From Google to Apple and from Burger King to Harley Davidson, all have seen some of their products fail. While it is true that these are some of the most recognized and successful brands in the world, they too have experienced product failures. I will talk about them in this article.
Before we get into the list of product failures, let us first understand what it really is. A product is considered to be a failure when its occupancy in the market leads to the following:
- Sudden withdrawal of the product from the market.
- The inability of the product to achieve profits.
- The inability to complete its life cycle.
- The inability of the product to retain market share to continue with its place in the market.
The failure of a product is not always the result of bad marketing or faulty design. There are several reasons why a good product or service may just vanish overnight, while their substandard counterparts may gain success just as soon. I will explain why good products fail in another article.
1. Google Glass
Google Glass seemed like a machine from the future. It seemed like some alien technology in the hands of men. Dubbed as the future of AI, Google Glass had everything that a futuristic device could have. From a built-in 5 megapixel video camera to internet facilities, Google Glass was made to make life easier.
Google Glass was criticized for being unfashionable with numerable flaws just as soon as it was launched. Additionally, people raised their concerns over the ability of the device to violate privacy rights. People also expressed their uneasiness with the device because it allowed users to record video without anyone noticing. In 2015, Google officially announced it would end the production of Google Glass.
2. Microsoft Zune
Zune was launched by Microsoft in 2006 as a competitor to Apple i-Pod. It consisted of a line of media players which could integrate with Zune software and Zune devices. It could also integrate phones with Zune support. Zune successfully partnered with United Airlines in 2010 as their official in-flight music provider.
It all seemed very well planned at first, but Zune failed to attract people. Zune’s biggest failure was the fact that it was 5 years too late to the party. Apple had already entered the market with i-Pod 5 years earlier and provided similar services. Zune was nothing different from i-Pod nor did it provide anything extra to the customers. As a result, Zune was discontinued in 2011.
3. Mobile ESPN
Launched in 2006 and run by Disney, Mobile ESPN promised exclusive content for sports fans. The application could provide real-time score and promised to be a few seconds ahead of a live TV broadcast. The Sanyo MVP was the only phone available at the Mobile ESPN launch; however, it was replaced by Samsung ACE in July 2006.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, ESPN had fewer than 10,000 subscribers contradicting ESPN’s projected figure of 240,000 subscribers. The reason for Mobile ESPN’s failure, according to experts, is its pricing. Customers did not want to pay $400 for a clunky flip phone along with a monthly subscription fee of $40 to access the content. ESPN shut down the service within a year and lost almost $150 million in development.
4. Amazon Fire Phone
The success of Kindle Fire prompted Amazon to foray into the smartphone market. Amazon declared its entry into the market with the launch of its 3D-enabled smartphone, Fire Phone. Launched as an AT&T exclusive, Fire Phone could track its user’s movements along with identifying and finding useful information for them. The phone came preloaded with Firefly, an app that recognized user’s activities and suggested items that they could buy through Amazon’s online store.
Amazon discontinued the production of Fire Phone within a year and just after one model. The phone was only released on AT&T which could be a possible reason for the phone’s failure since it limited the number of customers that could buy the device. Most users felt that the phone was average and overpriced and had nothing in it that would have them switch their phones. Amazon had to bear a loss of $170 million on its fire Phone project.
5. Ford Edsel
Marketed by Ford Motor Company and developed to give Ford a fourth brand, Edsel was advertised as car of the future. Edsel had a number of updates and advanced features for its price segment.
Edsels were introduced at the peak of a recession that greatly affected its sales. Some even considered Edsels unattractive and overhyped. Ford had invested $400 million into the car but had to take them off from the market in 1960.
6. Sony Betamax
Sony Betamax was launched in the U.S. for the first time in 1975. Commonly known as the VCR (video cassette recorder), Betamax were available in the market until 2016 when Sony stopped manufacturing and selling them.
Betamax was far superior to VHS but had to lose the battle because Sony kept the Beta proprietary. This left a huge gap in the market and allowed VHS to outpace Beta in terms of sales and being ubiquitous.
7. Apple Newton
First to feature handwriting recognition, the Apple Newton was one of the earliest devices in the PDA (personal digital assistant) categories. The first devices were shipped in 1993 and were considered technologically superior.
