From the DeLorean and New Coke to the Newton and Google Glass, here's a list of the biggest product flops from corporate giants.
Product innovation is one way that large corporations stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace, but it doesn’t always work out when big brands attempt innovation.
Below are what we consider to be 116 of the biggest product flops of all time. We combed through thousands of media articles to select these product flops across major industries including tech software and hardware, consumer packaged goods, fast food, and electronics.
Let us know in the comments if we missed any that should be added.
Understanding failure is crucial since so many accounts of innovation focus on the successes and so are affected by survivorship bias. This is the same spirit that animates our lists of 204 Startup Failure Post-Mortems and expensive startup failures, as well as our Downround Tracker.
1. New Coke, Coca-Cola (1985)
This was a change consumers never asked for and public backlash was a disaster. When the company went back to the original formula, Peter Jennings broke into hit TV show “General Hospital” to announce the news and US Sen. David Pryor called it “a meaningful moment in US history” on the floor of the Senate.
2. The Edsel, Ford (1957)
Renowned as one of Ford’s greatest flops, this ride had it all: weird body styling, unreliable controls (including a push-button ignition), and an ambitious run-up of ads that may have inflated customer expectations.
3. Facebook Phone, Facebook (2013)
The Facebook Phone was surrounded by speculation from the moment the first rumors of it surfaced, so almost any product would have failed to live up to the hype. What the public got was the HTC First, an Android-skinned device whose main feature was being geared towards the Facebook Home application. The phone’s exclusive carrier, AT&T, drastically slashed the price to 99 cents in a “temporary sale” that became permanent until the phone’s death.
4. Newton, Apple (1993)
Revolutionary for its time, this handheld PDA pinned its hopes on handwriting recognition. Jobs himself reputedly hated it, saying of the device’s stylus input device: “God gave us ten styluses … let’s not invent another.”
5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (videogame), Atari (1982)
At a time when Atari was the undisputed monarch of video gaming and E.T. was the top box office hit, an officially-licensed E.T. video game should have been a guaranteed hit. Atari spent $20M securing the movie rights, built the notoriously-hard-to-play game in just five and a half weeks, then produced 4 million cartridges, of which 2.5 million came back to the company. Atari had a landfill in New Mexico for unsold product where many of the E.T. cartridges ended up. Video game historians have pointed to E.T. game as one of a string of high-profile duds that contributed to a crash in the North American video gaming industry from 1983 to 1985.
6. Fire Phone, Amazon (2014)
The Kindle Fire tablets were a hit with consumers, so the development of a phone wasn’t much of a surprise. But the device turned out to be clunky, have limited app options, and even the Firefly feature (which recognized products and songs) couldn’t win over customers.
7. BlackBerry PlayBook, BlackBerry (2011)
An early tablet that played HD videos but lacked a native email client and calendar, two things Blackberries were renowned for doing well. Instead, users needed to connect their Blackberry smartphones to the tablet via the Blackberry Bridge software, an unnecessary extra step (and an impossible one, if you didn’t already own a Blackberry) that turned users off. It also had a poor selection of apps, the lifeblood of any tablet.
8. Twitter Peek, Peek (2009)
This was a dedicated device that just sent out and received tweets, but couldn’t even do that properly, giving users only a 20-character preview of their tweets. Users passed on this gimmicky handheld.
9. Wow! Chips, Frito-Lay (1998)
This line of chips was made with Olestra, an artificial fat that was supposed to pass harmlessly through your digestive tract. Gastrointestinal side effects of an unmentionable variety ensued, followed by lawsuits.
10. Google+, Google (2011)
Google+ isn’t the only social outing on this list from the search giant, but it’s probably the highest-profile disappointment. A closed launch made invites a hot commodity for about a week. Then Google discarded their restrained invitation model, throwing open the doors in an attempt to build a user base that never lived up to their expectations of creating a possible Facebook competitor. While still in operation, Google+ is hardly anybody’s favorite social network.
11. Crystal Pepsi, Pepsi (1992)
David Novak, the former CEO of Yum Brands, recently stated that Crystal Pepsi was developed to reinforce consumer interest in purity and health. But Pepsi’s attempt to cash in on this 90s fad didn’t catch on. Consumers were confused about what it was supposed to taste like: it was citrus flavored, instead of a clear cola (as the name would seem to have implied). Even an over-the-top Super Bowl commercial featuring Van Halen’s “Right Now” couldn’t make this drink a success.
12. Gerber Singles, Gerber (1974)
Adults want convenient food, so Gerber decided to release baby-food style versions of adult foods with flavors including Beef Burgundy and Mediterranean Vegetables. This might have been too much convenience, however, as consumers showed they’d clearly rather spend a few more minutes preparing food they had to chew than scoop unsavory-looking mush into their faces from a jar.
