The last thing any company wants is one of their precious products to fall like a brick from a skyscraper. Profit is the name of the game. So, investing millions into something only to see it fail is a bitter pill to swallow. Sometimes there’s just no way to know if a product will sink or swim. Even after years of testing and design, a product can backfire. Companies, however, can also be tone deaf to what the public really wants. Curious to see some of the biggest business blunders in history? Here are 25 worst product flops you might remember.
When Orbitz Soda came on the scene in 1997, the marketers hoped customers would buy it purely by its appearance alone. It was new. It was fresh. It had…balls. That’s right, the clear bottle had dozens of tiny, colorful, and gelatinous balls floating inside. Unfortunately for the marketing team, everything about this product scared away customers. From the floating balls to the unforgivable flavors like Pineapple Banana Cherry Coconut, people literally weren’t buying this product and it was discontinued after only a year.
In 1989, the Pepsi Corporation threw non-coffee drinkers a bone with a new product called “Pepsi A.M” in an attempt to lure people into a refreshing morning soda with 28 percent more caffeine. Turns out, no one really wants to drink a fizzy beverage at breakfast and Pepsi A.M. went back to sleep.
Introduced in 1988 by RJ Reynolds, the smokeless cigarette was supposed to be the next big thing and RJ Reynolds put $325 million into the product. Unfortunately for them, it flopped hard due to the “special instructions” to light it and the charcoal taste it left in customers mouths.
McDonald's Arch Deluxe
Targeted primarily at adults, the Arch Deluxe was McDonald’s signature hamburger in 1996. They had hoped it would become the next big thing but it didn’t take off and is considered one of their more embarrassing failures.
In 1957, Ford had a vision to release a new car for middle-class Americans. They believed so strongly in the Ford Edsel, they pumped $250 million into it. However, when it hit the lots, it barely sold at all and was panned as an unattractive gas guzzler with trunks that wouldn’t open, sticking hoods, and oil leaks. Instead of giving up, however, Ford kept trying to sell the doomed vehicle but eventually pulled the plug in 1960. It’s now considered a classic case in how not to market and release a product.
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Back in 1991, the idea of a handheld computer was the stuff of science fiction. But Apple had the idea and pitched it to then CEO John Sculley. They called it the Apple Newton, a handheld PDA that could do very basic computing like managing calendars and taking notes. The only problem was the Handwriting technology didn’t really work like they promised and the whole thing fell apart at launch. People wondered why they should replace a $5 notebook for a $700 piece of junk. The Apple Newton was scrapped almost as quickly as it hit the market.
Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water
In the 1990s, bottled water was everywhere, growing at such an incredible rate every company wanted in on the market share. So, the suits at Coors couldn’t help themselves and made a product called “Coors Rocket Mountain Spring Water.” Clearly, customers were confused if it was alcohol or not and the product was pulled two years later.
Wow! Chips packed quite a punch, but we’re not exactly talking about the taste. Marketed by Frito-Lay in 1998, the Wow! Chips were fat-free and included Olestra, a substance that’ll act as a laxative if you eat too much. The FDA required the Wow! Chips put a warning label on the front of the bag. Initial sales were great for the product until people found out about what Olestra does and it’s high flying sales belly-flopped.
In 1985, the Coca-Cola product had been slipping in sales for over fifteen years. The push to revitalize the product had been ongoing inside the company. So, they released “New Coke” which was a completely new recipe. The firestorm, of course, is the stuff of legend. Suddenly, people weren’t so happy that Coca-Cola was messing with their precious beverage. Customers hoarded all the original Coca-Cola they could in fear the product would be gone forever. Instead, Coca-Cola just released it as “Coca-Cola Classic” and eventually “New Coke” disappeared.
In the old days, there was only one type of Oreo. Nowadays, there are a ton of different flavors and types of Oreos and some that have left many consumers scratching their heads. Enter Watermelon Oreos. Two things that shouldn’t co-exist in the same place. Thankfully, Nabisco got the memo fairly quickly and pulled the product.
We’re doubtful the first thing readers of the Cosmopolitan magazine think of while consuming the new issue is, “I’d sure like some yogurt right now.” Regardless, in 1999, the good people at Cosmopolitan thought they’d release their own line of yogurts and even sell them at a higher price. The result was a total failure and the product was pulled from the shelves 18 months later.
