Top 20 Worst Product Fails of All Time

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Top 20 Worst Product Fails of All Time

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
Sometimes big launches do NOT go as planned. For this list, we'll be looking at some of the most memorable product failures in history. Our countdown includes New Coke, Segway, Virtual Boy, HD DVD, and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Worst Product Flops of All Time


Sometimes big launches do NOT go as planned. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Worst Product Flops of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most memorable product failures in history.

#20: The DMC-12

This one may come as a surprise, considering it has unending popularity, a rabid fan base, and pop-culture cred courtesy of its use in “Back to the Future”. But Marty McFly saddled up in 1985, by which point the car had been deemed an abject failure. On the market for a scant three model years before DMC was shuttered amid multiple forms of controversy, the DeLorean – as it later came to be known – never performed as well as it looked, disappointing drivers and turning off would-be owners. The first production car was completed in January of '81, but by December of '82 the game was over, with DMC itself following suit soon after.

#19: Apple Maps

Let’s just do a show of hands – does ANYONE watching this video use Apple Maps? Okay, can't actually see you, but let's assume there aren't many of you. Yes, despite the fact that it’s the default on the company’s devices, Google Maps has always been the superior navigational system. Tim Cook even issued a public apology for all of the problems that the application had. Some of these problems included misspelled place names, and locations being placed miles from where they actually were. We admit, Apple Maps has come a long way since it was launched in 2012 and was riddled with issues, but its poor reputation has remained.

#18: Segway

Unlike many of the other products on this list, the Segway is actually still in production but it has certainly fallen from grace since it was first introduced back in 2001, to the excitement of local dads and mall cops everywhere. The problem was the astronomical hopes of the Segway’s creator – the intention was to have the product completely revolutionize how humans got around in urban areas. But there was just something undeniably dorky about it, and it wasn’t adopted nearly as fervently as its producer had hoped. In an unfortunate turn of events, the product's viability died with company owner Jimi Heselden (hezzle-din), who was killed when he fell off a cliff while riding his Segway scooter through the English countryside.

#17: Colgate Kitchen Entrées

In the 1980s, frozen meals were popular and prevalent, so that’s perhaps why Colgate – best known for their line of toothpastes – decided to get into the market, because why not? But there’s something distinctly unappetizing about the name Colgate Kitchen Entrees. No one wants to be slumming it with a half frozen, half overcooked plate of gruel and be reminded of fluoride-enhanced mint flavored grit cream. Anyone who's ever had a glass of OJ after brushing their teeth knows toothpaste and food doesn't mix. Sorry but we’ll pass on this one!

#16: Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water

You’ll start to notice a trend on our list, that many of the entries involve companies leaving their comfort zones in an attempt to branch out into new markets. Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water is a prime example of this. In 1990, when the product was released, Coors was one of the most successful brewing companies in America, and while their beer was popular across many demographics, one they weren’t hitting was the sparkling water crowd. But people didn’t want to drink bubbly water that perhaps tasted like ultra light beer, and the trademark expired a few years after launch.

#15: Virtual Boy

In the mid ’90s, Nintendo was thriving. Their Super Nintendo, released in 1990, was a massive success, but a few short years later they delivered a serious flop. The Virtual Boy was marketed as the first 3D gaming console and there were many issues in development, causing it to be released before it was properly finished. The company had decided to shift its focus onto their next idea, the N64. And they were right to do so: the Virtual Boy was a big disappointment, with poor 3D effects and a big price tag, not to mention concerns of it affecting the health of users.

#14: Microsoft Bob

Back in 1995, the masses weren't exactly computer savvy, so we can understand the thinking behind the launch of the Microsoft Bob. This was an operating system interface that made your desktop look like a house with each application corresponding to a regular household item. The idea wasn’t a terrible one, but it used a ton of processing power, which most home computers didn’t have in excess in 1995. It was discontinued shortly after launch. To make matters even worse, it gave the world “Clippy”, and perhaps worse still, Comic Sans was actually invented for use in Microsoft Bob, even though they didn’t end up using it on the interface.

#13: HD DVD

Remember back in the late aughts when people had to decide whether to commit to HD DVDs or Blu-Ray? There was a race to replace – or at least improve upon – the DVD, and Toshiba threw their hat into the ring with the HD DVD. There wasn’t anything wrong with the HD DVD per se, but it simply lost the war against Blu-ray, and two years after its release it was discontinued. Unfortunately for consumers, many had invested in HD DVD players which were essentially made obsolete... or at least of limited use. Although, some may now say the same about physical media in general, so is there a real winner here?

#12: Arch Deluxe

Over the years, McDonald’s has introduced dozens of new menu items. Some are hits, and some are definite misses. The Arch Deluxe was marketed as a burger with a grown up taste, and the ad campaign focused on getting adults with sophisticated palettes to try it. The company spent over $300 million on development and marketing for the Arch Deluxe, and yet it didn’t meet sales expectations. There was nothing in particular wrong with the burger, which was pretty standard with added additions like peppered bacon, leaf lettuce and a “special” mayo and mustard sauce. But customers just weren’t biting, and the Arch Deluxe went McByeBye soon after.

#11: Zune

Back in the mid-aughts, it was tough to compete with Apple’s hugely successful iPod, but some companies tried anyway, to varying results. Microsoft produced its own MP3 player called the Zune which was released in 2006 and managed to stick around until 2012, though in the later years they were definitely not selling much. The performance of the Zune never quite matched up to that of its competitors and in an embarrassing instance in 2008 most of the 30GB Zunes completely stopped working on New Year’s Eve because they forgot to account for the extra day in the leap year.

