Google founder Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass— the company’s augmented reality glasses which were halted in 2015.

Even the most successful companies in the world have the occasional flop.
As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures.”
We put together 35 of the world’s biggest flops, from Nintendo’s Virtual Boy to Google Glass.

Launching a product is tough and most end up as failures. 

“Less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed first-year sales of $50 million — considered the benchmark of a highly successful launch,” says Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, co-authors of “The New Launch Plan,” which examines the launch strategies of successful consumer product companies.   

So even the most heavy-hitting names in business — from Nintendo to Netflix, Microsoft to McDonald’s — have had some of the biggest belly flops. 

Here’s a look at 35 of those flops and what we can learn from them. 

Aimee Groth, Jay Yarow, and Drake Baer contributed reporting to this story.

1957 — Ford Edsel

Bill Gates cites the Edsel flop as his favorite case study. Even the name “Edsel” is synonymous with “marketing failure.” Ford invested hundreds of millions into the car, which it introduced in 1957. But Americans weren’t buying it.

It was taken off the market in 1960.

1975 — Sony Betamax

The 1970s saw a war in home video formats between Betamax and VHS. 

Sony made a mistake: It started selling the Betamax in 1975, while its rivals started releasing VHS machines. Sony kept Betamax proprietary, meaning that the market for VHS products quickly outpaced Betamax. Though Betamax was technically superior, VHS won out by simply being ubiquitous.

1985 — New Coke
An advertisement for New Coke

In the early 1980s, Coke was losing ground to Pepsi. The infamous “Pepsi Challenge” ads were largely responsible for Pepsi’s surge. In response, Coca-Cola tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi.

While New Coke fared well enough in nationwide taste tests before launching in 1985, it turned out those were misleading. Coke abandoned the product after a few weeks and went back to its old formula. It also gave its product a new name: Coca-Cola Classic.

1989, 1992 — Pepsi A.M. and Crystal Pepsi

In 1989, Pepsi tried to target the “breakfast cola drinker” with Pepsi A.M. It lasted only a year.

In 1992, Pepsi tried again, this time with a clear cola: “Crystal Pepsi.” No dice — it died in 1993. As a throwback, Pepsi briefly re-introduced Crystal Pepsi in 2016 and again forits 30-year anniversary in 2022.

1989 — RJ Reynolds smokeless cigarettes

In the 1980s, just as anti-smoking campaigns were heating up, RJ Reynolds put $325 million into a new product: smokeless cigarettes.

They didn’t work, and people weren’t buying them — so four months later, they were gone. You might even say the idea went…up in smoke.

1990 — Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water

Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water launched in 1990 and didn’t fare well. It turns out beer drinkers want only one thing from their favorite label — beer!

Even so, the company continues to be one of the world’s largest brewers. 

1993 — Apple Newton

The Newton is held up as an example of Apple’s bad old days, before it was the world’s most valuable company.

Forbes says the Newton PDA flopped for a number of reasons: Its price started at $700, it was 8 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide. Of course, Apple eventually turned the mobile tablet market on its head with the introduction of the iPad. They’re not called “PDA” devices anymore because of the iPad.

1995 — Microsoft Bob

Microsoft Bob was supposed to be a user-friendly interface for Windows, a project that was at one point managed by Bill Gates’ now wife, Melinda. Microsoft killed it one year after launching it in 1995.

Why?

“Unfortunately, the software demanded more performance than typical computer hardware could deliver at the time, and there wasn’t an adequately large market,” Gates later wrote. “Bob died.”

1995 — Nintendo’s Virtual Boy

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy was an ambitious push into a burgeoning new technology — virtual reality. Simply buy the Virtual Boy and get swept away into the digital environs of VR. 

Except the reality of Virtual Boy was totally unlike what it promised. Games were little more than black and red nightmares, with low-resolution graphics and gameplay that would’ve been better suited to a standard game console. Virtual Boy ended up selling under 1 million units — it’s the biggest hardware flop in Nintendo’s history (a history that goes all the way back to the late 1800s). The tale of the Virtual Boy is often held up in modern times to push back on the waves of hype surrounding new VR tech. 

1996 — McDonald’s Arch Deluxe

In 1996, McDonald’s introduced the Arch Deluxe, which never caught on. It was intended to appeal to “urban sophisticates” — outside of its target demographic. To reach this group, McDonald’s spent $100 million, which makes it one of the most expensive product flops in history.