13. SPOT Watches, Microsoft (2004)
14. Google Glass, Google (2013-2014)
15. Dreamcast, Sega (1999)
This powerful console was supposed to be 1999’s hottest system and put Sega back on the map. Despite early success and some ahead-of-its-time hardware, it just couldn’t compete with the PS2 and its failure was ultimately part of why Sega got out of hardware and became a third-party game publisher.
16. Bikes, Smith and Wesson (2002)
17. Jaguar, Atari (1993-94)
Here’s a story you never hear in the tech world: the Jaguar got pushed out early because its development was running ahead of schedule. Originally slated as the 64-bit follow-up to the 32-bit Atari Panther (Atari’s competitor against the SNES and Sega Genesis), the Jaguar came out in 93 in New York City and San Francisco, then rolled out to the rest of the world in 1994. Alas, hardware was the bugbear of this brick and developers had trouble building games for its multi-chip setup. Even Atari wasn’t making many games for it, leading to declining sales and a library of just 67 games officially released.
18. Satisfries, Burger King (2013)
Burger King attempted to court consumers seeking healthier fast food options with these revamped french fries. Execution fell flat, with consumers reporting that they had a tougher outer coating and a drier texture.
19. DeLorean DMC-12, DeLorean Motor Company (1981-83)
This stainless-steel sports car is most famous for its appearance in the “Back to the Future” movies. Notable for its gull-wing doors and unique body styling, the DMC-12 (usually just referred to as “the DeLorean,” as it was the company’s only model) was plagued by performance and safety issues. Its fate was sealed when the auto industry faced a dramatic downturn in the early 80s and only about 9,000 cars were built before production ceased in 1983. This flop has a happy ending, albeit 30+ years later: DMC Texas has received federal approve to produce about 50 new DeLoreans a year, starting possibly as soon as 2017.
20. Virtual Boy, Nintendo (1995)
21. PS Vita, Sony (2011)
Sony’s fist handheld, the Playstation Portable, sold almost 81 million units, but the PS Vita lacked must-have games and didn’t offer users enough integration with other Sony platforms to make it worth the $249-$299 price tag.
22. Amazon Local, Amazon (2011)
Amazon’s idea of innovation in the daily deals space was to get in almost three years after Groupon. The division stopped selling deals in December of 2015.
23. Oakley Thump, Oakley (2005)
24. Zune, Microsoft (2006)
Microsoft’s “me too” mp3 player was too late to the iPod party. It played music well enough, but its special features (including sharing songs with other Zune owners nearby) just weren’t enough to beat Apple’s sleek iPod.
25. Pippin, Apple (1995)
Apple’s only attempt at a gaming console tried to do too much: games, web browsing, and educational applications. They didn’t bring it to market solo, either, relying on Bandai’s brand recognition in the gaming world. Only 42,000-100,000 units were sold.
26. Segway, Segway Inc. (2001)
27. Astro Pants, Lululemon (2013)
Yoga pants are designed to be form-fitting, but some models of pants and leggings from the yoga gear giant proved to be a bit too revealing, becoming translucent when wearers bent over. Inflammatory remarks from founder Chip Wilson only exacerbated the public relations fiasco. Wilson later issued an apology and the company issued a recall.
28. ViewSonic Airpanel Smart Display V110, Microsoft (2003)
29. Umi Cisco (2010)
30. Facebook Deals, Facebook (2011)
Amazon isn’t the only tech giant who showed it could throw its hat in the ring for daily/local deals way later than was prudent. The social giant did the same thing in 2011, but shuttered the concept a scant four months later.
31. Touchpad, HP (2011)
32. Rokr E1, Motorola and Apple (2005)
Before the iPhone, Apple partnered with Motorola to make a phone that also played music and what they got wasn’t very good at either. A 100-song capacity and lack of ability to download songs via the web were the death knell for this iPhone precursor.
33. Cue Cat Barcode Scanner, Digital Convergence Corporation (1999)
Back when people still read print magazines, the idea was that you’d use this oddly-shaped device to scan barcodes in said magazines, then plug it into your computer with a USB cable, and then the Cue Cat would direct your browser to a URL derived from said device.
34. Nexus Q, Google (2012)
This weird black orb thing was a media device that could connect to your TV and speakers and stream a list of various music tracks and YouTube videos that you and your friends co-created. It only played Google-approved content (YouTube and music) and just couldn’t compete with other media-streaming offerings like Apple TV.
35. Kin One and Kin Two, Microsoft (2010)
36. Arch Deluxe, McDonalds (1996)
A McDonalds burger with cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, and mayonnaise-dijon mustard sauce on a potato roll. Designed for adults, it never found an audience (the Big Mac was cheaper at the time).
