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5 marketing collaborations that totally bombed

Posted by Julia Bourke on Monday, Jul 17, 2017

Collaborations can be great marketing ventures, but can also bomb catastrophically. Learn from the worst mistakes with our collaboration wall of shame.


Supercollaborators like Red Bull, McDonald’s, GoPro and Coca-Cola understand how collaborations can help brands to realise their full audience potential, to market their companies as thought leaders and lifestyle brands and to support or challenge a brand identity. Collaborations are one of a few great ways to refresh a product line.

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However, collaborating with another brand is by no means an easy task. It takes teamwork, compromise, and most importantly a thorough understanding of your customers, unique selling points and industry. Because of its play on innovation, a digital marketing strategy is wise: learn from the best who have broken the internet with high-profile collaborations, creating media hype in the weeks leading up to a launch. It is also crucial that partnerships work towards mutual benefit rather than high profits, as brand equity should be the key in expanding your brand. Finally, ensure that an allied brand is a good fit for your aims and your audience, to either strengthen or challenge perception.

We’ve outlined a few high-profile brands that failed to follow these guidelines, and whose collaborations didn’t exactly go as planned. Hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?

Apple’s and U2 release a free album

A generous giveaway that spawned a social media frenzy directed at U2, Bono and Apple: iTunes’ automatic release of U2’s thirteenth album Songs of Innocence to 500 million iTunes users bombed massively, with with one social media critic claiming “Apple owe me a new iPhone, because I had to purify this one with fire after finding a U2 album on it”. Ouch. But why did the collaboration stunt fail? As CBS concludes, Apple’s takeaway is to do with matching an audience, and specifically to “never let those over 40 decide what music they think younger consumers are bound to think is cool”.

Paris Hilton releases Lidl collection

In late 2016 the one and only Paris Hilton shocked the world by tweeting that she was “so excited to share new hair collection from Lidl”. Yes, that German budget supermarket Lidl that we all have a special place for in our hearts (or stomachs). The collection, #HereComesParis, is dedicated to hair products including straighteners, styling brush and curlers. With low, low prices starting from just €2.50, it’s likely that the socialite and reality TV star has sold away her high-end designer image in what cannot be a smart business move.

Beyoncé and Sir Philip Green launch Ivy Park

After the complete and utter fail that was Beyoncé’s fashion debut House of Deréon (remember those tacky prints and the controversy about sexualising young girls?) it’s fair to say that nobody was expecting great things from the singer, songwriter, actress and general queen Bey. Beyoncé’s athletic wear line, sold at Topshop and Nordstrom, saw initial success in its launch week, and was the top-selling brand at Nordstrom. After the first week, however, Ivy Park began to… linger, leaving some bloggers complaining that Ivy Park is simply taking up space in Topshop. It’s also clear that it’s a Bey brand and not truly a fashion-conscious brand. Not exactly marketing both parties as innovators, or achieving like-minded harmony.

Monster and Dr. Dre develop Dre Beats

It’s little-known today that small audio company Monster first designed and created Beats by Dre, the headphone line that anyone and everyone who’s anyone has been wearing since 2009. After pouring millions into the precise engineering, the company signed away their product to Beats Electronics, agreeing to manufacture and distribute the headphones whilst forgoing any claim to ownership. Gradually Beats Electronics separated from Monster, selling more than 50% of its shares to HTC and later bought by Apple in a record-breaking $3 billion acquisition. Spurned developer Monster sued Beats Electronics for breach of contract, but ultimately Monster lost the case last year. It seems these companies were mismatched from the start; a small company supported by the passion of audiophiles is surely doomed against a media entrepreneurial team with the entertainment industry on their side.

Neiman Marcus designs a line for Target

Target has had many collaborations with such names as Luella and Zac Posen, and most have been successful. Its 2012 Target + Neiman holiday line, however, bombed significantly after a huge buildup, with products going on sale after just three weeks. Retailer Target pointed to slow sales between Black Friday and last-minute Christmas shopping, as well as some luxury products that had too-high prices for Target (i.e. not aimed at their target market). Target also said that after their collection with Italian designer Missoni sold out in its first day, they doubled their inventory with the + Neiman line. Unfortunately, what they did not predict was that this would damage the exclusivity that such collections thrive upon.

These collaboration fails should serve to advise caution to brands thinking of similar partnering strategies. Whilst collaborations can be hugely successful in seeing two brands benefit off one another, merging audiences and enforcing a brand identity, conducted wrongly they can be fatal. It’s of the highest importance to protect your brand’s image in the digital environment, where social media is a power platform of consumer opinions, and steps of the buying process are inevitably outsourced. Learn more about protecting your brand equity in our eBook on selecting a brand protection solution.

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About the author

Julia Bourke

Post Written by Julia Bourke

Focusing on emerging trends and industry news, Julia works as a content writer and data journalist. Julia graduated from the University of Southampton with a BA Hons in English Literature.