Each new year typically brings a series of weird, wacky, and downright strange product launches. And 2020, the most unsettlingly off-kilter year in living memory, certainly followed through--from the resurrection of decades-old soda to the most on-the-nose pandemic card game you can imagine.
Here are the six product launches that earned comically large double-takes this year:
1. Playlists for the dogs
Way back in January, which admittedly feels like ancient history, Spotify made a major announcement: personalized playlists and podcasts for your pets, so they can listen to something while you're out of the house.
The music-streaming company surveyed 5,000 pet owners in five countries, and learned that 80 percent of respondents believed their pets liked music. The most popular genres: classical and soft rock. These custom playlists are available for dogs, cats, iguanas, hamsters, and birds, and change on the basis of how much you tell Spotify about your pet's personality.
Of course, Spotify couldn't have known that most humans across the world wouldn't be leaving their houses nearly as often this year. What else was completely unforeseen? That "Old Thing Back" by Matoma and the Notorious B.I.G. is apparently a raging hit among iguanas.
2. A ring with some pop
Remember Crystal Pepsi? The soft drink's heyday was in the early '90s, becoming a pop culture sensation before rapidly turning into what Thrillist described earlier this year as "the soda world's greatest fail."
Somewhat inexplicably, PepsiCo chose 2020 as the time to bring Crystal Pepsi back--in the form of an engagement ring. In February, the soda giant launched a competition: Tweet your perfect proposal to win a lab-grown 1.53-carat diamond ring, infused with boiled-down powder from the decades-old drink. The ring, Pepsi said, would be worth about $3,000.
Perhaps most notably, the company's social media account directly replied to a massive number of responses, ranging from the sincere to the very, very silly. One Twitter user asked, "Is it refillable?" Pepsi's account responded: "This is a ring, sir."
3. Fowl feet
Crocs just may be the most controversial footwear of the modern era. Some people swear by them. One anonymous Inc. staffer has boldly stated that they'd refuse to date anyone who'd wear them in public. And now, Kentucky Fried Chicken has turned them into a couple of buckets of chicken.
Yes, the KFC-branded shoes, released in July for $59.99 per pair, actually look like the restaurant's famed chicken buckets, complete with a fake chicken drumstick resting on top of each foot. To make matters worse--or better, depending on how you look at it--the drumsticks are meant to smell like real fried chicken, too.
Here's the kicker: They sold out in less than half an hour. Marinate on that for as long as you need.
4. The mullet of work-from-home clothing
A quick personal story: In September, I received an email from a PR professional telling me about "Work Wonnies," work-from-home onesies with a button-down shirt on top and sweatpants underneath. It included a link to a Work Wonnies commercial, which I didn't immediately watch. This was a mistake.
From the commercial's manic, off-kilter energy to the Work Wonnie's butt flap, I'm putting this one in the "I can't believe it's a real product" category. Yet, since November, it's been available online for a whopping $79.99 per onesie. If you're willing to drop a pretty big chunk of change on a novelty item--or, if you really don't like putting on pants--this could be your next apparel purchase.
Or, in the words of the email: "You've heard of the zoot suit. This is the ultimate Zoom suit."
5. Breakfast beer
Few smells are more enticing than bacon's. But what if that scent came from your beer? In November, popular southern diner chain Waffle House teamed up with Greensboro, Georgia-based brewery Oconee Brewing Company to find out.
"Bacon & Kegs!" is a bacon-infused red ale that supposedly smells just like the porcine breakfast meat. Before you rush out to buy a six-pack or growler, know that it's currently only being sold at Oconee Brewery, about 70 miles east of downtown Atlanta.
But don't worry: Waffle House isn't the only beloved breakfast chain to release eyebrow-raising beers this year. In August, Dunkin' and Harpoon Brewery co-released two new brews made with actual donuts--Boston Kreme and raspberry jelly donuts, respectively--along with a third inspired by Pumpkin Spice lattes.
6. A very 2020 card game
They say comedy equals tragedy plus time, which may be the impetus behind "It's Contagious!"
The two-to-six player card game, made for ages 7 and over, popped up on Kickstarter in November, and hit its $10,000 funding goal in 24 days. "Avoid contagion and turn antibodies into superheroes while avoiding viral loads," the Kickstarter page reads. "Seventy-two cards capture pandemic life in a fun, lighthearted way that will keep you guessing."
Anyone who pledged $15 or more will receive a copy of the game around March 2021, with escalating pledge levels promising virus plushies, custom facemasks, and even a private jet tour over the San Diego Bay.
It takes a certain type of attitude to order and play this game during a global pandemic. Just ask the scores of people who made Contagion one of the most-downloaded movies of 2020.