These products were supposed to be the next big thing
It takes a lot of hard work to make an innovative new product. The trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to tell if your idea is crazy enough to work or just plain nuts. The inventors of these 30 failed products found that out the hard way when their “fantastic ideas” went down in very public flames. Whether they had created something that literally nobody wanted, or just cobbled together a worse version of a good product, the inventors of these things failed so hard you kind of have to admire them for it. Read on and see if you remember any of these terrible, strange, or just plain dumb products.
1. Ford Edsel
The 1958 Ford Edsel is a classic example of a brand new car gone horribly wrong. Though Ford conducted years of consumer polls before rolling out the Edsel, the company had a tendency to skew the poll data to support what they wanted to do anyway, ignoring what real people wanted in a car. As a result, the Edsel was an overpriced gas guzzler that nobody wanted.
Even worse for Ford, the stock market took a dive just before the Edsel was released. Ford’s target market of middle-class car buyers was shaken by the decline in their investment accounts and not interested in buying cars. All told, Ford spent $250 million on the Edsel and lost $350 million.
NEXT: This invention smells like a great big failure.
How often do you find yourself totally absorbed in a movie, only to be pulled out of the experience because although you see and hear the action, you can’t smell it? If you’re like most people, this never happens. Yet, in 1959 and 1960 two companies battled to be the one to put the smells into cinema.
Smell-O-Vision and their competitor AromaRama pumped scents into movie theaters to match the on-screen action. Unfortunately for the smell-trepreneurs, there were many obvious problems with this idea. For one thing, scents were released through the air conditioning vents and didn’t travel evenly throughout the theaters. Additionally, sometimes you really, really don’t want to smell your movies.
NEXT: From movie theaters to your home theater, there are flops to be found everywhere.
3. Sony Betamax
This is one flopped gadget that some people actually remember fondly. The Sony Betamax came out in 1979 and competed with JVC’s VHS format to capture the home video viewing market. Although the Betamax offered better video quality, as we all know it lost the battle to VHS.
For starters, Betamax was bigger, making the tapes and players cost more to produce. Plus, you could only fit about an hour of video on one of those big, clunky Betamax tapes, while a VHS tape could hold two hours. Betamax couldn’t compete with its nimbler competitor, and Sony’s attempt to dominate the home viewing realm went the way of the LaserDisc.
NEXT: This retro shampoo comes with a big touch of fail.
4. Clairol Touch of Yogurt Shampoo
In the ’70s, natural beauty products were coming into vogue. Many shampoos featured ingredients like fruit, honey, and even beer. At the same time, yogurt was touted as a popular new health food. The geniuses at Clairol put two and two together, and it all added up to Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt Shampoo.
The trouble is, very few people want to wash their hair with sour, fermented milk. Even worse, this wasn’t Clairol’s first brush with sour milk. The company had previously tried and failed with their Touch of Buttermilk Shampoo in 1974. Thankfully, these days beauty companies are leaving milk where it belongs: in the dairy aisle.
NEXT: This failed soft drink has been called one of the worst ideas of the twentieth century.
5. New Coke
The soda wars of the ’80s raged hard, with Coke and Pepsi at the forefront. As Pepsi ads showed off taste tests proving that the average person liked their sweeter pop better, Coke knew they had to do something. So, in 1985, Coke unveiled New Coke, an even sweeter cola that they vowed would replace old Coke forever.
Coke fans were outraged. Even if New Coke had tasted good (which it didn’t), loyal Coca-Cola drinkers didn’t want to give up their favorite bubbly drink. After just three months, Coke gave up on the new formula and brought back Old Coke, now known as Coca-Cola Classic.
NEXT: Pepsi made mistakes in the ’80s too, and this one was even weirder than Crystal Pepsi.
6. Pepsi AM
You probably remember Pepsi’s biggest flop, clear Crystal Pepsi, but another truly bizarre failed Pepsi product has been largely forgotten. In 1989, Pepsi came out with Pepsi AM, a soda designed to replace your morning coffee. According to Pepsi’s ads at the time, Pepsi AM contained 28% more caffeine than a regular can of Pepsi.
Unfortunately for Pepsi AM’s ambitions, the breakfast pop still had 77% less caffeine than the coffee it hoped to replace. Additionally, although soda in the morning was a bit of a trend at the time, it never really became normal or mainstream. Due to dismal sales, Pepsi AM was taken off the shelves in 1990.
NEXT: This product hoped to smoke out the competition, but it flopped miserably.
7. RJ Reynolds Smokeless Cigarettes
Yes, you read that right. In 1989, RJ Reynolds introduced the first smokeless cigarettes in response to backlash against the negative health effects of smoking. Instead of burning like traditional cigarettes, the smokeless cigs contained charcoal that produced a slower, less smokey burn.
