No matter how well-known a company is, it’s always a risk to release a new product. Even if the company spends millions on advertising and research, the outcome could still fail. Some businesses are still recovering from these losses.
Certain companies experiment with different ideas, such as when Cosmopolitan released yogurt. Others watch their product self-destruct–remember the exploding Samsung phones from 2017? Learn about the worst product flops of all time and how they happened.
Colgate’s Frozen Dinner Lasagna
Did you know that Colgate once released food products? In 1982, the toothpaste brand released a frozen TV dinner. Colgate beef lasagna hit the shelves along with several other frozen meals that were popular at the time. And no, the lasagna wasn’t supposed to help your teeth.
Despite the hype, Colgate’s lasagna failed spectacularly. The company was so embarrassed that it refused to feature the product in the Museum of Failure. Today, all you can see is a replica of the box.
Ketchup, But In Different Colors
Have you ever wanted a blue ketchup? No, not blueberry-flavored ketchup; it’s regular ketchup, but a different color. That’s what Heinz made in 2000. Heinz EZ Squirt Ketchup came in a vast array of colors, from green to purple to pink.
Believe it or not, the product did well at first, selling over 25 million bottles in six years. In 2006, sales declined, and EZ Squirt Ketchup left the market. It’s unlikely that we will see colorful ketchup again.
The Exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung is a reputable company with successful products. But in 2017, disaster struck. Hundreds of their new Galaxy Note 7 devices overheated and caught on fire. News articles erupted with headlines of “exploding” phones. The company spent $5.3 billion to recall all of the phones.
According to the company, the design and manufacturing ruined the product. The phone’s insulation did not meet safety requirements. Samsung took responsibility for its flaming phones, but it lost many customers’ trust with this product.
Some people look back on Clippy fondly, but the animated paperclip was not well-loved back in the day. Clippy was an AI assistant for Microsoft Office, released in 1996. In its five years of life, Clippy earned awards such as “One of the Worst UIs Ever Deployed” and “The Most Annoying Software Bug.”
Microsoft didn’t only annoy users with Clippy’s constant suggestions. They also refused to listen to feedback, and they made few changes to the program.
McDonald’s Most Expensive Flop, The Arch Deluxe Burger
McDonald’s has tested many failed products throughout the years, but the Arch Deluxe was their biggest flop. The Arch Deluxe was supposed to cater to “grown-up taste,” instead of the “kid’s taste” of a Happy Meal. To date, it was one of the most expensive advertising campaigns in America, with over $300 million down the gutter.
Although the Arch Deluxe wasn’t popular, it remained on the menu from 1996 to 2000. Later, McDonald’s used some of the product’s research to produce successful salads.
New Coke: When Coke Tried To Change Its Recipe
In 1985, Coca-Cola tried to change its entire formula. The new product was unofficially called New Coke, and it performed well in a nationwide taste test. Despite spending $4 million on testing, Coca-Cola still lost money on this product.
New Coke was a desperate attempt to revitalize the company. By 1985, Coca-Cola had already been struggling in the soda market. After three months of negative reviews and phone calls, Coca-Cola removed New Coke from the shelves.
In 2011, Google launched a social network to compete with Facebook and Twitter. Google+ was promoted on YouTube, and millions of users signed up within the first year. However, few people were actively using it.
Google+ had a borderline destructive user interface. The website had a strict real-name policy; users with pseudonyms were often kicked out of their Gmail accounts. Companies that created profiles were banned. Although Google tried to save the platform, Google+ shut down in 2015.
Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Yogurt Selection
Cosmopolitan magazine has published monthly issues since 1886. But in 1999, the company decided to dip its toes into the dairy industry. Why? No one knows. They released a line of yogurt called Cosmo Yogurts.
Cosmo Yogurts were designed to integrate Cosmopolitan into the health industry. The company also promoted “lifestyle centers,” where women could receive health advice. But the yogurts only remained on the shelves for 18 months before they were discontinued due to low sales.
Balenciaga’s “Homage” To IKEA
In 2017, IKEA entered high fashion. The company Balenciaga created an homage to IKEA’s blue FRAKTA bags. The problem? Balenciaga’s bag cost $2,145, while IKEA’s version only cost $0.99.
IKEA took advantage of Balenciaga’s failed marketing attempt. They advertised the “original” as cheaper, foldable, and able to be washed–all of which the calfskin knock-off couldn’t do. Customers questioned why they would spend thousands on a bag that they could buy for one dollar. Balenciaga’s bag did not sell well.
The Infamous Unicorn Frappuccino
In 2017, Starbucks had only just realized that customers were posting their drinks on Instagram. They designed a beverage that would blow up on social media called the Unicorn Frappuccino. Great idea, terrible execution.
