Brand Strategy

Our favorite (and least-favorite) brand collaborations of 2023

From Hidden Valley Ranch ice cream to French’s mustard-flavored Skittles, some of this year’s collabs were downright stomach-churning.
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Van Leeuwen, New Balance, Heinz, Bush’s Beans, MSCHF, The Caviar Co., Christian Cowan

· 3 min read

In 2023, brand collabs were inescapable. While some made sense conceptually, others have truly haunted us since we first laid eyes on them…here’s looking at you, Velveeta martini. We can’t believe that was last year; where does the time go?

Whether intentionally provocative, truly inspired, or just a shot and a miss, here are some of the wildest pairings we saw in 2023.

  • Even the most lactose-tolerant were reaching their limit with ranch-flavored ice cream from Van Leeuwen and Hidden Valley Ranch.
  • Van Leeuwen, undeterred, also revived its Kraft Mac & Cheese ice cream.
  • Fishwife teamed up with Talea Beer Co., because who doesn’t want to drink a smoky lager inspired by tinned fish?
  • Did anyone in the US know about Heinz pasta sauce before they made a vodka sauce with Absolut?
  • Speaking of alcohol, Doritos decided its nacho cheese-flavored chips might be best experienced in drink form through a partnership with custom spirits company Empirical. Don’t worry, it’s only $65 for a bottle.
  • If you thought the cartoonish Big Red Boot from design collective MSCHF was wild on its own, a collab with Crocs took it one step further and dared to ask, “What if you could wear SpongeBob in shoe form?”
  • Crocs, never to be outdone, also collaborated with McDonald’s this year, in case you were looking for fuzzy purple Grimace sandals.
  • Skechers and Snoop Dogg released a line of slip-in and lace-up sneakers that the rapper said could be worn “with a suit to a wedding or on the court with shorts.” We’re not so sure about that first one.
  • New Balance x Blue Bottle provided the perfect shoe option for a very specific type of guy in Brooklyn or SF.
  • Perhaps the wildest shoe collab of all this year was the Christian Cowan x Teletubbies knee-high boots, which retail for $2,500 and feature Dipsy’s head, arms, and torso on the shaft of the boot. Someone check on Tinky-Winky.
  • This summer, several people got the chance to live in a can in a national park. (Thanks for that one, Bush’s Beans and the National Park Foundation.)
  • Bush’s Beans also collabed with Peyton Manning on a can opener called (what else?) Peyton Canning.
  • As far as celebrity collabs go, few can top the levels of “Please, no” that the Liquid Death x Travis Barker enema kit evoked.
  • Our apologies to anyone unfortunate enough to have tried French’s mustard-flavored Skittles.
  • Rhode Skin’s Krispy Kreme-inspired strawberry-donut lip treatment might be less stomach-churning than mustard-flavored candy, but it still sounds…a little sticky.
  • Magnolia Bakery went hard on the collabs this year, with Monos luggage, Ess-a-Bagel cream cheese, Boy Smells candles, and Green Thumb THC edibles. It’s a banana-pudding takeover.
  • Caviar tends to be expensive, and The Caviar Co. x Pringles collab is no exception: Its “Salt of the Sea” kit, which encourages people to put a scoop of white-sturgeon caviar on top of the chip, retails for $110. Presumably, it’s for those who want to be classy, but not too classy.
  • On the more affordable side, Pringles also put out a collab with Minecraft this year. We can’t even begin to imagine what a “Suspicious Stew” flavored potato chip tastes like.
  • Don’t even get us started on all the Barbie collabs.
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