Despite their health-conscious marketing, these smokeless cigarettes were destined to land in the what-were-they-thinking junk pile. They were incredibly difficult to light and it was hard to inhale enough nicotine for the smokeless cigarettes to feel worthwhile. Plus, for many smokers smoke is what makes cigarettes enjoyable in the first place. Don’t feel too bad for Reynolds though. The company is now one of the leading manufacturers of e-cigarettes.
NEXT: You won’t believe how this company actually failed at making bottled water.
8. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water
Due to the nature of basic human biology, water is a product that pretty much sells itself. We need water or we’ll die, so we’re happy to shell out a few bucks for a bottle of water when we’re parched. Yet somehow, in 1990 Coors managed to fail horribly at selling bottled sparkling water.
Coors used the same spring water that goes into their beer for their new line of bottled water, but they had a lot of problems. Part of the issue was the Coors logo on the Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water confused lots of consumers who assumed it was an alcoholic product. After two unsuccessful years, Coors finally discontinued their bottled water.
NEXT: The iPad’s grandpa was a great, big dud.
9. Apple Newton
Before Apple launched the iPod, iPad, and iPhone, the struggling company had the ambition needed to create world-changing devices. Too bad their technology just wasn’t quite up to the challenge yet. In 1993, Apple unveiled its first tablet, the Newton, but sadly the clunky early tablet couldn’t live up to its marketing hype.
The Newton even came with a stylus, allowing users to write on the tablet’s surface. However, the handwriting feature wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and the Newton was widely ridiculed for this faulty feature. Apple gave up on the Newton, but they didn’t give up on their tablet dreams. Today, the iPad is still the most popular, high-quality tablet around.
NEXT: Before there was Windows 95, Microsoft came out with this stinker of an operating system.
10. Microsoft Bob
In 1995, the average computer wasn’t as user-friendly as what we use today. In an effort to make it easier to navigate a personal computer, Microsoft rolled out Microsoft Bob. This operating system displayed all of a computer’s programs and functions inside of a house. For example, to open a word processing program, you would click your way over to the desk and click on a paper and pen.
The problem was, Microsoft Bob took an enormous amount of computing power to run. Computers in that time were slower and struggled with the heavy load of the running this program. Some vestiges of Bob live on, like Rover the cartoon dog assistant, and you can see the product’s influence in later Microsoft failures like Clippy.
NEXT: This attempt at virtual reality was an actual nightmare.
11. Nintendo Virtual Boy
The 1995 Nintendo Virtual Boy was an early stab at virtual reality gaming, but it came out a loser for many different reasons. The Virtual Boy featured a big clunky console and a headset for viewing. However, because the display only showed red and black, the games had no chance of looking realistic unless you were an actual demon or a citizen of Tron.
Concerned that the headset could damage players’ eyes, Nintendo built a timer into the device reminding users to take a break from playing every 15 minutes. This timer combined with warnings on the box made people fear the system could be dangerous. Plus, the games that came with it weren’t anywhere near as fun as regular Nintendo’s offerings.
NEXT: This fancy burger was a flop ahead of its time.
12. McDonalds Arch Deluxe
Upscale burgers are big business these days. Try walking a few blocks in any city without running into a restaurant serving a $15 burger with arugula and goat cheese. This wasn’t always the case, however. Back in 1996, McDonald’s tried and failed to bring a more sophisticated adult burger to consumers.
The grown-up burger was called the Arch Deluxe, and it featured peppered bacon and a “secret” mayonnaise and mustard based sauce. It may have tasted good, but the marketing was confusing. Commercials depicted kids grimacing in disgust at the adult burger. Who would have thought calling a burger gross would make it hard to sell?
NEXT: This failed soft drink was out of this world bad.
13. Orbitz Soda
Orbitz Soda combined the fun of drinking a lava lamp with the great taste of cough syrup. With so much going for it, it’s hard to see why this beverage wasn’t a hit. All kidding aside, this was one weird drink. Advertisers dubbed it a “texturally enhanced alternative beverage,” which is code for “we’re not really sure what’s going on here.”
Little balls of colored gelatin floated in the bad-tasting drink, making each bottle look like a tiny lava lamp. Orbitz launched in 1997 and was discontinued in the same year. If you really want a bottle of Orbitz these days, you’ll have to look on eBay, where some sellers are asking for up to $20 for one unopened bottle.
NEXT: These chips had people jumping out of their seats, in the worst way.
14. Frito Lay WOW Chips
Anyone who made the mistake of snacking on Frito Lay’s 1998 WOW Chips will never forget the horror this cheerful little snack brought upon us. WOW Chips promised great tasting, fat-free chips, but the secret ingredient caused quite a stir. WOW Chips were made using a compound called Olestra instead of fat.
