Every now and then, a product comes along that makes you think “Yes!!! This is the things that has been missing from my life up till this point!” And it truly does change your life (the internet and the George Foreman grill are the two that spring to my mind). But more often than not, product launches are mediocre and the new thing being launched is just a slightly different version of something else.
Then, once every so often, a product comes along that is far from mediocre – it’s such an enormous, mind-blowing failure that everyone who sees it can only gasp. And that’s what we’re celebrating today- products so poorly-conceived, so hopeful in their launch and so disastrous in their fall that they qualify as one of our Top 10 Failed Products.
10. New Coke
One of the most famous examples was New Coke, a launch by Coca-Cola in 1985. Obviously oblivious to the phrase “never mess with a winning formula”, they decided to change the recipe of Coke that had served them so well, and relaunch it with a fanfare of trumpets. The Chief Executive at the time, Roberto Goizueta, described the new taste as ” smoother, uh, uh, rounder yet, uh, yet bolder…a more harmonious flavor” and, initially, consumers agreed and kept buying Coke as normal. Then there came the backlash – mainly from loyalists in the South, who saw it as some kind of continuation of the Civil War. Eventually, the vocal minority won out and the old formula was restored, although many said it was never quite the same again.
9. Bic Pantyhose
I’d love to have been in the meeting where this product was first discussed…”So, what should we develop to go alongside our best-selling pens and disposable razors?” “Errr…underwear?” “Yes!” Unlikely as it seems, a conversation along those lines must have happened, as Bic decided to launch “disposable” pantyhose to go alongside its other disposable lines.
But production problems ensued – apparently you can’t make pantyhouse in an injection mould like you can with cigarette lighters – and the brand name wasn’t strong enough to convince people to buy. The “disposable” theme didn’t really carry through either, as it’s actually possible to get more than one wear out of a garment like this, provided you avoid sharp nails. It requires a strong suspension of disbelief to see pens and underwear in the same range, but someone at Bic must have believed they could get away with it!
8. Jell-o for Salads
Some of these ideas sound basically good, but there are a few which just make you feel faintly nauseous. Like the idea of savory Jell-o. In the first half of the 20th century, there was a trend for congealed salads – vegetables encased in gelatine products – and cooks were having to use lime Jell-o, as the most savory-friendly flavor. So, Jell-o responded by introducing a line of Jell-o for salads in tomato, mixed vegetable and celery. Weirdly, it never caught on and the line was discontinued. But good old lime flavor is still out there if you fancy giving the congealed salad recipe a go yourself.
Weirdly, Jell-o is also the official snack of Utah, as it’s popular with the Mormon community. But even they would shy away from mixed vegetable flavor, I suspect!
7. Multi-Colored Ketchup
There’s more food meddling in this next entry, as, in 2000, Heinz ignored the lesson of Coke and messed with a winning formula, in this case tomato-colored ketchup, which had been selling quietly and consistently for the company for over 100 years.
Wanting to appeal to the kids, Heinz launched a new range of ketchups in wacky colors, like electric blue, and “funky purple”. The whole thing was slightly mystifying, given that any self-respecting 4-year-old slathers their food in ketchup anyway, and it certainly didn’t appeal to parents. Strangely enough, parents prefer their children’s food to resemble the base ingredient, where possible, rather than resembling something that fell out of an alien’s nose. Needless to say, it didn’t last long.
6. Levi’s Type 1 Jeans
Now, there’s no discernible reason why this particular product failed so badly – after all, Levi’s haven’t had many misfires in their blue-jean-producing history. But that’s often the way with products – the greater the fanfare, the more likely it is to disappoint. The Type 1 jeans had all the Levi’s hallmarks, such as the red tab, oversized buttons and obvious stitching. But even an expensive Superbowl commercial didn’t shift the jeans, partly because of the crazy pricing strategy that saw some retailers selling them for $100, while others priced them at $30. The air of general confusion added nothing to the sale of the product and Levi’s discontinued the line, in order to focus on known best sellers. It seems that consumers prefer their jeans to be understated, both in terms of “features” and product launches…