Why ‘weird’ brand partnerships work

2021 gave us a lot of ‘weird’, unusual partnerships. We’ve seen cola brand Pepsi collaborate with marshmallow product Peeps. Fast-food chain McDonald’s partnered with K-Pop group BTS. And in September, Oreo and Pokémon have launched exclusive Pokemon cookies.

Even though these brand partnerships keep getting more ‘bizarre,’ they do work! But why? And what are the benefits of partnering with another brand? Let’s find that out!

What is a brand partnership?

Brand partnerships are collaborations between two or more brands. Organizations like companies and NPOs set up a joint campaign with the purpose of increasing brand awareness, reaching new customers and increasing sales.  

Well-executed partnerships can help brands tremendously. And that’s why they are becoming more prominent — and weirder!

Notable Partnerships that happened in 2021,

We’ve seen successful brand partnerships in the past. If you want to see the most successful partnerships in recent history, make sure to read this article by HubSpot. For now, I’d like to highlight some partnership campaigns that happened in 2021.

Pepsi and Peeps

Back in March, cola brand Pepsi and marshmallow brand Peeps launched a Marshmallow Cola Campaign. They introduced small 7.5-ounce mini Pepsi cans with marshmallow flavours. This campaign got much publicity, as many news media reported on the collaboration, and many folks tried out the wild beverage.

McDonald’s and BTS

Back in May, fast-food franchise McDonald’s and K-Pop group BTS introduced the BTS meal. When buying the meal, you’d receive fries, 10 chicken nuggets, Coca Cola and Cajun and Sweet Chili sauce. The meal itself wasn’t necessarily special, but the way McDonald’s and BTS branded their partnership certainly was: McDonald’s became a BTS-‘stan’ on Social Media, introduced purple food packaging and launched special merch.

If you want to know more about this partnership, check out this article I wrote back in May.

As result of the successful collaboration with BTS, McDonald’s also partnered with artist Saweetie. Burger King also took notes from their competitors and started introducing special artist meals as well.

Oreo and Pokémon

This September, Oreo and Pokémon have introduced Pokémon-themed cookies! Enthusiasts can collect 16 different Pokémon Oreo cookies, with the Mew Oreo being the rarest one. With this partnership, Oreo and Pokémon are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Pokémon game franchise.

Why do brand partnerships work

So we’ve seen a fast-food chain and a K-Pop band partner. A beverage brand and a marshmallow brand worked together. And now a cookie brand and a game franchise are collaborating. All of these partnerships seem unusual — A bit weird even.

What’s the point of two seemingly distinct brands working together? And why do many brand partnerships take off? Well, this is because: Brand partnerships are exclusive, newsworthy, and community-oriented.


Brand partnerships typically last for a short period of time, like one or two months. When the campaign ends, the partnering brands will go back to normal business.

So these partnerships are quite exclusive campaigns. And we all know that exclusivity is a powerful tactic in Marketing: It creates FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Loyal fanbases don’t want to miss out on the exclusive campaign. In the case of the McBTS campaign, BTS fans went to McDonald’s restaurants to try out that special meal, to get their hands on the purple packaging, and to buy special merch. Because what if they didn’t?

If companies were to run these partnerships for a longer period (let’s say a year), their campaigns could become less exclusive over time. The hype wears off. And as a result, the consumer’s interest in the campaign decreases.


Exclusivity sells, and newsworthiness attracts. We all love new information. Especially when that information is relevant, special or obscure. And news media know that we love newsworthy articles. And us Marketers know that news media love publishing newsworthy articles.

The more exclusive and unusual our brand partnerships are, the more likely news media are to report on it,  and the higher the likelihood is that this news will trend on Social Media. If partnering brands position their partnership well and use the right Marketing and PR tools (and have some luck), their partnership will take off online.  

Many news media reported on the BTS Meal. And McDonald’s BTS tweets often averaged half a million likes on Twitter. Similarly, Pepsi and Peep’s marshmellow cola sounded so weird, that people wanted to try it out, and they wrote articles about it too.

Reaching current and new audiences

With a partnership, you’re introducing your own audience to another brand, and the other brand introduces their audience to yours. So not only is a brand partnership able to reinforce the attitude of your own audience towards you, it also introduces new people to your brand.

For instance, BTS fans got to know that McDonald’s was a big ‘BTS Stan’ and changed their attitude towards the fast-food restaurant. And Pokémon fans are eager to collect all Oreo cookies.

Community-oriented campaigns:

Notice how all of these campaigns are consumer-oriented? It’s not about “Hey, check out how weird our campaign is”, but rather “Hey, check out these unusual and fun things we have for you.” Brands are offering something special to their audience, like a limited-edition product.

You can also be part of the brand partnership online. Brands encourage you to join the conversation on Social Media. They talk with you and they show you exclusive behind-the-scenes content as well.

For instance, OREO are doing interactive Pokémon-polls on Instagram where they make you guess which Pokémon is the easiest to find. And McDonald’s and BTS went live on YouTube and Twitch where they talked with their audience.

Brand partnerships don’t always work

If you want your brand partnership to succeed, you must organize, strategize and execute well. There have been some examples of brand partnerships that failed because of poor communication.

Furthermore, you must make sure that, even though your brand might be different from the brand you partner with, you both have a shared goal in mind.

Lastly, make sure that a partnership with another brand doesn’t conflict with your own values. LEGO, who sells children’s toys, was criticized because they partnered with oil company Shell.

If you want to read more about failed partnerships, check out this article by HubSpot.


So, we all love seeing these weird brand partnerships. And we see more and more brands starting unusual collabs. It’s because brand partnerships can increase your publicity, brand awareness and sales. And that’s because these partnerships are weird, exclusive, newsworthy and community-oriented. Can’t wait to see when the next weird brand partnership happens!