Turns out, McDonald’s was just too early — today, burger chains like Five Guys and Shake Shack are wildly popular upstarts, hawking slightly more expensive fast-food burgers to the modern equivalent of “urban sophisticates.”

1997 — Orbitz soda

Although the soda, which looks like a lava lamp, appealed to young kids, it tasted like cough syrup. It disappeared off shelves within a year of its 1997 debut.

1998 — Frito-Lay WOW! Chips

File this under “too good to be true”: In the late ’90s Frito-Lay rolled out a miracle food, a line of chips with the upbeat branding of WOW! The marketing claim was tantalizing — a compound called Olestra allowed for a fat-free potato chip. 

But, the additive had an unexpected side effect. The Olestra molecules couldn’t be absorbed into the body, and instead had a laxative-like effect on the body, Fast Company reported.

Assuredly, those consuming the chips were exclaiming “WOW!” for the wrong reasons.

1999 — Cosmopolitan Yogurt
A person examining a cup of yogurt.

The magazine Cosmopolitan made the decision to launch a brand of yogurt in 1999. Needless to say, the yogurt market was already saturated, and Cosmo’s readers were content enough reading the magazine. No word on whether or not it was any good.

2006 — Mobile ESPN

Mobile ESPN, introduced in January 2006, was one of the biggest flame-outs of “mobile virtual network operators,” which also included Amp’d Mobile, Helio, Disney Mobile, and others.

The idea was that ESPN would exclusively sell a phone that offered exclusive ESPN content and video, leasing network access from Verizon Wireless. But ESPN had only one phone at launch, a Sanyo device selling for $400.

ESPN quickly shut down the service, instead providing content to Verizon’s mobile internet service. And, of course, smartphones essentially obviated this entire concept.

2006 — HD-DVD

Sponsored mostly by Toshiba, HD-DVD was supposed to become the hi-def successor to the DVD when it launched in March 2006. Standalone HD-DVDs players were sold, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 — a wildly popular game console — sold an HD-DVD attachment (seen above).

But the Sony-led Blu-ray faction ended up winning the format war when Warner Bros. announced it was dumping HD DVD for Blu-ray on Jan. 4, 2008. It certainly didn’t hurt that Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console had Blu-ray playback functionality built right in — the PlayStation 2 helped christen DVD as the dominant format previously, and the PlayStation 3 took that concept another step further.

About a month later, Toshiba said it would shut down its HD-DVD efforts. 

2007 — Joost

Joost, originally known as “The Venice Project,” was supposed to be a peer-to-peer TV network for the future, invented by the European geniuses behind Skype. The company recruited a rising star — Mike Volpi — away from Cisco to become its CEO. It nabbed a deal with CBS.

Joost was supposed to reinvent the way we consumed professional video.

Instead, Hulu became the go-to site for TV episodes on the web. And who’s ever heard of Joost nowadays?

Meanwhile, Joost had all sorts of problems with its P2P architecture, its bulky software player, its content library, and more. After launching in September 2007, it never took off; its scraps sold in late 2009.

2008 — Google Lively

For some reason, Google thought it had to compete with “Second Life.” Remember “Second Life”? The virtual world that looked like a game but was actually just a virtual world for social interactions? Neither do most people. It still exists, powered by a super-dedicated userbase.

Google created its own version of “Second Life” in “Lively,” which came out in July 2008. (Unlike “Second Life,” “Lively” was supposed to be sex-free.) When the economy went down the toilet, those dreams faded fast. Google quickly pulled the plug by November 2008.

2009 — JooJoo

In the era of a $499 Apple iPad, an inferior tablet computer that also costs $499 doesn’t work. (You may remember this device from its previous title, the CrunchPad.) JooJoo came out in 2009 and was gone by 2010.

2011 — Qwikster

In September 2011, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would spin off Qwikster as a DVD rental business. This move met tons of criticism, and Hastings backtracked on his statement 23 days later.

At the same time, Netflix announced a video game add-on that would ship game discs to your house. Beyond just the name Qwikster, those plans were also scrapped.

2011 — HP Touchpad

HP gave up the TouchPad and its mobile operating system, WebOS, after just a month and a half on the market.

The tablet was no iPad killer, selling just 25,000 units for Best Buy over the 49 days it was on the shelves.