Apple Newton flopped due to a number of reasons, chief among them being the price factor. Newton’s price started at $700 and the handwriting recognition system did not live up to the expectation. The production was finally stopped in 1998.
8. Orbitz Soda
Made by The Clearly Food & Beverage Company of Canada, Orbitz is a noncarbonated beverage. It was launched in 1997 but disappeared from the shelves due to poor sales. Unopened bottles are now a collector’s item appearing on online auctions.
The colorful bottles appealed to children; however, they compared the taste to cough syrup. Due to its “nostalgia demand”, Clearly Canada stated that they would launch a limited run of the products.
9. Cosmopolitan Yogurt
In its attempt to foray into the health food sector, Cosmopolitan launched a range of low fat yogurts. The product was aimed at women aged between 15 and 44.
The yogurt market was saturated, as a result Cosmo had to remove the product from the shelves. Was the yogurt any good? Let us know if you remember how it tasted!
10. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
With expandable storage and water resistant technology, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was, supposedly, an evolution of the Galaxy Note 5. The demand for Galaxy Note 7 was incredibly high right after its launch.
One of Samsung’s biggest flagship phones had a problem that couldn’t be hidden from the world. The phone occasionally exploded! A car was turned to ashes after Galaxy Note 7 exploded. The phones were even banned in flights.
11. Cheetos Lip Balm
Introduced in 2005, Cheetos Lip Balm did not have the usual cherry, mint or vanilla flavors. The lip balm actually tasted like Cheetos which, according to experts, was the reason for its failure.
While Cheetos has been a favorite snack for generations, Cheetos-flavored lip balm could not catch on with the consumers.
12. Burger King Satisfries
According to Burger King, Satisfries were healthier than regular fries since the batter they used was less porous which prevented too much oil being absorbed while frying. However, Burger King could not promote the difference in its restaurants.
Disappointed customers called the Satisfries “saddest fries”, since it did not live up to their expectations. Satisfries were more expensive than regular fries and the calorie difference did not seem to measure up.
13. Harley Davidson Perfume
One of the most iconic and masculine brands in the world, Harley Davidson has rarely deviated from their personality.
The company launched a variety of products in the 90s which included perfumes, cologne for men, wine coolers and after shave. The products did not do well and their productions had to be stopped.
14. Heinz EZ Squirt
Ketchup always came in different shades of red and has been particularly popular among kids. To keep the children attracted, Heinz launched purple, blue and green EZ Squirt Ketchup. The colorful ketchup became extremely popular after they were launched but it could not hold on to children’s attention for long. In 2006, less than 6 years after its launch, Heinz stopped the production of EZ Squirt.
15. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy
Nintendo’s Virtual Boy promised to be the next level of gaming experience. The company promised that gamers could experience unbelievable digital environs and futuristic technology with Game Boy. However, gamers were taken aback by the low-resolution graphic and the ghastly red & black digital environs. With gamers disapproving Game Boy, Nintendo had to suffer the biggest flop in its history.
These 15 biggest product failures of all time can teach us a lot about why products fail and the kind of precautions we should take before launching products and services in the market.
Launching similar products could be disastrous
While it is true that similar products in the market could foster healthy competition, failing to enhance on the drawbacks of your competitor’s product could be disastrous for your product: Microsoft Zune is a classic example.
Harley Davidson Perfume and Cosmopolitan Yogurt are a prime example of brand overextension. Brand overextension occurs when a product or service fails to align itself with the brand image. So, if your customers perceive your brand a certain way, it is a good idea to keep it that way.
Overhyping is way too dangerous
While it is a good idea to advertise and market your product or service the best way possible, overhyping could be way too dangerous as it could damage the reputation of your brand. Nintendo’s Game Boy is a classic example of a brand overhyping its product.
Do the customers really want what you made?
America has been successful because they make products that people want. It is a good idea to find out if people really need your product while conducting your R&D. As a product, Google Glass had everything one could dream of, but it failed to connect with the customers and ended up topping the list of product failures.
While the list of product failures has some great products, understanding how and why they failed may provide you with great insights on the things that should be avoided while launching your own product and services.
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.