IHOP Tries Quaker Oats (and 4 More Clever, Cross-Brand Mash-Ups)

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Pancakes and OatmealAttention pancake lovers -- who also love oatmeal: Have we got a breakfast for you. IHOP is teaming with Quaker Oats on an exclusive new line of hot cereals.

The union of the famous flapjack joint and the oatmeal-maker is just the latest in a series of high-profile brand mash-ups heading to restaurants, fast-food chains and retail stores -- from the oatmeal blends to a line of clothing and home goods by Target (TGT) and Neiman Marcus.

But not every partnership is a match made in heaven.

In order for these brand collaborations to be a hit with consumers, they need to seem like a natural fit to begin with --- particularly when it comes to food pairings, Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service consulting firm, tells DailyFinance.

Co-mingling brands must resonate with a common "target consumer group, while each adding something distinct to the equation," he says.

When the marriage works, "brands add credibility [to other brands] and lead to a sales boost."

Here's a look at some notable recent hook-ups.

IHOP Tries Quaker Oats (and 4 More Clever, Cross-Brand Mash-Ups)

IHOP (DIN) has added new Quaker Oats oatmeal blends to its menu this month, hyping the jointly-developed breakfast items as featuring three different types of oats "to offer unique flavors and textures," as well as "superb nutrient richness." New flavors include Super Fruit Oatmeal, Super Fruit Oatmeal with Almonds and Walnuts, and Banana and Brown Sugar Oatmeal.

The line marks the first time Quaker Oats markets its brand in a casual dining restaurant. (The oatmeal is currently sold at quick-service spots Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) and Burger King (BKW), a company spokeswoman tells DailyFinance.)

As the IHOP/Quaker Oats deal marks the union of two popular breakfast brands, the partnership should seem like a natural pairing to consumers, Goldin says.

The idea is that "the Quaker brand will elevate the consumers' desire to order hot cereal [at IHOP], and presumably there's an ability to charge a premium because of the cachet of the Quaker Oats brand rather than just a generic oatmeal," Goldin says.

Consumers have gone nuts for Taco Bell's (YUM) Doritos Locos Tacos, made with Nacho Cheese Doritos (PEP) shells.

The menu item, which debuted in March, has been the most successful product launch in Taco Bell's 50-year history. As of June, the fast-food chain had sold 200 million Locos Tacos.

But why has the taco so whet the appetite of fast-foodies? Because it introduced a new taste experience to consumers who are both Taco Bell and Doritos fans, Goldin says.

Doritos added "a flavor and texture dimension to [a Taco Bell taco], making it a more unique -- or better -- product," Goldin says. "And here's a case where the demographic for the Doritos customer is the same as the Taco Bell consumer: An 18- to 24-year-old male."

It also helped that Doritos and Taco Bell put ample marketing muscle behind the mash up. "They really advertised it," he says.

McDonald's (MCD) has made a practice of teaming up with iconic candy brands to further sweeten its McFlurry soft-serve ice cream treats: from M&M's and Oreos (KFT) to Rolos and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (HSY).

But the nation's leading fast-food chain is very selective about picking its brand partners: "McDonald's only considers brands with equity that will enhance its own iconic image," Goldin says.

Reese's, for one, has enormous brand awareness, "while adding something very unique [to the McFlurry]: A peanut butter and chocolate [flavor] that's immediately recognizable to the typical consumer from a taste and texture perspective," he says.

Fashion retailers, too, are ramping up brand partnerships these days.

Cheap chic discounter Target and upscale department store Neiman Marcus are collaborating on a holiday fashion, home and accessories line that will be sold at both chains come Dec. 1.

Target is already famous for bringing high fashion and hip design to the masses with exclusive collections from designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Missoni.

Now the huge shopping base that walks through Target's 1,763 stores will get a taste of Neiman Marcus's tony style, but at Target's discount prices. The collection will range from $7.99 to $499.99, with most items less than $60.

Conversely, shoppers of the old-line department store (with only 42 locations) looking for merchandise with a hip twist will likely find it in the The Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection. Indeed, for Neiman Marcus, the line reflects a move to inject more innovative, design-savvy merchandise into its product assortment.

But not everyone things this mixed marriage is a good idea, notably, some Neiman Marcus purists.

Said one shopper on the department store's Facebook page when the partnership was announced in July: "Neiman Marcus, that is disappointing, and a total downgrade to team up with Target."

In yet another high-brow/low-brow hook up, Neiman Marcus rival Nordstrom (JWN) opens in-store boutiques this month from Topshop, the British retailer, known for its edgy take on fast-fashion, in 14 of its stores.

With this deal, Nordstrom shoppers can find runway-inspired looks soon after they've strutted down the catwalk -- at affordable prices.

The partnership is a mutually-strategic move: The conservative, luxury department store wants to woo younger shoppers, and the U.K. retailer, with only three U.S. stores, aims to spread its American wings.

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