What the ad campaigns left out is that if you consume too much Olestra it has a strong laxative effect. If you stuck to the serving size on the bag, the Olestra effect was not supposed to kick in, but when has anyone followed the portions set out on their snack foods? Once word got out about the chips’ side effects, America dropped WOW Chips like a hot potato.
NEXT: This women’s magazine tried to branch out in a very confusing way.
15. Cosmopolitan Yogurt
Cosmopolitan Yogurt was one of the most baffling attempts at expanding a brand that we’ve ever seen. While it stands to reason that a woman who reads Cosmo might also enjoy snacking on yogurt from time to time, why would she trust a beauty magazine as her yogurt purveyor? It just didn’t make any sense.
The thought process behind Cosmopolitan Yogurt remains unclear. The doomed yogurt hit grocery store shelves in 1999 and was discontinued later that year. Since then, Cosmo has been content to stick to sex tips and horoscopes and leave the yogurt business to the pros.
NEXT: These dorky scooters were supposed to be the wave of the future.
In 2001, America got its first glimpse of the Segway Personal Transporter, and life would never be the same for mall cops everywhere. The geeky self-balancing scooter was praised by many tech leaders, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Even Apple’s Steve Jobs thought that one day cities would be built around it as a primary mode of transportation.
With a starting price of $5,000, the scooters were too expensive to really take off. Plus, many cities and destinations like Disneyland banned them from walkways. With a top speed of about 12 miles per hour, they weren’t fast enough for the streets either.
NEXT: This ridiculous gadget failed with a loud thump.
17. Oakley THUMP
If I had a nickel for every time I wished my sunglasses had a built-in MP3 player, I still wouldn’t have any nickels. Yet somehow, for some reason in 2004 Oakley decided that creating a sunglasses MP3 player combot was the most logical next step for their brand. Oakley THUMP was available in 256 MB, 512 MB, or a 1GB version and cost $249 to $349.
The glasses also featured flip up lenses so they could be worn over prescription glasses or indoors, meaning the wearer would never have to be without their MP3 playing shades. Amazingly enough, the product lasted until 2007.
NEXT: Get ready for another big MP3 player fail.
18. Microsoft Zune
Five years after the iPod hit the scene, Microsoft fired back with their take on the portable MP3 player. The original Zune was a brown, clunky answer to Apple’s revolutionary device that dared to ask, what if you made an iPod but worse? Although the Zune had some cool features, it wasn’t able to capture the public imagination the way the iPod did.
For example, two Zune users could transfer songs to each other over wifi. However, due to record company concerns about piracy, you could only play a transferred song three times before it would disappear. By 2011, after five years on the market, Microsoft decided it was time for the Zune to disappear too.
NEXT: This $300 flip phone was actually a flop phone.
19. Mobile ESPN
In 2006, one year before Apple launched the first iPhone, ESPN tried getting into the smartphone game. Mobile ESPN was a $300 flip phone that came with a wireless service that cost up to $225 a month. Sports fanatics who dropped their cash on the device would get notifications about sports events, could browse ESPN’s website, and more.
However, when the iPhone came out shortly after, it seemed silly to spend that much just to visit one website. Still, ESPN has a huge mobile presence to this day, and they still use much of the software infrastructure they built for Mobile ESPN to send push notifications today.
NEXT: Sony fought this device in the video format wars of the early 2000s, and this time they came out on top.
20. HD DVD
It looks like Sony learned at least one thing from their earlier Betamax failure. When HD television sets started gaining mainstream popularity, it became clear that DVDs needed to catch up. In response, Sony released the Blu-ray player which has now become the standard for high definition video players.
Their competition came from Toshiba’s HD DVD. Sony managed to crush HD DVD by forming exclusive relationships with major film studios. With some of the biggest and most popular movies coming out only on Blu-ray, HD DVD simply couldn’t compete. Toshiba discontinued the HD DVD format in 2008 after just two years on the market.
NEXT: This early video sharing software really missed the mark.
After the incredible success of their video calling software, Skype’s inventors had their eye on creating a tool to allow users to watch video from the Internet. So, in 2007 Joost was born with a promise to let you watch TV shows and sports events at any time. If this sounds familiar, that’s because YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu eventually found a way to do the same thing but better.
Like Skype, Joost relied on users downloading an application. However, unlike Skype, the Joost application was clunky and not very fun to use. Joost was sold in 2009 and eventually folded in 2012.
NEXT: This lively web game met an early demise.
22. Google Lively
Does anyone remember Second Life? Back in 2008, it was a popular online game that let you literally live a second life. Players could create avatars, buy things, and talk to other players in a massive multiplayer universe. When Google saw the success of this game, they couldn’t help but wonder, what if there was a second Second Life?
That’s where Lively came in. Google’s foray into the online gaming world, Lively, was very short lived lasting just four and a half months. As an economic crisis mounted in the fall of 2008, Google pulled the plug on the project to focus more on its core business consisting of ads, search, and apps.