When home video came to American neighborhoods all over the country, there were two recording formats: VHS and Betamax. In theory, Betamax was the superior format with better quality tapes and players. However, the company JVC behind VHS built strong relationships with rental stores who gave VHS higher priority. Betamax slowly got less shelf space until it was totally phased out.
When High Definition televisions came around in the last decade, a similar war to the Betamax and VHS battle was waged. HD-DVD versus Blu-ray with Toshiba on one side and Sony, again, on the other. Sony provided a better product with Blu-ray but Toshiba claimed HD-DVD could be easily manufactured at a cheaper cost. HD-DVD didn’t last too long with top corporations backing Sony. The final nail in the coffin was the PS3’s ability to play Blu-ray, helping lure more customers to their side. While Blu-ray may have been the victor, it also wasn’t exactly the cash-cow investors had expected.
Cheetos Lip Balm
Let’s face it, Cheetos are clearly delicious and addictive. But having Cheeto crusted fingers and bad Cheeto breath is the last thing anyone wants. Despite that, Frito-Lay released “Cheeto Lip Balm” for all those people who like the constant taste of Cheetos without actually eating any.
When Amazon and Apple released their Kindle and iPad, Barnes and Noble felt like they needed to defend their book selling kingdom and released The Nook, a tablet and e-reader. But it just couldn’t compete and Barnes and Noble’s misunderstanding of the product ultimately led to its demise.
Heinz Purple Ketchup
In the early 2000s, Heinz released a line of wacky and colorful kinds of ketchup including purple, pink, orange, and teal. At first, the product exploded, exciting mom and children everywhere but as sales softened, they ultimately pulled the product.
Despite being a pioneer in the wearables technology, the Nike FuelBand couldn’t beat the FitBit craze and basically gave up before even getting started once the Apple Watch came to market. After four years, the Nike FuelBand went out with a whimper and Nike went back to being a third-party developer.
Amazon Fire Phone
The Amazon Fire Phone came and went with barely a blip on the radar screen. Its reviewers gave it a poor rating calling it “forgettable” and citing subpar features in the age of the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. Amazon didn’t stand a chance with such a mediocre device.
Before smartphones, mostly all video games were played on Nintendo or Sony devices but not cell phones. Nokia tried to bridge this gap with the Nokia N-Gage. However, the poor reviews, lack of games, and high price tag made it dead on arrival and didn’t come close to meeting their sales goals.
In February 2011, HP released a huge event, inviting thousands of press to come out and witness their new device. It was called the HP Touchpad. However, the lack of release date or price ultimately ruined their reveal. Afterward, it was released with almost no promotion and was immediately canceled after just a few weeks. Most believe after the huge event, HP threw in the towel and waited to see if the Touchpad would be lightning in a bottle or not. It wasn’t.
Released in 2006, the Microsoft Zune was a clear attempt to compete with Apple’s highly successful iPod. However, by the time it was released, Apple had already sold 100 million iPods. Sales in the beginning of the Zune were abysmal and the music player never could get off the ground despite consistent effort from the tech giant.
Facebook Home was a launcher app for Android phones where users could have Facebook at the forefront of their user experience. However, Facebook buried everything else people enjoy about smartphones like folders and widgets. All that was buried beneath the phone. So almost immediately people abandoned the software and Facebook Home died.
Nintendo Virtual Boy
In the 1990s, a virtual reality craze swept popular culture but the technology just wasn’t there yet. In an attempt to capitalize on the trend, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy. It looks like a virtual reality headset but the screen is not. It was essentially just red lines on a grid that would burn out your eyes if you looked at it for too long. They only sold around 200,000 units and the device was no more.
In 2011, Netflix reached a crossroads. They had the DVD side of their business on the one hand and the instant streaming side on the other. CEO Reed Hastings thought, “Hey, what if we divide these two things up into two companies instead of one?” So, Netflix made a major announcement. First, they were creating a new company called “Qwikster” which will provide the DVD mail rental service and Netflix will continue to do instant streaming. The horrendous idea resulted in a major outcry and Netflix scrapped the whole thing faster than you can say “Qwikster.”
Atari and E.T. The Extraterrestrial
At first, the Atari 2600 was a huge success and in 8 million American homes. However, by 1983, their business decisions lead to a major video game crash in the market. Consumers lost faith in Atari’s quality when they shoddily ported Pac-Man to their system. When it rushed E.T. The Extraterrestrial, one of the worst video games ever made, to market, Atari single handily crushed the entire industry.
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