glass, but they still beg the age-old question: Why?

JNCO x Goldfish
Maria Jose Govea

Goldfish and JNCO, 2021

Remember those ridiculously voluminous JNCO jeans, a '90s fashion fad from which the world never fully recovered? Well, they're baaaaack, in partnership with ... Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. A new flavor, Jalapeno Popper Goldfish, is out now, and who better to promote it than JNCO? After all, there's room aplenty for all your snacks in those pockets. And yes, you can even nab some limited-edition Goldfish JNCOs for a cool $200.

Marble Slab x Cheetos Flamin' Hot Ice Cream and Shake
Marble Slab

Cheetos and Marble Slab Creamery, 2021

What could be better than a scoop of ice cream mixed with Flamin' Hot Cheetos? Marble Slab thought the idea was a fun one, at least, and did a brand mashup with PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito-Lay division to offer a sweet cream ice cream mixed with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in a cup, cone, or shake. 

Limited Edition Spikeball Dunkin'® Pro Kit
Spikeball

Dunkin' and Spikeball, 2021

The connection between doughnuts and the game of Spikeball isn't entirely clear, beyond the fact that the game is played with a circular net. Nonetheless, the iconic doughnut maker Dunkin' collaborated with Spikeball to create a limited-edition kit that includes two balls and a net in the pink-and-orange Dunkin' colors for $125. The kit appeared to be sold out after just one day, even though no doughnuts were included in the deal.

Swim Soups by Panera Bread
Panera Bread

Panera Bread and Swimsuits, 2021

Fast casual eatery Panera Bread found that 70% of its customers didn't let steamy temperatures stop them from ordering soup over the summer. Thus, a swimwear collection was born. Fans of the restaurant snapped up "broc cheddar" patterned men's and women's swimsuits, a bread bowl pool float, men's "mother bread" swim trunks, and a one-piece bathing suit that simply said "SOUP" in capital letters. Slow-moving soup fans missed out, however: The collection quickly sold out.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, 2021
Vanleeuwen

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, 2021

Talk about cheesy. Brooklyn, New York-based ice cream maker Van Leeuwen partnered with Kraft to make this limited-run frozen treat. It first went on sale on July 14, 2021 — which just happened to be National Macaroni and Cheese Day. It was also available at Walmart for a limited time, along with some other less-than-expected flavors. 

Balenciaga Crocs
Balenciaga / Crocs

Balenciaga and Crocs, 2021

Balenciaga unveiled its spring 2022 collection on June 7, surprising fashionistas everywhere with two Crocs collaborations: stiletto heels and rain boots. The boots look, well, like most rain boots and are available in three colors (green, gray, and black). On the other hand, the stilettos, called Balenciaga Crocs 2.0, look like standard-issue Crocs clogs with a pillar-like heel. They're available in tasteful black (if you can call Crocs tasteful) or very vivid green. Don't expect to see them in Balenciaga boutiques. Experts predicted they would sell out immediately, just as the designer's first such collaboration, an $850 pair of platform clogs, did in 2017.

Hidden Valley x Crocs
Crocs

Crocs and Hidden Valley Ranch, 2021

Hidden Valley Ranch, which has progressed from a mere salad dressing to a seemingly all-purpose condiment, is no longer content to stick to food but is ready to smear itself all over some shoes. The brand joined forces with Crocs and streetwear brand The Hundreds for ranch shoes that look good enough to eat (possibly). The off-white shoes were designed with green speckles (for an uncanny similarity to ranch dressing) and Crocs' Jibbitz charms in the shapes of chicken nuggets, french fries, veggies, and pizza — all foods that are improved with a dollop of the dressing.

gapHomeAtWalmart
Walmart

Gap and Walmart, 2021

The company that brought you pleated khakis, pocket T-shirts, and more jeans and hoodies than we can count sai last year that it would be introducing its first-ever line of home goods in an exclusive partnership with Walmart. Some 400 items, including bedding and bedding sets, towels, curtains, and other home goods (think denim throw pillows and blue-hued dinnerware) are available only on Walmart's website.

