If you’ve ever felt excitement over the announcement of a partnership between two brands you love, then you know just how powerful brand collaborations can be. There is no limit on what companies from different industries can come together to create. Some of the most iconic brand collaborations have come from the most seemingly unlikely partnerships!

Let’s take a look at the best brand collaborations of all times, and what you can take away from them.

  1. Cheetos and Forever 21
  2. Lego and Stranger Things
  3. McDonald’s and Burger King
  4. Vans and Harry Potter
  5. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Cheetos
  6. Sharpie and Nike
  7. Doritos and Taco Bell
  8. American Eagle and Lil Wayne
  9. Louis Vuitton and Supreme
  10. Uber and Spotify
  11. ASOS and GLAAD
  12. Target and Lily Pulitzer

1. Cheetos and Forever 21

Who doesn’t love food and fashion? Cheetos and Forever 21 collaborated to create a line of apparel, accessories, and swimwear featuring the Cheetos logo and Chester Cheetah. This fiery collection was fairly priced with the most expensive item being $30! Thanks to this partnership, dressing like your favorite cheesy snack has never been easier.

Key takeaway: This collaboration was a brilliant move because Forever 21 and Cheetos share a lot of the same audience. Forever 21 caters to young adults and teens, and most of that same group also enjoys Cheetos as a snack. In fact, Cheetos is ranked first in the “cheese snacks” category, owning over 87% of the market share. In this situation, both companies benefited from combining their very similar audiences making it an all-around success.

2. Lego and Stranger Things

This 2,287-piece Lego set is a 1:1 recreation of the most iconic scene from the hit T.V. series Stranger Things. Once pieced together, you can literally flip this set upside down to play into the duality of realms seen in the show, complete with a mini Demagorgon!

Key takeaway: Lego and Stranger Things fans alike raved about this set, doubling the reach of the product. The Lego set is rated for ages 16+, making the target audience teens and young adults. It is estimated that 31% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 watched every episode of Stranger Things. The T.V. show entering the toy industry with increases the audience for Lego to include older adults too. This collaboration was essential to increasing the exposure for both brands and brought together the two audiences of Lego and Stranger Things.

3. McDonalds and Burger King

McDonald’s and Burger King have been fast food rivals practically since the dawn of time. However, these two burger giants in Argentina came together for an amazing cause. In September of 2019, McDonalds was raising money for childhood cancer. For one day only just in Argentina, all proceeds from Big Mac sales were donated. In an effort to help the cause, Burger King halted Whopper sales for a day, dubbing it “A Day Without Whopper.”

Key Takeaway: There are few things better than rivals coming together for the benefit of the greater good. In this situation, Burger King showed its charitable selflessness, and McDonald’s raised more money as a result. McDonald’s served over 73 more Big Mac sandwiches than for the same event last year! In the end, Burger King ends up getting more recognition and arguably made people want Whoppers more after not being able to have them for a day.

4. Vans and Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans are loyal, passionate, and all about representing their favorite “house”. This collaboration paired everyone’s favorite pair of Vans with their love for all thing’s wizardry. Since the release of the first book in 1997, half a billion books have been sold and the series has been translated into 80 languages. The collection also included some apparel, but the shoes were the most iconic.

Key takeaway: Because of this collaboration, fans were able to purchase shoes they know are comfortable and affordable that also feature a design from their favorite movie franchise. This made purchasing these shoes an easy, low-risk choice!

5. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Cheetos

Cheetos is back at it again with another collaboration, but this time it doesn’t involve apparel. Kentucky Fried Chicken debuted a Cheetos chicken sandwich. The two companies went through “a few dozen” versions of the sandwich before nailing down the perfect recipe. In New York, Cheetos hot wings and Cheetos loaded fries, and a Mac and Cheetos Bowl were also available on the menu as part of this partnership.  

Key takeaway: Combining two things people love to create something even more amazing is never a bad idea. This collaboration worked because it’s a win for lovers of both Cheetos and KFC. This sandwich was only available for 4 weeks and costed $4.79, which made it a hot commodity and encouraged people to give it a try before it’s gone.

6. Sharpie and Nike

These Nike Air Force 1 shoes come with a special twist: a Sharpie marker for you to write on them! This collaboration stemmed from a campaign called “More Than An Athlete” started by NBA player LeBron James. Wearers are encouraged to write about themselves on the shoes to tell their story.