And, in fairness to HP, the TouchPad wasn’t that bad. It was rough around the edges, but those could have been smoothed in the coming months. It just didn’t really do anything better than the iPad, which means it’s just like every other tablet out there.

2011 — Microsoft Zune

In 2006, Microsoft launched Zune: its take on the iPod. 

As Insider previously reported, though, the Zune seemed set up to fail because it didn’t offer much beyond the iPod’s existing features. Its only advantage seemed to be that users could share songs between Zunes. Added to that, Apple already had almost 80% of the market at launch. Zune never really managed to capture more than a small sliver of the market, Slate reported

Five years later Microsoft announced that it would stop releasing new models. 

 

2013 — Facebook Home

With Home, Facebook tried to become the home screen for your phone.

It failed. From our review

“So, what happens when you have no control over what appears on your phone’s home screen? 

It becomes a mess.”

In less than a month of being released, the two-year subscription plan dropped from $99 to $0.99. The consensus between reviewers and critics: Home worked only for the most fanatical of users. “It was fine for a Facebook addict,” one reviewer noted. “But [it] seems to run through a lot of data and battery. Uninstalled.”

2013 — Lululemon Sheer Pants

In March 2013, Lululemon recalled its black luon bottoms for being too sheer. The issue — which seemed to stem from the factory that produced the pants — resulted in and the company having to recall almost 17% of all women’s bottoms, Insider previously reported

“The ingredients, weight and longevity qualities of the women’s black luon bottoms remain the same but the coverage does not, resulting in a level of sheerness in some of our women’s black luon bottoms that fall short of our very high standards,” Lululemon said in a statement at the time. 

Customers were furious (naturally), and Lululemon’s shares dropped by 7% the day after it announced the recall.

2014 — Amazon’s Fire Phone

Amazon’s Fire Phone was a flash in the pan — getting announced and released in 2014, then being discontinued the following year. It ran on Android, and looked competitive.

In reality, it was a critical and commercial failure. The one big sell point — 3D face scanning technology — was seen as a gimmick, and a limited availability at AT&T initially didn’t help it get off the ground. In the long run, Amazon discontinued the phone 13 months after its launch, and outright retired from phone manufacturing after this one model.

2015 — Google Glass
An older version of Google Glass, the latest business-focused version of which was discontinued Wednesday.

Google’s augmented reality glasses seemed destined to become the next “it gadget.” 

Once users actually began using Google Glass— starting with a small trial group in 2013— they began raising concerns that the device was a little too good at recording and capturing images. Eventually, users also began complaining about its price point, functionality, and design. 

As a result, Google announced in January 2015 that it would halt the production of Google Glass and reevaluate its approach.

 

2016 — Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7

What can be said about the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 that hasn’t already been said? The Note 7 — one of Samsung’s big flagship phones — had a little problem where it occasionally caught fire and/or exploded. There was a car that supposedly was burned down by one. The phones have been outright banned on flights, and Samsung had to recall the entire line. Talk about a self-own!

The Note line, however, persists — the latest version is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

2016 — Soylent

Soylent— the meal replacement company that has become a favorite among efficiency-minded techies— has a history of product recalls.

In October 2016, the company issued a recall on the  250-calorie bars it had introduced just months prior following reports from customers that the bars were making them sick. 

One user said they had the “worst vomiting episode” they had ever experienced after eating the bar, as Insider previously reported. (The company still sells bars that are now 100 calories each.)

Over the years the company has also recalled or halted sales of its powder multiple times, The company recalled its powder following the bar recall in 2016, and in 2017, it recalled 890 boxes of vegan powder for dairy contamination. 

2017 — Juicero
The Juicero machine.

Juicero, a Silicon Valley startup started fundraising in 2013, was on a mission to be the first “the first at home cold-pressed juicing system,” as founder Doug Evans explained in a post on Medium. 

The $399 machine was designed to extract juice from proprietary fruit and vegetable packs, which users could purchase through a subscription service. Things started going downhill for the company, though, when a Bloomberg investigation found that users didn’t need to use the machine to squeeze juice out of the packs. The revelation brought the machine’s exorbitant price point into question. 

By July 2017 the company announced that it would be undergoing a “strategic shift” to lower the cost of its product. The following September, the company announced that it would be shutting down its operations entirely.  

 

2018 — Theranos Edison & nanotainers
Theranos’ 116,000-square-foot office building on Page Mill Road in Palo Alto, California.