37. Ultrabook, Intel (2012)
This would-be competitor to the MacBook was sleek and powerful, but too expensive for PC buyers (who were/are used to lower sticker prices compared to Apple) and didn’t have what it took to steal market share from Apple.
38. Cocaine, Redux Beverages (2007)
39. Brewed Coffee in a Box, Maxwell House (1990)
Way before the start of the cold-brew craze, Maxwell House pioneered selling consumers pre-brewed coffee in a cardboard carton. Missing the obvious opportunity to corner the iced coffee market, they doubled down by advertising that consumers enjoy it hot. Customers were seemingly unwilling to take the extra step of pouring a mug of coffee, then heating it up (at that point, why not just brew some real coffee?) and those who chose to try to microwave the entire package were in for a nasty surprise: the carton was foil-lined.
40. Betamax, Sony (1975)
Despite having better quality recordings, when Betamax and VHS went toe-to-toe, only VHS caught on with manufacturers. VHS players were cheaper to produce, which appealed to consumers. Tape length was also an issue: from their release in 1976, VHS tapes could hold two hours, meaning that most movies could fit on one tape; Betamax was capped at an hour in 1975 (only expanded to two in the early 80s). These issues and a host of other challenges contributed to an uphill battle that Betamax eventually lost.
41. Windows Vista, Microsoft (2007)
Windows XP had been the Windows version for five years when Vista hit the scene, so many customers were loathe to change over. Even moreso when reviews revealed that the new OS was less user-friendly than XP. This led to users paying to have their Vista systems downgraded back to XP and Microsoft admitting its mistake and allowing computer manufacturers to offer XP on new computers. It hastened production on Windows 7.
42. LaserDisc, Philips (1978)
Betamax vs. VHS might have had a chance of going the other way, but LaserDisc never seemed to have a shot. These big, bulky proto-DVDs were more expensive than VCRs and studios just weren’t pressing content onto them.
43. eVilla, Sony (2001)
Just when computers were starting to take off, Sony came out with this “internet appliance,” which is, just like it sounds, a device made solely to connect to the internet. It looked awful and cost $499 (plus a $21.95 monthly internet access fee), all of which the company refunded to customers when it realized the extent of its failure.
44. Persil Power Detergent, Unilever (1990s)
A laundry detergent so powerful that it destroyed stains … and clothes.
45. Mazagran, Starbucks and Pepsi (1995)
This carbonated, coffee-soda beverage had spiced and citrus notes and reportedly split consumers into for and against camps almost immediately. It never found an audience to appease the coffee giant or the soda empire that birthed it, but proved that people would buy Starbucks drinks in a can or bottle, of which there are no shortage today.
46. Zima, Coors Brewing Company (1993)
Part of the 90s “clear craze” that also birthed Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear, this non-beer alcoholic bottled beverage was designed to compete with the successful wine cooler category. It was reportedly lemon lime flavored and astoundingly managed to stay in production until 2008 when it was discontinued in the US.
47. FourLoko, Phusion Projects/Drink Four Brewing Company (2005)
This one was an unfortunate hit with hard-partying youths: booze and caffeine. It kept you drunk and wired for as long as you could stomach the dangerous beverage, which put more than a few consumers in the hospital. Maybe not technically a flop, because sales of the “blackout in a can” spiked when the FDA banned its original booze-and-caffeine formula (savvy consumers and speculators alike hastily stockpiled remaining cans) and the company released a caffeine-less formulation (currently available), it’s nonetheless a cautionary tale about over-innovating (and over-consuming).
48. Life Savers Soda, Life Savers (1980s)
49. QuickTake Camera, Apple (1994)
This might have been one of the earliest digital cameras, but a $600 price tag, the lack of zoom controls or an in-camera display (so you couldn’t see what your picture looked like until you’d moved it over to your computer), and an 8-photo capacity made this .3-megapixel unit a must-miss piece of tech.
50. Qwikster, Netflix (2011)
Just as Netflix’s streaming service was beginning to take off, CEO Reed Hastings hit upon a plan to wring more money from consumers who wanted to continue receiving DVDs in the mail a la the service’s original process. His solution: rebrand the mailing option as “Qwikster” and require users to register (and pay) for both services. It was a PR nightmare and the idea was dropped weeks later.
51. Lisa, Apple (1983)
One of the first computers with a graphical user interface, the original Lisa underwent massive changes during its development and came out with a $10,000 price tag and serious performance issues. Numerous updates and improved models followed, but sales never rivaled the much cheaper Macintosh and it was discontinued in 1986.
52. Hot Wheels and Barbie computers, Mattel/Patriot Computers (1999)
The idea here was to slide away from old-school toys (Barbies and Hot Wheels) and towards CD-ROM and computer users. The computers from Patriot Computer Corporation were riddled with manufacturing issues, which the Toronto-based company put a bulk of its resources into fixing, which then drove it out of business. But not before Mattel took thousands of orders for the holiday season; orders which were never filled. The countless unhappy customers, who had each paid $599, received a $100 gift certificate for their troubles.