Key takeaway: Charitable collaborations don’t always have to include monetary donations. In this case, the takeaway of this collaboration is that it is meant to build people up and encourage them to find their voice. This partnership helps to not only spreads the word of LeBron James’ project, but also to empower young athletes!

7. Doritos and Taco Bell

If you were one of the billion people who purchased a Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell in 2012, same. In fact, Taco Bell had to hire 15,000 more employees to keep up with the insane demand for this collaboration. It was immediately popular, and eventually expanded to also include the Cool Ranch Dorito flavor.

Key Takeaway: The idea for this collaboration was thought up during a meeting between Taco Bell and Frito-Lay years before it launched. Both companies wanted to make sure their products tasted the same, and early taste tests kept missing the mark. Patience to perfect the execution was what made this collaboration so successful, because it met or exceeded everyone’s expectations.

8. American Eagle and Lil Wayne

American Eagle partnered with Lil Wayne’s brand Young Money to create a back-to-school line of apparel. This launch also came with AE’s sizing expansion and new assortment of denim fits. The collection featured 25 pieces of men’s clothing and accessories with prices ranging from $8 to $100.

Key takeaway: This collaboration is not just a win for Lil Wayne fans. The purpose behind the partnership is to celebrate inclusion and self-expression. Lil Wayne was able to express himself through creating his own line, and American Eagle benefits from gaining the attraction of his fans. The powerful message behind the collaboration is a bow on top.

9. Louis Vuitton x Supreme

You can’t discuss popular collaborations without mentioning Louis Vuitton and Supreme. Supreme is a skateboarding and clothing company that first began in New York. The collection between the skater and luxury brand included apparel, shoes, and accessories like hats, sunglasses, bags, and wallets. While this collaboration may seem strange to some, it is wildly popular with items selling out within minutes of release.

Key takeaway: This collaboration is an example of two brands capitalizing on an existing trend and using it to promote their own companies. With streetwear becoming increasing popular, partnering with Supreme made Louis Vuitton popular in that category. In the first half of 2017, Louis Vuitton saw a 23% profit increase, to which they largely credited this collaboration for. People who may not have ever bought from Louis Vuitton are now lining up to buy pieces from this partnership.

10. Uber and Spotify

This collaboration allows passengers to play their own Spotify playlists while on an Uber ride. After you request a ride from a music-enabled vehicle, you can connect your Spotify profile once you get inside. Riders can use both the Uber and Spotify apps to control the tunes!

Key Takeaway: Spotify benefits greatly from this collaboration because users are encouraged to sign up for a paid subscription, because without it you won’t be able to stream in the Uber. In turn, riders have better experiences in their Ubers, and drivers get higher scores and can earn more, which also attracts new drivers to the platform.

11. ASOS and GLAAD

Activewear company ASOS and media organization GLAAD partnered together to create a clothing and apparel line that donates a portion of the purchase to fight against discrimination. The collection is for GLAAD’s & Together campaign, which calls for communities to work together for inclusive culture. Everything from bags to hoodies to rings are included in the collaboration.

Key Takeaway: This collaboration gives consumers a reason to feel good about their purchase. GLAAD can expand their digital platform to apparel, and ASOS benefits from the sales. By partnering with a widely recognized company like ASOS, GLAAD benefits by gaining more recognition for their organization and their mission to promote inclusion!

12. Target and Lily Pulitzer

Target is a pro when it comes to collaborations, so this partnership with Lily Pulitzer is nothing short of genius. Lily Pulitzer is a women’s beach and resort wear designer. The collection included clothing, accessories, and homeware totaling 250 different pieces. Consumers lined up outside Target stores in anticipation of the launch, and the collection sold out in stores and online!

Key Takeaway: Lily Pulitzer is not only a high-end company, but primarily has stores in the southern half of the U.S., making the company not accessible to everyone. By partnering with Target, the brand became accessible to everyone both in location and price. Retail analyst Brian Sozzi visited two Target stores the morning of the launch, and reported that by 9:30 AM, the displays had been ravaged with only a few items remaining. Lily Pulitzer reported their largest search day ever on Google, and a 95% spike on Facebook in the days following the launch!

What are the Advantages of Brand Collaborations?

Brands typically partner up for strategic reasons, whether it’s charitable or beneficial to their own company. When two companies collaborate, there are several benefits each organization will take advantage of.

