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Taco Bell, Forever 21 Launch Joint Fashion Line

Promotional clothing lines are a serious marketing opportunity for brands. Need proof? Consider the latest iteration that was unveiled this week in California.

Fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 and fast food chain Taco Bell have teamed up to launch the limited-edition Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection, which officially hit the apparel retailer’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores this week. It debuted at a fashion show in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was announced on Taco Bell’s Instagram with the hashtag #F21xTacoBell.

Among the apparel pickings are cropped hoodies with the food chain’s iconic bell logo, graphic T-shirts, shiny metallic anorak jackets, and even colorful bodysuits that mimic Taco Bell’s hot sauce packets, featuring slogans like “Fire! Don’t Wait Up.” There are also youth T-shirt, hoodie and jacket options, along with iPhone cases. The men’s styles (including an anorak jacket with major color-blocking) are already sold out.

Taco Bell says the unconventional offerings are a serious part of its marketing strategy, which has focused on social media and millennial-centric branding in recent years.

“We really took pains to make this a legitimate collection that is relevant and fun and modern,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO, said in a statement. “We’ve seen our fans get individually creative in expressing their love for Taco Bell through fashion, and we believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative, a little quirky and definitely fun.”

Taco Bell, which operates 7,000 locations across the U.S., is no stranger to branded merch. At the food chain’s online Taco Shop, fans can shop graphic T-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, notebooks, pencils and phone cases. One of its first forays into the fashion world was in 2014, through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds to offer custom socks. And in 2016, Taco Bell opened a brick-and-mortar Taco Shop in Las Vegas, which sells apparel, towels, bikinis and swim trunks, caps, tie-dyed T-shirts, taco-shaped pillows and more.

In general, fast food fashion and branded merchandise are having a moment. Pizza Hut, owned by Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, released a Hut Swag line in 2016, featuring items like snapback caps and T-shirts with slogans, such as “My Pizza My Life.” Another Yum brand, KFC opened the KFC Ltd. ecommerce store earlier this year, offering sweatshirts, T-shirts, socks, jewelry, scarves, lapel pins and pillowcases. And this summer, McDonald’s unveiled a playful Big Mac collection featuring pajamas and pillows, among other items.

Additionally, it seems tacos in particular have major branding power. The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, rechristen the team as the Tacos once a week during the season, with special Taco-emblazoned jerseys and caps. The name originated from Californians’ long-time affinity for taco trucks. “It definitely targets a younger crowd,” Sam Hansen, director of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, told Advantages magazine earlier this year. “Or at least that was the intention – I’ve noticed a lot of older people starting to wear Tacos jerseys and hats.” 

Elon Musks Branded Flamethrower: The Hottest Promotional Product In The World

Elon Musk is a lot of things: genius, billionaire, pioneering entrepreneur, cracker-jack hat salesman. Now, he can add another eye-opening entry to his ever-growing list of impressive epithets – purveyor of the most dangerous (but hella cool, some would say) promotional product in the world.

Last weekend, The Boring Co., of which Musk is CEO, began taking pre-orders for flamethrowers branded with the company name. You read that correctly: flamethrowers.

Through early afternoon Tuesday East Coast time, The Boring Company had reportedly pre-sold about 15,000 flamethrowers – a figure that amounts to approximately $7.5 million in sales.

In announcing the branded flamethrowers, Boring Co. pitched the items as "guaranteed to liven up any party." Indeed, Musk was having fun on Twitter promoting the fire-spewing device. Amid tweets that gave a running tally of the number of pre-orders, Musk inserted funny "pitches" that included "Great for roasting nuts" before adding later, "Obviously, a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don't buy one...Unless you like fun."

After tweeting that flamethrowers would come in handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse, Musk felt the need to address some scuttlebutt that was making the rounds: "The rumor that I'm secretly creating a zombie apocalypse to generate demand for flamethrowers is completely false," he tweeted, with a chuckle no doubt.

While Musk and Boring Co. were hyping the flamethrower with jokes and humor, not everyone was laughing. Boring Co. is based in California, where rampant wildfires wreaked havoc in 2017, scorching vast tracts of land and claiming lives. In the wake of such tragedy, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles criticized the flamethrowers, saying they could be a public health hazard. "We've just gone through some catastrophic fires in California," he told The Los Angeles Times. "It's a bad joke."

Still, sales of the flamethrowers were continuing to climb. The same consumer frenzy flashed out during Musk's earlier venture into promotional products with The Boring Company (which incidentally is focused on infrastructure and tunnel construction). Late last year, Musk started selling Boring Co.-branded hats. By mid-December, Boring Co. had sold more than 35,000 of the ball caps, generating $700,000. The LA Times reported this week that Boring Co. has now sold about 50,000 hats.

One thing's for sure, if Musk ever is looking for another new field to enter, he certainly has a future in promotional product sales.

Grumpy Cat Wins Copyright Case

Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, the feline face that launched a thousand memes, just had his day in court – and won. The sour puss was awarded $710,000 in damages in a California copyright case, after a beverage company used the cat's likeness for unauthorized purposes.

Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, has millions of followers on social media, hobnobs with celebrities and even has an animatronic likeness at Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London. Owner Tabatha Bundesen created Grumpy Cat Limited to capitalize on her pet's popularity after her brother posted Tardar Sauce's pic on Reddit, back in 2012. The cat's famous frown is likely caused by feline dwarfism and an under bite.

In 2013, Grenade Beverage, owned by father and son Nick and Paul Sandford, struck a $150,000 deal to market iced "Grumppuccinos," bearing the cat's likeness on the packaging. However, Grenade also began using the Grumpy Cat image on its roasted coffee and on T-shirts, neither of which had been agreed upon, according to the lawsuit.

Grenade filed a countersuit, claiming Grumpy Cat didn't promote the brand as promised in the original deal. However, the jury ultimately sided with the cat.

Grumpy Cat's lawyer, David Jonelis of Lavely & Singer, told TheWrap that this was a precedent-setting case. "It's the first verdict ever rendered in favor of a viral meme," he added. "Memes have rights too."

Imprinted Tees Commemorate Missile Attack

What do you do in the wake of a missile attack scare?

Make cheeky T-shirts to commemorate the event, apparently.

Indeed, a day after Hawaii issued false alarms that a ballistic missile was rocketing toward the state in the Pacific Ocean, a shop in Honolulu began selling tees that ironically acknowledged the scare.

As you can see below, the shirts say, "I Survived the Hawaii Ballistic Missile." The image of the shirts in the shop is courtesy of Alastair Gale, The Wall Street Journal's Japan editor.

The Honolulu store was far from the only retail entity eager to capitalize on the false alarm with T-shirts. A quick Google search revealed similarly themed tees for sale on sites that included Amazon, Redbubble, and Etsy.

As you've probably heard, the missile attack was really no such thing. A worker at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency accidentally issued an alert that a missile was inbound. The message caused pervasive panic, fueled particularly by increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Some 40 minutes after the alert went out, Hawaiian officials issued a second message saying that the first message was a false alarm.

Following the jolt, some islanders were clearly ready to dispel the excess nervous energy with a little humor – as evidenced by the T-shirts. It seems there really can be a T-shirt for every occasion these days.