Some product launches can be spectacular failures, and Google Glass, an eyeglasses shaped head-mounted device with smartphone capabilities, failed spectacularly several years ago. However, Google is betting that Glass can still find a market. The internet giant announced the relaunch of the device this week, but is aiming at a narrower customer audience this time.
Just like success, failure is part of doing business. Entrepreneurs and large companies often take big risks, hoping for success but not always achieving it.
These failures take many different forms. When a product doesn’t sell, when it is recalled or discontinued, or when it otherwise does not come close to meeting a company’s expectations, it can be marked as a failure. While failures are expected, some can be so catastrophic they can lead to permanent damage to a company’s reputation, layoffs, and even complete financial ruin.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed some of the greatest product launch blunders throughout history. Today, these product flops exist as case studies companies use to avoid future failure. They range from Ford’s Edsel in 1958 to last year’s Galaxy Note 7. Many of these products led to losses in the hundreds of millions, and sometimes billions. In tech, film, the internet, the pharmaceutical industry, and more, these are the biggest product flops of all time.
Hindsight is 20/20, and while many of these gaffes might not have been predictable at the time, the reasons for their failure are often much clearer today. The reasons for the failures often fall into one of a several categories: overpricing, timing, bad advertising, product flaws, and reaching beyond what consumers of a brand are willing to accept.
Sometimes products are sold at a premium because they offer features competitors do not, either perceived or actual. When customers do not feel a product is superior to another — rightly so or not — they will not pay the premium price. While Apple is able to sell computers at a premium today because of its brand perception, the Lisa, introduced in 1983, failed largely as a result of its nearly $10,000 price tag.
Many of the products on this list could have been perfectly viable, possibly even a hit, if they had been introduced at a different time. Sega’s Dreamcast was the first major console to introduce global network connectivity, but this was before every home had a stable connection fast enough to make the Dreamcast viable at the time.
For some flops on this list, it is poor understanding of the market that dooms these products. McDonald’s Arch Deluxe was marketed as a burger for those with refined palates, turning away kids, as well as many adults, from the ill-fated item. Coca-Cola completely misjudged the desire of its customers when it changed its classic flavor and introduced New Coke.
Sometimes, brands overextend their reach, introducing products that clash with their image and target demographics. One does not need to dig too deep to understand why Colgate, a brand associated with toothpaste, failed to make its line of frozen dinner products a success. The same can be said for Cosmopolitan’s brand of yogurt, Smith & Wesson’s mountain bike line, or Harley Davidson’s perfume.
Of course, many of the products on this list were simply poorly designed or faulty — at times downright dangerous. Such was the case with Mattel’s line of seriously flawed Hot Wheels and Barbie computers, or the Galaxy Note 7, plagued by battery fires that caused the phone to be banned on airplanes, recalled, and eventually discontinued.
Despite their disappointing launches, some of these products still exist today. Google’s Glass and Google+ each became the butt of jokes after failing to live up to lofty promises. One day, we may see one of these flops become the product it was meant to be.
These are the 50 biggest product flops of all time.