Pepsi and Peeps
PepsiCo

Pepsi and Peeps, 2021

As if Peeps aren’t polarizing enough as it is, Pepsi partnered with the candy brand to release a Peeps-flavored cola just in time for Easter last year. The compact, candy-colored cans were never available in stores, and were instead sent to lucky fans who entered an online sweepstakes. How’d it taste? “Just like liquid candy,” Delish raved.  

KFC and Lifetime
PRNewsfoto/KFC

KFC and Lifetime, 2020

Imagine this: A hot Colonel Sanders (played by none other than Mario Lopez) seduces a young heiress with his dashing good looks, subtle charm, and, of course, his secret recipe for the world’s tastiest fried chicken. Insane fever dream? Nope, just a “mini movie” dreamed up by KFC and everyone’s favorite guilty-pleasure network, Lifetime.  

Ikea and Lego
Ikea

Ikea and Lego, 2020

Considering most Ikea stores resemble a giant Lego brick, maybe this one isn’t all that weird? The Swedish furniture giant recently joined with the Danish toymaker to produce a line of Lego-compatible storage boxes with building surfaces integrated into the lids. The line, called Bygglek, is still available online and in Ikea stores.

Nike and Ben & Jerry’s
1661, Inc.

Nike and Ben & Jerry’s, 2020

If only “Just do it” meant “dive into a pint of ice cream tonight,” we’d be a lot closer to our fitness goals. Despite the seeming incongruity of their missions, Nike and Ben & Jerry’s once collaborated on — wait for it — Chunky Dunky sneakers, with a design inspired by one of Ben & Jerry’s most popular flavors, Chunky Monkey. The shoe even featured a furry faux cow print. They’re still available online for more than $1,000 (which would buy a lot of ice cream … just sayin’).

KFC and Crocs
Yum! Ltd.

KFC and Crocs, 2020

Some would argue that Crocs are funky enough on their own, but that didn’t stop the company from teaming up with KFC to create a “truly original recipe.” Its limited-edition chicken Crocs even came with two charms made to look and smell just like a KFC drumstick. (If you’re asking yourself who would possibly want chicken Crocs, the joke’s on you — they sold out in half anxhour.)  

levi's Jacquard
LEVI STRAUSS & CO

Google and Levi’s, 2019

Levi’s trucker jackets are one of the most familiar sights in fashion, but you’d never know what’s embedded in some of them: smart Jacquard sensors, courtesy of Google. A swipe of the sleeve then lets users get news or calendar updates, get directions, take a photo, play music, or even take calls.  

Forever 21 and Cheetos
Forever 21

Forever 21 and Cheetos, 2019

Always a cult favorite, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos got the fashion fiesta they so justly deserved a couple years ago, when Forever 21 released a line of apparel celebrating everything orange and cheesy. It included everything from Cheetos crop tops to Cheetos underwear to a bodysuit featuring Chester Cheetah, the snack’s eponymous sunglasses-wearing mascot. 

Netflix and Baskin-Robbins
BR IP Holder LLC.

Netflix and Baskin-Robbins, 2019

A couple of years ago, runaway Netflix hit “Stranger Things” was everywhere, including your local Baskin-Robbins. The partnership makes sense only if you’re a fan who knows about Scoops Ahoy, a scoop shop where one of the main characters works. Promos were rolled out chain wide, but a couple of Baskin-Robbins shops were transformed into an ice cream parlor from the '80s. There was even a “ship shape” ice-cream truck giving out USS Butterscotch, a limited-time flavor based on the show.

Adidas and AriZona Iced Tea
eBay

Adidas and Arizona Iced Tea, 2019

The only thing weirder than designing shoes based on iced tea? Selling them for 99 cents. Adidas and Arizona unveiled their flowery collab with the gimmick that they would cost as much as a can of Arizona. Of course, the pop-up shop proved so popular with sneakerheads dying for $1 kicks that the NYPD had to shut it down.

Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana
Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana, 2018

When it comes to kitchen appliances, function usually comes before form. But when Dolce & Gabbana partnered with Smeg a few years ago, the two companies turned out Sicilian-inspired toasters, juicers, and other appliances that make colorful Kitchen Aid mixers look like child’s play. Williams Sonoma still carries the line, which includes a (gulp) $50,000 refrigerator.  

Fila and Chupa Chups
FILA KOREA. CO.,LTD.
Taco Bell and Kit Kat
Taco Bell

Taco Bell and Kit Kat, 2017

Taco Bell has never shied away from head-scratching menu items (some of which have turned into major success stories — more on that in a minute). File its collaboration with Kit Kat under, well, “not a major success.” Its Kit Kat quesadilla — er, “chocoladilla,” — was literally just a melted Kit Kat inside a grilled tortilla. Much to the dismay of stoners everywhere, it never appears to have made it past the testing stage in the U.S. 

Ford and Tinder
The Ford Motor Company

Ford and Tinder, 2017

Imagine hopping on Tinder only to discover that Ford wanted to whisk you away on a blind date. It happened to five couples after the Tinder users swiped right on the “profile” for a yellow Ford Mustang. They were filmed driving around London, awkward small talk and all, before finishing their dates at a drive-in movie. (No word whether the stunt paved the way for any happily-ever-afters.) 

Gucci x Disney Mickey Mouse Mesh Baseball Hat
eBay

Disney and Gucci, 2017

Would you pay $650 for a Mickey Mouse T-shirt? How about $1,980 for a teeny Donald Duck backpack? That’s the going rate for some of the merchandise from Disney’s collaboration with one of the most recognizable names in high fashion, Gucci. You can also get Bambi on a Givenchy T-shirt for a cool $790. (Take heart: It’s still a lot less than a trip to Disney World.) 

Covergirl Star Wars Limited Edition Lipsticks
Amazon

Covergirl and ‘Star Wars,’ 2015

“I want to look like Yoda,” said no one ever, but that didn’t stop Covergirl from rolling out a “Star Wars” makeup line during the release of “The Force Awakens.” The collection included everything from a shimmery gold and silver lipsticks (think C3PO and Captain Phasma) to mascaras featuring quotes from the movies. 

DHL Shirt
eBay

Vetements and DHL

When Vetements, a luxury fashion company, sent a canary-yellow DHL logo T-shirt down the runway in Paris in 2015, it raised plenty of eyebrows. Was the Swiss apparel maker bringing "anti-fashion back to fashion," as The Guardian speculated, or was it simply playing a joke on the fashion world? Judging by the public’s reaction, it was the former: Not only did the pricey shirts sell quickly, people started buying non-Vetements DHL shirts to strut around in. 

Doritos Cool Ranch Locos Taco
Doritos Cool Ranch Locos Taco by Joe Martinez (CC BY-NC-ND)

Taco Bell and Doritos, 2012

Today, the Doritos Locos Taco has practically reached icon status, but don’t pretend you didn’t scratch your head when you first heard of this mashup of two guilty-pleasure brands. The idea took a surprising amount of work to pull off, though, with teams from Taco Bell and Frito-Lay testing more than 40 recipes over two years and going through untold numbers of shell prototypes in order to get the crunch and seasoning just right.

Window of stylist Missoni in Milan
Manakin/istockphoto

Target and Missoni, 2011

By now, Target collaborating with just about anyone is old news, but in 2011, the concept of a high-low partnership between a big-box retailer and a high-end brand still felt fresh. The 400-piece Missoni collection for Target was so popular with budget fashionistas that demand crashed Target.com and created a run on stores. (Of course, history repeated itself a few years later with the Target-Lilly Pulitzer debacle.)

Supreme and Kermit the Frog
eBay

Supreme and Kermit the Frog, 2008

Supreme, a streetwear brand with a major cult following, has collaborated with what seems like just about everyone. But a Muppet? Yep, it happened, after mysterious photos of Kermie in a Supreme shirt started appearing around New York City. Shirts from the zany partnership still go for hundreds of dollars on eBay.