#10: EZ Squirt Colored Ketchup

Kids, historically, love ketchup. So it makes sense that Heinz, the world’s best known maker of ketchup, decided to market ketchup directly to children with its EZ Squirt line. The squeezable containers were easy for kids to use, but not only that, the product was made available in a variety of fun – dare we say, rad – colors other than the standard red. Who wouldn’t want to squirt something purple and toxic looking onto their french fries? While the novel idea may have had some kids begging their parents to put it in their grocery carts, by 2006 production was stopped.

#9: Cheetos Lip Balm

Some products on this list were good ideas that just weren’t well executed or didn’t catch on, but this is absolutely not one of them. Sure, we all loved soda flavored Chapstick, but when Frito-Lay introduced Cheetos flavored lip balm it was obviously a step too far. We acknowledge that Cheetos are incredible, but not every snack food belongs in our makeup case. We can’t even imagine what the marketing pitch was for this product and we wouldn’t be surprised if someone was fired for creating this monstrosity.

#8: The Newton

The Apple Newton was the product for which the term “personal digital assistant” was created and at the time of its release in 1993, it seemed like the height of new technology. But the price of the product was very steep, making it a difficult sell for consumers. Another factor in its failure was that the highly anticipated handwriting feature ended up being a disappointment – at least if you didn't want to “Eat up Martha”. The Palm Pilot ended up overtaking it, and when Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, he ordered the Newton line to be discontinued.

#7: Galaxy Note 7

One of the more recent flops we'll be discussing was one of the most explosive launches in tech history. But in all seriousness, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 started literally catching on fire shortly after its release. This phablet was actually pretty well reviewed when it first launched in August of 2016 but those positive critiques didn’t count for much when the phones began smoking and setting aflame. In one much-publicized instance, this even happened on a flight which had to be evacuated, prompting airlines to ban the Note 7. Samsung discontinued the phone in October of 2016 and reportedly lost billions of dollars because of the debacle.

#6: Betamax

Remember VHS? Meet its older brother. Released in 1975, just a year before the VHS tape came out, the Betamax arguably had better technology than its competitor. The resolution and sound was considered to be superior to that of the VHS, but because Sony made a major misstep with its licensing, VHS soared past it to quickly grab a larger market share – providing more consumer options and lower price-points. That’s why ‘90s kids will all remember having their Disney movies on VHS and not on Betamax.

#5: Google Glass

In so many works of science fiction that imagined the future of humanity, we had wearable technology that looked a whole lot like Google Glass. In fact, theoretically, it seemed like an incredible futuristic invention that could completely change the way we viewed the world. But despite its lofty goals, Google Glass was mired with criticism and was prohibitively expensive for many. Chief among the concerns were issues of privacy, because the Glass could easily record people without their consent, as well as safety.

#4: WOW! Chips

Consumers should probably be smart enough to be wary of low-fat potato chips, but when WOW! Chips were released by Lay’s in 1998, no one could have imagined the fallout. You see they were made with a fat alternative called Olestra which caused... let’s just say gastrointestinal distress... that is, visits to the bathroom. How this was not discovered during the development phase we’ll never know. But the end result was that Lay’s was forced to put a warning on all bags reading, "This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools.” Now that’s not exactly great marketing material.

#3: Premier Smokeless Cigarettes

Long peeps were vaping or using e-cigarettes, companies were trying to come up with a safer way to smoke. In 1988, for tobacco company R.J. Reynolds, this meant introducing a line of “smokeless” cigarettes. The problem was, smokers didn’t get the same satisfaction from it because of the lack of actual smoke. Not to mention, there was a chemical taste associated with it which didn’t improve things. In the end, the non-smoking smokes were only around for a few months before they were removed from the market, and after R.J. Reynolds invested hundreds of millions of dollars into them.

#2: Edsel

The most memorable product failures are usually the ones which were the most heavily hyped. This is true now, and it was true all the way back in the 1950’s as well. The Ford Motor Company came out with the Edsel after a year long marketing campaign leading up to its release which branded it as the car of the future. With so much anticipation, it was almost destined to fall short of what people had expected. But this was an even more colossal failure than anyone could have imagined. People thought they were too expensive, ugly, and suffered from being overhyped. Put short, the Edsel never picked up traction.

I have an affinity for a few of these products, I gotta say: obviously the DeLorean. And I don’t know if you ever had the Arch Deluxe from McDonald’s, but I gotta tell you it was delicious, even though I was in no way the intended market for it. Anyway I never had the chance to personally test our top pick, but it was pretty much unanimously derided as a huge fail by a huge company, so let’s look at some HM/DMs, and then we’ll see if you’ve correctly guessed the biggest product flop of all time

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Mobile ESPN

Harley Davidson Perfume

Touch of Yogurt Shampoo

#1: New Coke

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This was a lesson that the Coca Cola Company clearly didn’t internalize when they came up with the idea for New Coke in the ‘80s. We’re not sure why they decided to mess with a good thing, but when they reformulated their popular cola beverage to more closely align with popular tastes at the time, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Several years later, Pepsi tried a similar tactic with Crystal Pepsi, which was clear and caffeine free, and was similarly unsuccessful. Curious parties and later comers got a second chance to try “New Coke” in 2019, however, when it was rereleased as a cross-promotion with “Stranger Things”.

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I agreed with this very bad & very worst list.