Product Flops and Failures

Posted on October 6th, 2017

A couple weeks ago, we wrote a blog, analyzing the success of Disney’s marketing and key takeaways from them. This week we are going to talk about some of the biggest product flops and failures in American history.


The Sony Betamax

In the 1970s, Sony invested a huge amount of money and marketing into pushing the Betamax, which was a competitor to the VHS. The VHS won and Sony made a huge mistake. The main problem with the technically superior Betamax, was that it was proprietary and VHS wasn’t. Just because something is technically the best, doesn’t mean it will always be successful.


New Coke

This is one of the most famous failed product launches. This one happened in the 80s, and was in response to Coke losing some ground to Pepsi. Coke spent millions on developing the drink, and in marketing it. They were trying to make a coke that tasted similar to Pepsi, and the taste tests they performed were generally positive. These were very wrong, and after just a few weeks of selling “New Coke,” they canceled it and went back to their classic Coca-Cola taste.


Pepsi A.M. and Crystal Pepsi

Coke was bad, but Pepsi might have been worse. The issue with Pepsi is that they have kept trying a failed formula. Back in 1989, Pepsi decided to try and target breakfast cola drinkers. Instead of orange juice, you could drink a soft drink. This Pepsi had a clear color, which they thought would make people think it was better for you. When it was released, people thought it tasted weird and felt awkward drinking a clear cola. They stopped it after the first attempt, which only lasted a year. They brought it back as Crystal Pepsi in 1992, and again ended in ‘93. They tried it again, and in 2016, brought it back for a limited time (probably more for nostalgia). Coke and Pepsi are examples of over thinking. Just like the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Coors Spring water

In 1990, Coors, one of the largest brewing companies in the world, decided to sell…water. Now this may be obvious, but their customers came to them for beer, not bottled water. The take away? Know your audience.


Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo has created some of the most lasting and bestselling video game systems and games in history, but they aren’t always successful. The Virtual Boy was one of these failures. It was a game system that offered 3D graphics, but unlike modern virtual reality, this system offered red and black graphics, which didn’t look very appealing to people. It sold less than a million units, which for Nintendo is a terrible flop; however, it now has become a cult classic.


McDonald’s Arch Deluxe

McDonald’s is one of the most successful and largest food chains in the world. Did you know that they made one of the most expensive product flops ever? This was the Arch Deluxe burger, which targeted a high-end customer. This flop cost them 100 million dollars. As it turns out, the product wasn’t bad. It was just bad timing. Now, many fast food burger chains offer products similar to this.


Frito-Lay Wow! Chips

This one is pretty major. The problem with potato chips is all the fat that they contain, right? In 1998, the Frito-Lay company thought they had the solution, and created Wow! Chips. A compound called Olestra gave the chips a better taste, and allowed for fat-free potato chips. This sounds great, except for the fact that the human body can’t digest the molecules that make up Olestra. This means that Wow! Chips were basically a laxative. It caused people to have stomach cramps and diarrhea. This was a huge flop!



Last but not least, we have a Microsoft failed product. The Zune wasn’t a bad item. In fact, it was a great product! Sadly, it had too much competition from Apple. The Zune was the company’s answer to Apple creating the iPod, which you probably know was very popular. Microsoft couldn’t market the Zune enough to overpower the popularity of the iPod.


You can sell almost any product if you market it the right way.  These products unfortunately (or fortunately) were not successful, but surely these companies learned from their mistakes.