53. EZ Squirt Ketchup, Heinz (2006)
The idea was simple enough: take ketchup, traditionally some shade of red, and turn it different colors through the magic of science. Seeing as how ketchup is the beloved condiment of choice for kids of all ages, this seemed like an easy win, and for a while it was, driving Heinz’s market share above 60% for the first time ever. The novelty wore off quickly and though it remained in production for 6 years, this house on fire had long since burned out.
54. Pepsi AM, Pepsi (1989)
This ambitious Pepsi variant contained more caffeine than the usual formula and targeted the “breakfast cola drinker.” It lasted just one year.
55. BOB, Microsoft (1995)
56. Orbitz, Clearly Canadian Beverage Company (1997)
57. Mobile ESPN, ESPN (2006)
This idea almost seems bound to fail from the jump: a clunky flip phone (introduced in 2006) with a lousy interface set up to only receive sports information from ESPN. It cost $300 for the phone and monthly plans started at $65, prices consumers just weren’t willing to pay.
58. HD DVD, Toshiba (2006)
HD DVD’s tech specs were put in place in 2002, but the format wasn’t abandoned fully until 2008. For a few years, discs in multiple formats (DVD, HD DVD, and Blu Ray) were being released, skirmishing in homes and stores all around us, a silent battle few knew was raging. But Toshiba knew it, hemorrhaging money to the tune of one billion dollars before eventually giving up on the format.
59. Joost, Joost (2007)
Founded by the guys behind Kazaa and Skype, Joost was supposed to deliver content at near-TV quality via a peer-to-peer format. Despite financial backing, an innovative technological concept, and some early content deals with the likes of Viacom and others, a lack of international rights and pullouts by content providers ultimately hamstrung this fledgling service.
60. Google Lively, Google (2008)
This was a knockoff of Second Life, the 3D virtual world simulator where you can create an avatar of almost any description and then proceed to do whatever you want. Google’s failed attempt came out about five years after Second Life had hit the scene and was already developing a strong following. Commentators blame Lively’s failure on its Windows-only format and lack of marketing.
61. Nook, Barnes and Noble (2009)
Brick-and-mortar booksellers started having an uphill battle the minute Amazon came out with its still-leading Kindle, but B&N was determined not to go out without a fight. Enter the Nook, their attempt at staying relevant and maybe even reclaiming some of their lost market share from the online retailer. Some models were even reportedly good, but between Kindle’s massive first-mover advantage and B&N’s failure to properly position the product and prove themselves as more than just a place for physical books, this ereader never found a following.
62. MD Audio, Sony (1990s)
Sony loves the format wars. This entry was an audio format competitor to CDs, but without read-write or computer compatibility, a pretty big miss even in the 90s, when music was just starting to make the digital migration that would eventually become its future (mp3s, streaming, etc.). Consumers wisely avoided this format.
63. Kitchen Entrees, Colgate (1982)
Colgate’s frozen meals failed to find a niche with consumers. The conventional wisdom here is that when people hear “Colgate,” they think “toothpaste,” the opposite thought you want them to have when buying frozen dinners.
64. Fuel Band, Nike (2014)
Nike’s wearable fitness tracker was well-received by reviewers, but failed to find a following with consumers, accounting for just 10% of the market two years after its release in 2012. By April 2014, Nike had fired most of the team behind Fuel.
65. Mighty Wings, McDonalds (2013)
No one thinks of wings when they think of McDonalds, which is why even though the wings were reportedly pretty tasty, the burger giant still had 10 million tons of unsold, frozen chicken wings to try to get rid of after the initial run of the ill-fated product. The surplus prompted a deep discount followed by discontinuation.
66. Ben-Gay Aspirin, Pfizer (1990s)
For a company famous for a pain-relieving topical cream, introducing a line of aspirin probably seemed like a natural fit, but consumers didn’t think so. Ben-Gay was famous as something that smelled strongly and went on the outside of your body, not the inside.
67. FitBit Force, FitBit (2014)
68. Campbell’s Souper Combo, Campbell’s (1989)
In 1989, Campbell’s hit upon a scheme to feed (and profit off of) hordes of office-jockies, latchkey kids, and singles, by selling them soup and a sandwich in one (frozen) package that they could microwave and then eat. Unsurprisingly, this one-person depression-in-a-box combo didn’t find a foothold.
69. Disposable Underwear and Pantyhose, Bic (1998)
While Bic’s pens, razors, and lighters were cheap and ubiquitous, consumers just couldn’t make the jump to buying disposable undies and tights from the same company. Whether it was the name brand or the fact that they were disposable, either way, this brand extension didn’t stick.
