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25 Biggest Company and Product Failures


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25 products and companies who had terrible ideas and learned the hard way.

Published in: Business, Technology

25 Biggest Company and Product Failures

  1. 1. 25 Biggest Company & Product Failures
  2. 2. Smith and Wesson Mountain Bikes A study commissioned by Smith and Wesson found that brand awareness was so strong, the company would consider S&W not only for handguns but for other products as well. On the back of that glowing recommendation, S&W decided to branch out into mountain bikes. In fact, S&W had been manufacturing bikes for law enforcement, security and emergency response since 1997, and in 2002 it took another step by offering the bikes to the civilian market. They should have stuck to guns.
  3. 3. DeLorean Motor Company John DeLorean was driven by a vision: to create the car of the future, with future-appropriate materials, functionality and style. Released in 1980, the DMC-12 was a status symbol, and only 8, 900 cars were ever made. Unfortunately in 1983 it came to light that John DeLorean was driven by something else, too: drugs…
  4. 4. Swiss Air Switzerland’s national airline was once so financially stable that it was known, appropriately for that nation of financiers, as ‘the Flying Bank.’ After September 11, 2001, commercial aviation was one of the casualties of the terrorist attacks on the USA, and SwissAir was caught between two stools. In 2002 it folded for good.
  5. 5. Commodore Computers Commodore Computers – now forgotten by all but nostalgic 80’s nerds – once towered over the 1980’s computer market as the C64 once owned a near-50% market share. The company tried to innovate its way out of success by releasing the Commodore +4, a faster, more powerful version of the original C64 – that was also a lot more expensive and handily incompatible with the C64 everyone already loved. The company finally went bust in 1994.
  6. 6. Cosmopolitan Yogurt Cosmo is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. It dominates the women’s magazine market, and is published in 36 languages and distributed in over 100 countries. At Cosmo, they are good at producing magazines. They’re not so good at yogurt sales. The idea was that Cosmo yogurt would be seen as a sophisticated, slimming, glamorous snack for modern women. However, the idea did not go as planned as it was on the shelves less than 18 months before it was unceremoniously pulled.
  7. 7. Webtv WebTV offered consumers internet on the TV in the mid-1990s. While it was prescient of WebTV’s instigators to foresee that TV and the web would one day be closely involved they got it all wrong and suffered from the problems associated with both spaces without the benefits of either. It soon became clear that they had actually attracted viewers who were not tech-savvy, like TV audiences, but who produced no revenue, like web audiences. What they did produce was an inordinately large bill for customer services, and eventually Microsoft bought the brand, killed it humanely and it was reborn as MSN TV.
  8. 8. Life Savers Soda Life Savers are the number one brand of non-chocolate candy and mints in the USA, but that success didn’t rub off on Life Saver Soda. Maybe it was a problem with the flavor? No, the product scored well in taste tests. Maybe it was brand recognition – after all, the soda market has some pretty heavy hitters. Actually the opposite was true: customers recognized it too well. ‘The Life Savers name,’ according to one brand critic, ‘gave customers the impression they would be drinking liquid candy.
  9. 9. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water The trouble with being a famous beer company is that people associate you with beer, and the furthest thing from beer is water. Rocky Mountain Spring Water really was spring water from the Rocky Mountains, but Coors customers just weren’t interested.
  10. 10. Cocaine Energy Drink A drink that peps you up, and it’s got cocaine in it… this sounds familiar. It even came in a red and white can. Although the drink didn’t contain any actual cocaine, it did have 3.5 times the caffeine content of Red Bull. It was pulled by the FDA who said that Redux Beverages, the drink’s producers, were ‘illegally marketing their drink as an alternative to street drugs.’ It’s still available online and is still sold in Europe.
  11. 11. Earring Magic Ken Ken, Barbie’s smooth boyfriend, has been through countless incarnations. Earring Magic Ken came with a purple mesh T-shirt, shiny purple vest and an earring. Both parents in more conservative areas and comedy-minded gay people in less conservative ones were soon making a fuss about him. Mattel pulled him as fast as they could.
  12. 12. Colgate Kitchen Entrees This is a repeat of the Coors blunder. What makes food taste bad? Toothpaste. Toothpaste is the opposite of food. Durex shouldn’t make pregnancy tests; Coors shouldn’t try to minister to your hangover; Colgate shouldn’t make food. Consumers agreed and the product flopped hard.
  13. 13. Apple Newton Apple had the idea for the iPhone way back in 1993. Like Da Vinci’s helicopter, though, the technology wasn’t there, and the Newton was a white elephant; it cost $700 and up and did nothing paper couldn’t do, except pave the way for mobile internet browsing –but no-one knew that in 1993, except just maybe Steve Jobs.