The Unicorn Frappuccino included sweet pink powder, sour blue powder, color-changing dyes, and mango syrup. If it sounds awful, that’s because it was. It tasted bad, and employees struggled with powder all over their hair. The Unicorn Frappuccino never came back.
Microsoft’s iPod, The Zune
In 2006, Microsoft released the Zune to compete with Apple’s iPod. The Zune was a portable media player that looked similar to the iPod. Although users claimed that the product worked well, it didn’t last. By 2011, the Zune had disappeared.
The Zune’s failure resulted from timing, at least in part. It came out five years after the iPod, and Apple had already monopolized the market. Plus, the Zune offered nothing new and seemed to be no different from an iPod.
Pepsi’s Berry Soda Flavor, Pepsi Blue
In 2002, Pepsi released a soft drink to compete with Vanilla Coke. Instead of going for vanilla, they went with a berry-flavored soda called Pepsi Blue. The drink disappeared by 2004; however, it’s still available in some countries such as Indonesia.
The “berry cola fusion” came out at the wrong time. In 2004, panic erupted over the food dye Blue 1, which is outlawed in most countries. The flavor also didn’t live up to expectations, tasting more like cotton candy.
Apple’s Failed Game Console, The Apple Pippin
Today, Apple seems to succeed with every product. But in the ’90s, the company was still finding its footing. In 1996, Apple released a game console called the Apple Pippin. At the time, Steve Jobs was not with the company, and Apple had collaborated with a Japanese toy firm.
The Pippin only sold 42,000 units within the first year. By comparison, Nintendo’s N64 (which was also released in 1996) sold over 350,000 consoles within the first day. Pippin didn’t last the year.
In 2006, Coca-Cola released a coffee-flavored soda called Coca-Cola BlāK. The drink first launched in France, Lithuania, and Slovakia before reaching the U.S. When it hit American markets, the beverage only lasted for one year. Worldwide, Coca-Cola BlāK discontinued in 2008.
Chief technical officer Nancy Quan believes that bad timing made the product flop. In 2019, Coca-Cola released more coffee-flavored sodas in Australia, Italy, Spain, and Thailand. Time will tell if these drinks fail as badly as Coca-Cola BlāK.
The Facebook Home App
In 2013, Facebook tried to expand its platform by creating different apps. The app Facebook Home transformed an Android’s home screen into a Facebook feed. Although it was a neat idea, the bugs made it nearly impossible to use.
Users claimed that they struggled to operate Facebook Home. Many couldn’t toggle between Home and the original interface, and the app did not allow customization options. Only a few hours after the release, Facebook Home received 2.3 out of five stars on Google Play.
All The Problems With Windows Vista
As a follow-up to Windows XP, Microsoft released its new operating system, Windows Vista, in 2007. Both consumers and IT professionals panned the product. Vista was so inefficient that it didn’t support most existing software, including anti-malware programs.
Vista was also far too slow. While XP had 35 million lines of code, Vista had 50 million, which didn’t fare well for most computers. Apple took advantage of Vista’s failure and used it to boost their own products.
Supertrain, The Most Expensive TV Flop Ever
In 1979, NBC aired a science-fiction TV show called Supertrain. It was the most expensive TV show ever made. Each episode cost $1 million, which is closer to $2.5 million today. Supertrain got canceled after nine episodes.
The show chronicled a futuristic train and the passengers on the train. The sets were large and elaborate, especially the iron train models that often broke down. Creator Fred Silverman once broke his toe while kicking a model train in frustration.
When Customers Ate Yogurt Shampoo
In the 1970s, some products featured everyday food items in cosmetics, such as herbs and honey. The hair company Clairol hopped on the trend when they released their Touch of Yogurt Shampoo in 1979.
Customers didn’t seem ready for yogurt shampoo, however. Not only did the product not sell well, but some people actually ate it. News reports of customers getting sick from yogurt shampoo gave Clairol a lousy reputation. They quickly discontinued the shampoo.
Google Glass Never Went Beyond Beta
In 2013, Google released a pair of “smart glasses.” These glasses could take photos and browse the internet while you wore them. However, beta versions were discontinued in 2015 due to a variety of reasons.
One was the high price tag. The Google Glass cost $1,500, and it didn’t provide anything new for users. It also had a clunky design, and users became concerned about internet privacy. However, later editions of Google Glass still sell in the workplace.
Cheetos Lip Balm (And Many Other Snack Flavors)
In 2005, FritoLay and its parent company, PepsiCo, tapped into the lip balm industry. They collaborated with a cosmetics company called Lotta Luv to create Cheetos Lip Balm. Oddly enough, the lip balm stayed on the market until 2011.