70. Yogurt, Cosmo (1999)
Yogurt, for whatever reason, seems to be disproportionately marketed towards women, so it might have made a certain kind of sense to the team at Cosmo that decided to try to slap the Cosmo brand on some yogurt and see if it sold. It didn’t. Shelves were stripped of this spurious product in six weeks.
71. The McDLT, McDonalds (1980s)
The McDLT deconstructed the fast-food hamburger, traditionally served pre-assembled, and boldly told consumers, “You put this together!” The twin Styrofoam package contained the hot portion of the sandwich (bottom bun and burger) on one side and the cold items on the other. The consumer would then, theoretically, assemble the bits of the sandwich together at a later time so that they could enjoy their still-crisp lettuce and tomato. Burger lovers passed on this unwanted innovation.
72. Grilled Cheese Burger, Friendly’s (2010)
73. P’zone, Pizza Hut (2003)
74. Trump Steaks, Donald Trump (2007)
75. DIVX, Circuit City (1998)
The brainchild of Circuit City (itself a brand that couldn’t keep up with the rapid changes in commerce in a post-Amazon world), DIVX discs were sort of one-way rentals that also couldn’t compete with that new thing called Netflix. How it worked was, you bought a DIVX player (which only Circuit City would sell you), then rented/bought the DIVX discs and watched the videos on them for up to two days. After that, you could just toss the discs out or pay an additional fee to continue watching them.
76. Iridium Satellite Phones, Iridium (1998)
Sometimes an idea fails because it’s ahead of its time. Iridium launched 66 linked satellites into orbit to use for their satellite phone network. Now come the downsides: dollars-per-minute usage rates (ouch) and a cellphone reportedly the size of a brick.
77. Intellivision, Mattel (1979)
Development for this sort-of-ahead-of-its-time console began less than a year after the Atari 2600’s. This was back in the days before anyone knew what a video game system or company was supposed to be or would turn into, so a children’s toymaker like Mattel getting into video games probably seemed less odd then than it does to us now. Intellivision was the world’s first 16-bit video game system, featured voice synthesis, and even let you download new games. It was killed by poor marketing, an insufficient controller, and a broader crash in the North American video gaming industry in the early 1980s.
78. Digital Audio Tapes, Sony (1987)
DATs were supposed to replace conventional audio tapes and allow higher-quality recordings. Ironically, the music industry was concerned about piracy and didn’t want the public to have access to a high-quality read-writable format … like … mp3s?
79. Sapphire iPhone Screens, Apple and GT Advanced Technologies (2014)
Apple’s iPhone 6 was originally supposed to come complete with super-tough Sapphire screens, but the process for making them (bake giant bricks of sapphire in a furnace for a month, then slice them into sheets for the phones) killed the product before it could launch. Between that insane fabrication method and Apple’s famously demanding production schedules, the Sapphire screen had no chance.
80. PCJr, IBM (1984)
IBM’s first foray into the home PC world was a substantial flop (ironic considering that for at least a decade or two, all non-Apple computers would be called “IBMs” or “IBM compatible,” regardless of manufacturer). While there were plenty of weaknesses to harp on, probably the biggest flaw was its chiclet-style keyboard, which reviewers reported was near unusable.
81. Mac G4 Cube, Apple (1999)
Apple’s ambitious cube crammed a full PC into a little package that no one much cared for, though it did open the door for similar compact computers. It was plagued by overheating, case cracking, and was underpowered to boot, a triple-threat that consumers passed on.
82. eWorld, Apple and AOL (1994)
In 1994, people still didn’t know what the online world would look like or grow into, but it wasn’t Apple and AOL’s huggable-looking cartoon world, which encompassed bulletin boards, chatrooms, and more in an easy-to-use interface … that no one ever heard about. Apple’s CEO at the time, Michael Spindler, declined to promote the service and charged high fees for those who did dare to use it.
83. Watermelon Oreos, Oreo (2013-14)
Flavored Oreos can be great (golden, birthday cake, reverse, etc.) but these just went too far. This weird flavor combination failed to find a following with consumers. It was only available for a limited time anyway, which is just as well.
84. Touch of Yogurt Shampoo, Bristol-Myers Squibb (1979)
Yogurt is one of those things that usually thought of (in the US, anyway) as just sort of generally healthy and good for you, without much scrutiny or rigor. That was likely the “wisdom” behind integrating the foodstuff into this beauty product, which was reportedly consumed by some unlucky customers who saw “yogurt” on the packaging and decided that the reasonable thing to do was taste it.
85. Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water, Coors Brewing Company (1990)
86. Breakfast Mates, Kellogg’s (1998)
87. Smokeless Cigarettes, RJ Reynolds (1989)
In an era when second-hand smoke and not the exhalations of vapers was the primary concern of smokers and non-smokers alike, RJ Reynolds aimed to eliminate second-hand smoke and thus preserve or even expand their customer base by delivering a smokeless cigarette. It worked by burning a charcoal lump at the end of the plastic tube which was pretty much impossible to light and, according to RJ Reynold’s own CEO said “Tasted like sh*t.”
88. US Football League, Donald Trump and Others (1982)
Football league competitor to the NFL, created in 1982 and headed up by none other than Donald Trump himself. It originally played in the spring and summer to avoid competing directly against the NFL. Riddled with problems from the outset, it eventually started turning around, just in time for “The Donald” himself to crash it right into the ground by … trying to compete directly with the NFL. Several cities folded immediately, feeling they couldn’t go head-to-head with the NFL teams already in their cities. Date of death: spring 1985.
89. Cimarron, Cadillac (1982)
Many of these flops were born of legacy companies looking to change to stay competitive or relevant. The Cimarron was Cadillac’s attempt to scale down their famously huge cars in favor of something smaller and more fuel-efficient. The result was underwhelming on all fronts: small, boxy, and outclassed by foreign luxury cars. It pleased no one and was phased out after six years in production (probably five too many).
90. Pinto, Ford (1970)
Sometimes a flop is born from laziness or oversight, in this case bordering on criminal negligence, as Ford went with shoddy materials in this car that notoriously burst into flames when struck from behind. It was revealed later that a simple upgraded part in production would have prevented the lethal accidents and fixing all the faulty models on the road ultimately cost the auto giant more than they’d spent producing the cars themselves.
91. Aztek, Pontiac (2001)
Possibly seeking to emulate stylistically the pyramids of the culture that is its namesake, the Aztek suffered from an unappealing design that some consumers thought looked too much like a minivan, leading to low sales and a short production run (4 years).
92. X-90, Suzuki (1997)
On paper, the Suzuki X-90 doesn’t sound like such a bad idea: a compact, two-door SUV, seemingly perfect for two-person adventures. It handled poorly and its unorthodox styling was widely regarded as “ugly,” as evidenced by its sales record of 7,000 units over its three-year production run.
93. Cheetos Lip Balm, Cheetos (2005)
Getting Cheeto dust all over your lips (and fingers, and keyboard, and literally everything else) is easily the worst part of eating Cheetos, so the idea of purposefully smearing your lips with something Cheeto-scented/flavored clearly didn’t appeal to many.
94. Disc 4000, Kodak (1982)
Living in an era of way-too-many cameras, it’s worth remembering an time when they were expensive, valued, and needed to be filled with this stuff called “film.” Kodak’s “Disc 4000” model used a disc of film instead of the usual rolls. The thinking behind the disc was that it’d be easier for consumers to use. Instead it turned out photos that were small and blurry. Despite the film’s flaws (and production of the camera itself being discontinued by the 1989), the now-defunct film company continued producing the discs for it until 1998.
95. Wave, Google (2009)
Wave was an ambitious platform designed to keep people connected as a combination text and social media platform. The clunky interface and lack of an audience saw this product shelved about a year after its release.
96. Xybernaut Poma Wearable PC, Xybernaut and Hitachi (2002)
This early-stage wearable had failure written all over it, boasting clunky hardware, poor performance, Windows CE only, and a $1,500 price tag, but the worst thing about this piece of wearable hardware is that you can’t possibly wear it out of the house.
97. NW-HD1 Audio Player, Sony (2004)
Another entrant in the perennial format wars, this music player was almost a good idea with a slick aluminum casing and a small size for the 20 gigs of memory it held. The format was the problem, though: it only played a proprietary format, ATRAC3. No mp3s, no WAVs, and no WMAs meant “no sales.”
98. Philips CD-i, Phillips (1991)
From our position of privilege in the future, where Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are pretty much the only gaming hardware producers, it’s easy for us to declare all competitors in gaming hardware … misguided. But in 1991, Philips could have been forgiven for throwing its hat into the ring with a gaming console. What they couldn’t be forgiven for was the $700 price tag and lack of decent games.
99. Nokia N-Gage, Nokia (2003)
Back in 2003, we weren’t all playing games on our phones. You still had to have two different devices: one for games and one for making calls. Nokia’s N-Gage was an attempt at combining phones and gaming, it was just a bad one: it looked awful, cost $300, and you had to take the back case off and the battery out to change games.
100. PSP Go, Playstation 2009
The PSP performed admirably, despite its weird format choice of UMDs for its games. The Go was smaller and sleeker, but lacked the ability to use UMDs, so there was little incentive for PSP fans to “upgrade” to this one. Go also had a weak catalog at the exact moment when phone games were storming onto the scene, trampling this underwhelming console beneath their heels.