Theranos, the blood testing startup valued at $9 billion during its peak, has since unraveled into a cautionary tale of fraud and failure.

Elizabeth Holmes launched the company in 2003, and by 2015, it had flourished into a Silicon Valley darling with plans of testing a host of medical conditions with small sample of blood. The blood would be collected via its proprietary nanotainers, and analyzed through its blood analysis machine, the Edison— in theory, that is.

By late 2015, though, a bombshell Wall Street Journal article dropped highlighting the company’s struggles with its technology. As agencies including the FDA and SEC began taking a closer look into the company over the ensuing years it became clear that the company had been feigning the efficacy of its products and outsourcing complex testing to other labs.

By late 2018, Theranos announced it was shutting down.

2019 — AirPower

Apple had grand ambitions of launching a charging mat that could repower up to three devices at once— like your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. The company announced the product in 2017 along with the iPhoneX with plans for launching the following year.

Unfortunately, the mat was never actually released, due in part, to issues with heat management.

John Gruber, blogger and proverbial Apple oracle, wrote back in 2018 that “there are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work.”

 

2020 — Quibi
This illustration photo shows a person about to use the Quibi app on a smart phone in Los Angeles, October 21, 2020.

Quibi was a short video subscription service that launched amid the pandemic and lasted just six months. 

The service, founded by former Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, had raised $1.75 billion and recruited a roster of major names across Silicon Valley and Hollywood like Meg Whitman, as CEO, and celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and the Kardashians to host its shows.

On launch day, though, Quibi only garnered 300,000 downloads, trailing behind the 4 million Disney Plus had on its launch, Insider previously reported

In May, Katzenberg told The New York Times that the coronavirus pandemic was responsible for “everything that has gone wrong” with the app, which had only 3.5 million downloads by that point. By June the company began laying off employees, and by October the company fully shut down. 

2023 — Jetson Rogue Hoverboard
The recalled 42-volt Jetson Rogue Hoverboard.

In March, the US Consumer Product and Safety Commission recalled 53,000 42-volt Jetson Rogue hoverboards after numerous reports surfaced that they had caught fire. Two people had even died, according to the CPSC’s report.

Jetson Electric Bikes, which makes the Jetson Rogue 42v hoverboards, noted in a statement that the lithium-ion battery packs in the scooters had the potential to overheat, and potentially catch fire. 

In a report about the recall the New York Times noted that the product was sold in Target stores nationwide from August 2018 to June 2019 and also online between January 2019 to November 2021.

2023 — Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses
Facebook’s Ray-Ban “Stories” smart glasses

Back in September 2021, Ray-Ban launched a pair of smart glasses in partnership with Meta called Ray-Ban Stories. 

At the time, the glasses felt a little futuristic, but also a little creepy. They allow users to take photos or videos through small voice-activated cameras and microphones located in both corners of the frames. 

Yet the product has had a hard time attracting customers over the past two years. 

Less than 10% of the smart glasses that were purchased by Ray-Ban stores since it launched have actually been bought by customers, The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2023 based on an internal document from Meta. The device has also seen 13% return rate, the Journal noted, based on the document. 

Still, it might be too soon to call it a total flop: Meta is planning to launch a second-generation version of the glasses this fall, or in time for holiday shopping season, the Journal added, citing people familiar with the product.

2024 — Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology
Amazon is rolling back its ‘Just Walk Out’ technology, which allowed customers to bypass the checkout counter.

Amazon is rolling back its “Just Walk Out” technology, which relied on computer vision to help customers bypass the checkout counter at its Amazon Go convenience stores and Amazon Fresh grocery stores. 

There was nothing wrong with the “Just Walk Out” technology per say, but customers “also wanted the ability to easily find nearby products and deals, view their receipt as they shop, and know how much money they saved while shopping throughout the store,” an Amazon spokesperson previously told Business Insider, noting that the Dash Cart will accommodate these requests.

2024 — Google Podcasts
Google has been phasing out its podcast app since last year.

Google finally ceased its podcast app for US users on April 2 after it announced last September that it would be moving all its podcast users to YouTube Music. While Google’s own podcast app had a small share of the podcast audience, it ultimately wasn’t enough to sustain the app. “About 23% of weekly podcast users in the US say YouTube is their most frequently used service, versus just 4% for Google Podcasts,” Google said in its announcement. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

By

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: