In the past, I've documented corporate branding disasters, rebranding disasters and epic fails in global branding.  So when Wholesale Clearance UK Ltd sent me a clever infographic of product flops, I couldn't resist adding a couple of my favorites and adding my proverbial two cents:

1. Ford Edsel

Ford spent millions on focus groups and surveys to come up with a car was ahead of its time, a virtual prototype of the befinned monsters that became popular in a decade later. Only one problem: the Edsel was incredibly ugly, with a front grill that looked as if the car had just sucked on a lemon.

2. Wow! Chips

The problem here was Olestra, an additive that had the texture and taste of fat but without the calories.  Unfortunately, Olestra was also an effective laxative, dooming the product (and the unfortunate interjection in the product  name) to become the butt of thousand jokes.  

3. Sony Betamax

Sony's video tape format had better picture quality and resolution than the competitive VCR format. However, the VCR format was open to multiple manufacturers, reducing the price of both tapes and players.  Sony elected to keep its technology proprietary, which kept other content providers from supporting the format. By the time DVDs supplanted tapes, the Betamax was long gone. 

4. New Coke

Contrary to popular belief, Coke frequently changes its recipe for its flagship product.  However, when the company publicized a recipe change as an improvement in the product, consumers felt cheated. Coke backtracked by releasing "Classic Coke" and eventually pulled "New Coke" from the market. 

5. Smokeless Cigarettes

As consumers realized the cigarettes were a health risk, the RJ Reynolds tobacco company hoped to keep them from quitting altogether by making cigarettes that delivered nicotine without the smoke.  Unfortunately, "Premiums" were difficult to light and had an aftertaste that even smokers didn't like.    

6. Pepsi AM

As evidenced by the popularity of Mountain Dew and Jolt Cola, there's no question that consumers will swallow soft drinks that have plenty of caffeine.  However, consumers apparently don't want caffeinated soft drinks with their cereal, eggs and bacon.  

6. Apple Newton

As a product idea, the Newton was incredibly innovative but consumers weren't ready for a keyboard-less computer. To make matters worse, Apple's marketing emphasized the Newton's handwriting recognition, which wasn't (and still isn't BTW) ready for prime time.  

7. McDonald's Arch Deluxe Burger

Even before anyone had heard of "artisan burgers," McDonalds was trying to claw its way upscale. They spent a whopping $150 million to promote their new offering for the urban elite.  Unfortunately, nobody really believed that a gourmet burger could exist, much less share a menu board with a Big Mac. 

9. Heinz Purple Ketchup

It's weird enough that Ketchup looks like blood.  Did the world really need ketchup that looks like various other bodily fluids.  Even my 11-year-old son (when I told him about this) said: "Why would anybody want purple ketchup?"  And he's smack dab in the product's target demographic.  

10. Antonin Scalia School of Law

When George Mason University decided to name its law school after its recent-deceased alumni, they got conservative donors to cough up $30 million to fund the change. Unfortunately, the new title created an acronym that was perhaps too descriptive.  It just goes to show that "when you assume, you make an..." 

11. Coors Spring Water

I can see the logic behind this product. For decades Coors has been touting the mountain spring water that feeds its brewery.  Given all that publicity, why not let consumers taste the water?  Unfortunately for Coors, its consumers either didn't remember all those ads or, more likely, didn't care and simply preferred to drink their "beer."

12. The Segway

The upright scooter was supposed to revolutionize transportation but all it did was make riders looks silly and self-satisfied. BTW, I was one of the first journalists in the world to ride a Segway (Wired magazine).  At the time, I thought it was a solution in search of a problem. The last time I saw one of these devices was at a concession stand ("Ride a Segway!") at a theme park. 

13. Cheetos Lip Balm

Eating Cheetos may be a guilty pleasure, but it's hard to imagine anyone would want that particular flavor stuck on their lips.  With this product idea, you've got to wonder whether somebody in the Cheetos marketing group was playing an elaborate joke or maybe had a serious case of the munchies.

14. Microsoft Zune

Microsoft has never been able to come up with a handheld device or phone that anybody wanted to own. The company slogged the Zune through several releases before it became clear that there was virtually no demand for the product. Since then Microsoft spent billions on Nokia, yet another dead-end. 

15. Harley Davidson Perfume

It's hard to imagine what the marketers at Harley Davidson were thinking when they decided that women wanted a perfume that smelled like... what?  Motor oil? Sweaty leather? Did they really think there were women who were THAT desperate to hook up with a biker?  

16. Google Glass

Announced with great fanfare, it was supposed to be wearable that beat all wearables.  Early adopters paid big money to try out the next big thing and pundits crowed that this would change the way people use computers. Unfortunately, the glasses looked ridiculous and flagged the wearer as an insufferable glassh*le.

17. Cosmopolitan Yogurt

Cosmopolitan magazine is supposed to stands for everything that's cool about the modern woman.  While it was apparently the inspiration for pink martini made popular in the TV show Sex and the City, the brand wasn't that great a fit for a plastic container of curdled milk.  

18. Colgate Kitchen Entrees

Probably the weirdest brand extension ever attempted.  The toothpaste company felt that people loved and trusted its product so much that they'd want food labeled with the same brand.  The marketers involved don't seem to have understood that toothpaste is something you spit into a sink. 

19. Bic Underwear

Using the ubiquitous catchphrase "Flick Your Bic," the Bic brand had successfully expanded from plastic pens to plastic lighters.  Since the catchphrase was a trifle risque, somebody at Bic thought consumers might like a Bic-branded place to store their double entendres.  This was a classic example of a company trying to wedge a brand concept where into the wrong niche.

20. Frito-Lay Lemonade

Again this was a product that made sense on paper and you can kinda see where the marketers were coming from.  Eating Fritos corn chips (and other salty products) makes you thirsty, so you'd naturally want something wet to wash the salt down.  Consumers apparently felt that the liquid in question would make them more, rather than less, thirsty.

21. Hanna Montana Cherries

By the time Miley Cyrus reached adulthood playing the heroine of the eponymous sitcom, Disney had licensed hundreds of branded spinoffs.  Perhaps the best that can be said of this particular spinoff is that, like everything else on this list, the product is no longer available. 

Published on: Apr 7, 2016