101. WebTV, WebTV Networks (1996)
Turned your TV into a low-grade web-surfing computer, but in 1996, there wasn’t enough to do online to make casual consumers pay for this or the monthly fee.
102. Raspberry-Filled Donuts, Krispy Kreme
In 2016, a California man filed suit against the donut chain after he learned that their raspberry-filled donuts were not the shining paragons of nutrition he once believed them to be. The suit alleges that, because the donuts are not made with real fruit, the consumer was denied vitamins he might otherwise have received had the filling been genuine. While the donuts have not officially been discontinued, this lawsuit may impact Krispy Kreme’s fruit-filled offerings in the future.
103. JooJoo Tablet, TechCrunch and Fusion Garage (2010)
The JooJoo Tablet was envisioned as an open-source, Linux-based, preemptive strike against the iPad. Originally called the CrunchPad and backed by TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, the tablet’s proposed features and $200 price point were enough to get the critics excited. But its development, with Singapore startup Fusion Garage, was rocky from the start. Early prototypes were encouraging, but the estimated price kept creeping up, eventually hitting $500 for a tablet with a 4-gig hard drive vs. the original iPad, whose cheapest offering was $499 with 16 gigs of storage. The troubled product launched March 25, 2010, just weeks before the iPad came out and set the bar for all future tablets. The internal strife, high price point, weak specs, and lack of app support ultimately doomed this early tablet.
104. Frescata, Wendy’s (2006)
Wendy’s claim to fame is their “always-fresh, never-frozen” beef. But the Frescata showed them that even with a commitment to fresh ingredients, people really don’t want a cold cut sandwich from anyplace except a sandwich shop. The burger chain tried to capture more diners with these ciabatta roll creations, but they never caught on, maybe partially due to the added fact that they actually took longer to prepare than a burger.
105. Cologne, Harley Davidson (1990)
Harley Davidson cologne shows that not just tech and fast food companies can overextend themselves with an off-the-wall product. Whatever smells one might associate with the venerable motorcycle company, even the most committed biker was likely not clamoring for a branded cologne. Especially not one with the slogan, “The scent of freedom,” and which, according to one description, possessed “Top notes [of] bergamot and mint … [and a base of] patchouli and sandalwood.”
106. Airboard, Sony (2004)
The Sony Airboard was, unwittingly, another pre-iPad attempt at building a tablet. Launched in 2004, the Airboard boasted wireless streaming TV and internet access, but at $1,300 the price was far too high for what was likely seen as as an expensive portable TV. Sony abandoned the product completely in 2008.
107. Galaxy Note 7, Samsung (2016)
Few corporate flops on this list have been as explosive as this one. Launched in August of 2016, the Note 7 boasted powerful hardware and had consumers chomping at the bit to get their hands on them. The anticipation quickly faded, though, as reports of Note 7s catching fire started hitting the news. By September 2, Samsung had stopped sales of the device. Next came a formal recall in the US on September 15th and a worldwide recall on October 10th. The product was completely abandoned on October 11th.
108. AIBO, Sony (1999 — 2005)
Who wants a robotic dog? Put your hands down, the answer is everyone. AIBO was a robotic dog by Sony that could respond to 100 commands and speak. This excited the public, who bought up Sony’s first brood (in 1999) of 3,000 units in less than a half hour. However, despite continuing to release new versions until 2005 and garnering a strong cult following, these companion robots never became a money-maker for the electronics giant. Sony finally ceased supporting the robotic creatures in 2006. That year, Dr. Toshitada Doi, godfather of the program that birthed AIBO, staged a mock funeral for his creation, declaring that the experimental spirit that AIBO represented at Sony had died.
109. Murano CrossCabriolet, Nissan (2011 — 2014)
Nissan’s Murano has been a fairly successful crossover SUV, but the short-lived convertible variant was anything but. Seemingly combining the worst elements of an SUV and a convertible (including strange body styling and poor rear visibility with the top up), the CrossCabriolet started its life as a concept car before heading to factories and then to dealer lots. It retailed for a hefty $48,000, found few takers over its four years in production, and was discontinued in 2014.
110. Mylo, Sony (2006 — 2010)
The Mylo was Sony’s bid for the disposable income of a generation of teenagers: an instant-messaging and internet-browsing device, which must have seemed awesome(ish?) in the four months between when the Mylo hit shelves in September of 2016 and January of 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. Short for “My Life Online,” the device used only Wi-Fi (no cellular connection) and even sported a physical keyboard. The kicker? It retailed for $349 at launch, and that was with a whole gig of storage.