  14. 14. Kellogg’s Breakfast mates Breakfast Mates was a whole breakfast cereal experience in a box. Cereal, milk and a spoon – all you had to do was mix and eat. The product fell on its design flaws – aimed at children, the packaging wasn’t child friendly, and while the milk in it didn’t require refrigeration, no-one really likes warm milk.
  15. 15. Pepsi AM and Crystal Pepsi In the late 80s, Pepsi came up with the idea to market a Pepsi variant as a natural coffee substitute – both drinks are brown to black and contain caffeine, so there’s no real difference, right? Crystal Pepsi was Pepsi without the coloring. Sales of Joe and regular brown cola were unaffected and both products trailed away to nothing.
  16. 16. Frito Lay Lemonade Coors. Colgate. Frito Lay weren’t watching –or they didn’t have a list like this one. Frito Lay make corn chips, which are salty and make you thirsty. But when people are shopping for lemonade they’re inexplicably unattracted to a brand that reminds them of feeling thirsty, and the product tanked.
  17. 17. Bottled Water for Pets Thirsty Cat! And Thirsty Dog! Were produced on the assumption that if people will shell out for haircuts, clothes, goggles, and hats for their pets, they’ll buy them bottled water too. But they won’t. Even if it’s available in delicious flavors like Crispy Beef and Tangy Fish? Especially not then.
  18. 18. Bic Underwear Bic make disposable razors, lighters, pens… and underwear? The product sank under a wave of public confusion as people struggled to figure out why disposable underwear was a good idea, and the other products in the Bic range didn’t seem to auger well for underwear. Perhaps people subconsciously worried that they might be sharp, or leave marks, or be flammable; whatever they did, they didn’t buy them.
  19. 19. Harley Davidson Perfume Nothing says unreconstructed, all-American masculinity like perfume. Meanwhile, when customers were asked what they most wanted a perfume to smell like, they overwhelmingly answered, ‘motorcycles.’ Brand associations and a backlash from fans of the brand did this one in.
  20. 20. RJ Reynolds’ Smokeless Cigarettes In 1988, smoking was tipping over from being fairly normal to being the exception, and the company behind Camels decided to try out Premier, a new brand of smokeless cigarettes. Reporter Magazine said they ‘produced a smell and a flavor that left users retching,’ and for a while they seemed doomed. When a use was finally found for them it was as a device for smoking crack cocaine. The Premier brand was stubbed out soon afterwards.
  21. 21. Sony Betamax Betamax is by all accounts superior to VHS in reproduction quality. But Sony was so eager to keep all the pie to itself that it refused to license Betamax technology, while VHS was licensed and many companies produced VHS machines. Consumers had to choose between being tied to one producer with a limited number of titles, or VHS.
  22. 22. New Coke New Coke was intended by Coca-Cola top replace original flavor Coke. The widespread public fury this provoked obliged Coca-Cola to resume production of old Coke again quickly, and New Coke has not been heard of since.
  23. 23. Pan Am Pan Am was founded in 1927 and paved the way for other commercial airlines. Pan Am was ahead of the curve in luxury flights, international flights, jumbo jets and was the first airline to use its air staff as a PR focal point. Pan Am was killed off partly by deregulation, which exposed it to undercutting, and partly by its own high profile. Symbolizing America and highly accessible due to its large fleet and international presence, Pan Am made an ideal target for terrorists and the airline closed in 1991.
  24. 24. was supposed to ride the dotcom boom, but instead came to symbolize every mistake you can make doing business online. was known to everyone in the country – as that company no-one you know buys anything from. Its stock entered a fatal nosedive in 2000 and the company hit the floor Election Day that same year.
  25. 25. Polaroid Polaroid defined photography as something quick, immediate, fun – everything dark rooms and lenses and developing fluid aren’t (to most people). Polaroids went in family albums, in wallets, on dorm room walls and teenagers’ wardrobes. Polaroid invented the selfie. But when it became possible to do all this on phones and tablets, Polaroid had no hope of keeping up: it utterly dominated a niche that had ceased to exist and in 2005 the pigment dried on Polaroid for the last time.
  26. 26. Ford Edsel Ford did everything right with the Edsel. They carried out huge customer surveys to find out what people wanted in a car, and then built that car. And people hated it. Edsels were slow and boring, underpowered and ugly. Ford couldn’t produce them quickly enough at first – and then couldn’t get rid of them. Finally the Edsel was taken off the road in 1959, a year after it was unveiled; it had cost Ford $250 million in 1959 dollars.
  27. 27. The End You may also like to read: Great Carpool App Developed By a Homeless Man Best Business Deal of All-Time? Global Beer Industry: Facts and Figures If you like what you’re reading, visit our blog for more stories and connect with us on Facebook