Increased Brand Recognition

When brands come together for a partnership, they are bringing their fan bases with them. Basically, this can double the audience for a brand because they are associated with an entire second set of fans from the partner company.

Profitability

Making money is usually a main goal for collaborations. In 2017, American Express reported that mid-size companies gained a profit of 1.4 times their investment. For larger companies with bigger campaigns, the profits can be even more.

Sharing Knowledge and Resources

Brand collaborations can be mutually beneficial when one company has resources that the other might not. For example, a charity organization pairing with a clothing manufacturer can benefit from the clothing company’s distribution. The charity would not have the means of producing clothing as successfully without the other partner. Each company also has their own insight and creativity that can help make a collaboration successful for both organizations involved.

There is plenty of opportunities for companies to benefit from by teaming up with another organization. Collaborations can be a smart marketing move for companies in any industry.

There have been tons of memorable brand partnerships over the years, and each one seems to get more creative than the last. Only time will tell what brands have in store for future collaborations!

Resources

Nieves, Bianca. (2019, June 6). Forever 21 and Cheetos Launch Limited Edition Collection. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://www.teenvogue.com/story/forever21-flamin-hot-cheetos-collection

Andrew, Scottie. (2019, June 21). KFC unleashes a Cheetos chicken sandwich and honestly, it looks delicious. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/21/us/kfc-cheetos-mashup-trnd/index.html

Hollister, Sean. (2019, May 14) Stranger Things’ amazing Lego set takes the Upside Down literally. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/14/18623977/stranger-things-amazing-lego-set-takes-the-upside-down-literally

Verry, Peter. (2019, October 12). Nike Wants You to Write Your Own Story on These Customizable Air Force 1s. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://footwearnews.com/2019/focus/athletic-outdoor/nike-air-force-1-more-than-sneaker-release-info-1202855921/

Business Wire. (2019, July 23). American Eagle Makes an “Uproar” for Fall ’19 With Lil Wayne Collaboration and Unrivaled New Jeans Collections With Curvy, AirFlex and Stacked Fits. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190723005236/en/American-Eagle-%E2%80%9CUproar%E2%80%9D-Fall-%E2%80%9919-Lil-Wayne

Carufel, Richard. (2019, October 2). How Burger King won McDonald’s’ cancer-awareness campaign—and 3 top takeaways for PR. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/how-burger-king-won-mcdonalds-cancer-awareness-campaign-and-top-takeaways-for-pr/

Burst, Dash. (2018, December 25). Uber and Spotify Team Up to Bring Your Music Playlist to Your Next Ride. Retrieved December 6, 2019, from https://smallbiztrends.com/2014/11/uber-and-spotify-music-playlist.html

Cain, Spencer. (2017, November 3). ASOS has teamed up with GLAAD. Retrieved December 6, 2019, from https://www.asos.com/us/women/fashion-feed/2017_11_03-fri/asos-glaad-collab/

O’Connor, Clare. (2015, April 20). Target’s Sold-Out Lilly Pulitzer Collection: A Frenzy, But Still A Big Win. Retrieved December 6, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/04/20/targets-sold-out-lilly-pulitzer-collection-a-frenzy-but-still-a-big-win/#3ad35b4c1f82

Rufus, Jessica. (2018, August 9). How brands can benefit from collaboration marketing. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from http://www.adnews.com.au/opinion/how-brands-can-benefit-from-collaboration-marketing

Watson, Amy. (2019, August 9). Have you ever watched Stranger Things? Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/741810/stranger-things-viewership-usa-by-age/

Estiler, Keith. (2017, July 27). Supreme x Louis Vuitton Collab “Highlighted” as a Reason for LVMH Sales Growth. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://hypebeast.com/2017/7/lvmh-sales-up-2017-supreme-louis-vuitton

Lutz, Ashley, (2014, February 26). How Taco Bell’s Lead Innovator Created The Most Successful Menu Item Of All Time. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/taco-bell-doritos-locos-taco-story-2014-2

Monllos, Kristina. (2015, April 20). Why Selling Out So Quickly at Target Is So Good for Lilly Pulitzer. Retrieved on December 12, 2019, from https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/why-targets-lilly-pulitzer-collection-selling-out-so-quickly-so-good-brand-164176/

About the author

Gianna Petan

Gianna is no stranger to all things promo products. Her background in research-based writing, linguistics, and advertising gives her an edge in blogging about the marketing industry.