111. Allo, Google (2016 — 2018)
Google has tried again and again to field a viable messaging alternative to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Apple’s iMessage, and it has failed each time. The latest casualty is Allo, which launched in September 2016. After less than two years pushing Allo, Google announced in April 2018 that it was “pausing” development of the app in favor of a new messaging effort it’s calling “Chat.” This means Allo is effectively dead, even if it is supported for a few more years. Google’s own head of messaging Anil Sabharwal admitted that Allo didn’t even come close to meeting Google’s hopes. “We set out to build this thing, that it [would be] a product that we would get hundreds of millions of people to get excited about and use,” he told The Verge. “And where we are, we’re not feeling like we’re on that trajectory.”
Why did Allo fail? To begin with, it did not have the advantage of being the default messenger on Android phones. Google had to push users to download it, and this was difficult, given the traction other platforms had already gained. Plus, Allo had no real differentiating features. It was basically just another good enough messaging app. In the end, only 50 million people downloaded it, The Verge reported. Allo’s failure can be seen as another Google defeat in the field of social apps. It’s not just messaging that has been a third rail for Google. More broadly, social apps have been a problem. From Google+ to Google Wave to Google Buzz (see above), and now Allo, Google can’t seem to build social platforms. It seems Google is better at delivering services like search, advertising, email and maps, than it is at content and connecting people.
112. & 113. Carousel and Mailbox, Dropbox (2014 — 2016)
In 2014, Dropbox decided it had a shot at becoming a consumer app platform. It would leverage its millions of users who relied on it for safe online storage of their files and offer them new services on top of that. One of these new apps was Carousel, which aimed to become the central photo archive for users. Another one was Mailbox, an email app. The problem was that Dropbox users didn’t look to Dropbox for added service, and Carousel and Mailbox did little that couldn’t be done in apps fielded by Google, Apple, Microsoft, and even Facebook. The failure of Dropbox’s “app constellation” turned out to be a lesson in how competing with tech’s Big 5 is an uphill battle. Product releases from the big tech companies simply took all the air out of the room. Not every product can grow into a platform, and Dropbox learned that lesson thanks to Carousel and Mailbox. More recently, Dropbox has refocused on its core competency as a cloud storage app, and improved its traction in the business-to-business market. Its IPO this year revealed a cloud storage company generating $1.1B in revenue in 2017, and $68M in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.
114. Wii U, Nintendo (2012 — 2016)
While a few Wii U consoles were still being produced early in 2017 in the Japanese market, the system that marked a low point in Nintendo’s corporate history was effectively killed at the end of 2016. The Wii U was a resounding failure. The Wii U sold only about 13.6M units in its entire lifetime. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch, its successor launched in 2017, is expected to sell that many units by April of 2018, just a year or so after launch.
What made the Wii U so unlovable? It was a relatively complicated system with a UI that wasn’t up to the already mobile-influenced user standards of the time. It failed to innovate on its predecessors’ introduction of physical play and motion as an integral aspect of gaming. It also had relatively few hit titles tied to it once the buzz around launch titles had dissipated, so enthusiasm wore off. Nintendo’s huge success with the Switch, a whole new type of console that is portable and is being bolstered by a succession of hit games, shows the Japanese company learned its lessons well.
115. Mercedes home battery pack (2017 — 2018)
Daimler, parent of the Mercedes-Benz car brand, decided that it would go after the US home energy market. It teamed up with Vivint, which installs solar systems, and marketed an energy storage battery that looked quite a bit like Tesla’s Powerwall system. Like the Powerwall, the Mercedes-Benz battery was intended to store energy from solar panels. The major flaw in solar power is that it obviously is basically produced during the day and in sunny weather, so storage systems are needed if electricity is to be generated at other times. However, in April 2018 Mercedes-Benz announced that it’s dissolving the US subsidiary set up to run this home energy business and ceasing manufacturing of home battery packs globally. What happened to the would-be Tesla killer? It was expensive for the market, and basically over-served its customers. One Daimler spokesperson told Greentech Media: “It’s not necessary to have a car battery at home: They don’t move, they don’t freeze. It’s over-designed.”
116. Reckitt-Benckiser Group, Amopé electronic foot file (2016 — ?)
The Amopé electronic foot file, marketed under the Scholl name outside the US market, has dragged down the consumer packaged goods giant that also owns well-known brands like Lysol. The foot file was marketed by model Chrissy Teigen, but sales fell flat for the rechargeable $65 gadget, and because of poor results, retailers also scaled back on display area from adjacent products from Reckitt. In fact, the foot file had such a bad impact on the company that the CEO singled it out during a recent earnings call. “On gadgets I would say, we have been badly burned,” said Rakesh Kapoor. “It has been a terrible, terrible model.” Perhaps Reckitt will go back to new sizes and packaging to boost sales instead of trying to innovate with gadgets. Or perhaps it needs to go back to the gadget drawing board. The foot file is still available … for now.