These oddly-flavored lip balms were all the rage in the early 2000s. Lotta Luv also created Hostess Ding Dong, Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion, and Junior Mints lip balms. Teens loved these balms until they went out of style.
47 Ronin, Universal Pictures’ Biggest Regret
In 2013, Universal Pictures released a Keanu Reeves movie on Christmas weekend called 47 Ronin. The movie was rumored to cost between $175 million and $225 million. It only grossed $9.9 million by the end of the weekend and $48.7 million overall.
Critics panned 47 Ronin, but that’s not the only reason why it failed. It released on the same weekend as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Hobbit‘s sequel, both of which were more desirable films.
Coors Sparkling Water
In 1990, Coors Brewing Company released its first-ever non-alcoholic drink. Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water was intended to compete in the growing bottled water market. However, the company kept the Coors logo on the front, which made customers wonder if it was really water.
Along with original sparkling water, the product came in lemon-lime and cherry flavors. Although some customers loved it, sales declined and Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water is no longer available.
Many customers don’t expect a motorcycle company to release perfume, but that’s what Harley-Davidson did in 1994. The company created a “Hot Road” line of perfumes and colognes with scents such as apple, bergamot, lavender, and cinnamon.
Harley-Davidson’s perfumes and colognes only lasted a few years. In 2005, they tried again when they made the perfume Black Fire. However, both of these marketing stunts failed. Harley-Davidson has also attempted other cosmetics such as aftershave, which flopped.
Why Segways Didn’t Sell
In 2001, inventor Dean Kamen launched the Segway. The two-wheel vehicle helped people ride around safely and efficiently. The problem? The Segway FT cost $3,000. It was far more than anyone expected to pay.
In less than two years, only 10,000 Segways sold. Once people got them, some cities banned them from sidewalks. Many of the sales were institutional to provide Segways to mall cops and warehouse executives. It was a massive letdown, to say the least.
Kellogg’s Portable Meal, Breakfast Mates
In 1998, Kellogg’s announced an all-in-one breakfast package: cereal with a carton of milk, bowl, and a plastic spoon. The product, called Breakfast Mates, catered to busy families. Yet, it failed in over 80% of grocery stores and was discontinued in 2000.
Customers questioned why they should drink room-temperature milk when they could make their own cereal in about the same amount of time. Breakfast Mates charged more for the convenience, which many people didn’t see. Plus, the advertising showed customers eating it at home, not on-the-go.
Netflix Was Primarily A DVD Rental Service
Before Netflix streamed shows and movies, it ran a DVD rental service. In 2011, the company turned its focus to streaming and moved its rentals into another company called Qwikster. When the separate entity came out, though, customers were not happy.
Netflix’s new model charged customers for both streaming and rentals. After receiving backlash, CEO Reed Hastings dropped plans for Qwikster but kept billing for DVD and streaming separate. Netflix lost 600,000 subscribers during this year, and Qwikster quickly faded into oblivion.
Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s VR Failure
In 1995, Nintendo released a 3D game console called Virtual Boy. The console looked like a modern VR set, with red goggles and a controller. Twenty-two games were available for Virtual Boy, but the console left the shelves in 1996.
The technology was not good enough for what was essentially virtual reality. Virtual Boy only showed red and black colors, and players suffered from eye strain. Only 770,000 copies sold before Nintendo switched focus to the N64.
Life Savers Soda Tasted Like Candy
It seems that almost every food company dipped its toes into the soda industry. In the 1980s, Life Savers invented sodas that mirrored that candy flavors–pineapple, lime, grape, etc. Although the beverages fared well during taste tests, they didn’t perform on the market.
Life Savers Soda rarely sold because customers couldn’t separate the candy from the drink. Many claimed that the drinks were like “liquid candy.” You will not be able to find any Life Savers drinks today.
Lululemon’s Translucent Astro Pants
Lululemon is known for pricey, high-quality athletic wear. But in 2017, their new yoga pants landed them in hot water. The $92 Astro Pants pants were see-through, according to dissatisfied customers.
In response, Lululemon recalled the pants and re-released them. But the new Astro Pants were still too sheer and maintained the $92 price tag. To make matters worse, co-founder Chip Wilson claimed that the pants became sheer because of “rubbing through the thighs.” Sales plummeted, and the Astro Pants are no more.
Despite All The Hype, The 1957 Ford Edsel Failed
September 4, 1957, was “E-Day.” Ford had spent the entire year promoting its new Edsel model, and they hyped up “E-Day” as its official release date. Although Ford made 18 versions of this car, they lost $250 million on the project. The Edsel stopped selling after two years.
What went wrong? For one, the Edsel was far more expensive than the average Ford. The price tag ranged between $2,500 and $3,800. Many people didn’t like the look of the car, either.