NEXT: This gadget tried to come for the iPad, but it wound up on the fail pile.
The JooJoo was an absurdly named tablet that came out just before the original iPad in 2010, but it has since been lost to the sands of time. After plenty of drama in production, the product that was originally supposed to launch as TechCrunch founder’s CrunchPad was released to the world with a new name: JooJoo.
Unfortunately for JooJoo, it was no match for the iPad. It weighed more, didn’t handle video as well, and it had a somewhat confusing operating system, but the real JooJoo killer was the lack of apps. By the time the iPad came out, there were hundreds of apps in Apple’s Appstore for users to choose from. By comparison, the JooJoo had nothing and was soon discontinued.
NEXT: This device was a major misstep for a company that once dominated the PDA market.
24. Blackberry PlayBook
There was a time when owning and being addicted to your Blackberry device was a kind of status symbol. Fiddling with your Blackberry was a power move, a way to show the world how very busy and important you are. In contrast to the utilitarian gadgets they’d made before, 2011’s Blackberry PlayBook took everything useful about the Blackberry and turned it on its head.
The Blackberry PlayBook was fine for watching videos or browsing the web, but it had a pretty basic fatal flaw. It was impossible to check your email from a PlayBook unless you also owned another Blackberry device and tethered the two together. By 2011, the general public was used to doing it all on one device, so the PlayBook was bound to lose.
NEXT: One popular streaming service almost cut their whole business in two.
High on the hog of Netflix’s streaming success, in 2011 the company announced a plan to split into two distinct services. Netflix would remain the home of streaming movies and binge-watching The Office again, and a new service Qwikster would handle DVD rentals by mail. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Netflix customers absolutely hated the idea. After all, who wants to deal with managing two accounts when you’ve been doing just fine with one? Then, Netflix stock price plummeted. Netflix listened to their customers and in a matter of months, they announced that they had canceled their Qwikster plans.
NEXT: The worst Apple wannabe product yet was an absolute disaster.
26. HP Touchpad
HP’s Touchpad wasn’t technically the worst of the Apple imitators, but HP’s promotion and immediate abandonment of this 2011 tablet set it up for epic failure. From the start, HP didn’t seem to understand how to market this device well. They held an exciting event to announce the product. Then when the hype faded, they were strangely silent on its actual release date.
Even worse, soon after the Touchpad released, HP announced that they were discontinuing it. This led to it being marked down to $99 and a buying frenzy. There weren’t enough Touchpads to keep up with demand at the new bottom of the barrel price, and retailers were forced to cancel orders.
NEXT: This ridiculous gadget looked like it was going to change the world, then we got our eyes checked.
27. Google Glass
When Google Glass was unveiled in 2013, there was a lot of excitement around the possibilities of this new wearable technology. However, once the hype dried up, Google Glass didn’t look so hot anymore. For one thing, because Google Glass wearers could be taking pictures or recording video at all times, they were banned from movie theaters and many other public places.
Besides the privacy concerns that Google Glass raised, the glasses also didn’t seem to really serve any useful or important function. Why wear a little smart tech in your glasses when you have a whole smartphone in your pocket?
NEXT: This Facebook app was a big, huge mistake.
28. Facebook Home
Facebook Home was an Android phone app that basically let Facebook take over the home screen of your smartphone. The tech giant never seemed so inescapable as when Facebook Home launched in 2013. Back then, Facebook was hugely popular and not yet embroiled in countless privacy scandals, so giving them more access to your phone seemed pretty neat.
Still, Facebook Home was a big miss. Users complained that it hid their other apps, bombarded them with obnoxious notifications, and drained their phone’s batteries. Later that year, Facebook made some updates to the app, but then never touched it again. Thus, Facebook Home quietly vanished to the sands of time.
NEXT: This smartphone turned out to be really, really dumb.
29. Amazon Fire Phone
In 2013, Amazon announced its first smartphone, the Amazon Fire Phone, and people were excited. Usually, Amazon specializes in making devices that are way cheaper than the competition but still highly functional and nice to use. However, they really missed that mark with the Fire Phone and instead rolled out a product that was too expensive for how little you could do with it.
To begin with, the phone cost about $650, which was then about the same as a new iPhone. Plus, the new device couldn’t access Google Maps or other popular apps that smartphone users expect to have. It was discontinued the very next year, but knowing Amazon it’s possible that we just might see a new and improved Fire Phone in the future.
NEXT: This last product went down in flames, literally.
30. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
In 2016, the mysterious case of the exploding smartphones made Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 a notorious failure. The phones were so faulty they were actually recalled twice. When the alleged bad batteries were replaced with new “good batteries” the phones which had previously been prone to overheating began to actually catch fire and explode.
One of the phones actually caught fire while on a plane, and the FAA soon banned them from flights. In 2017, Samsung began urging Galaxy Note 7 users to return the phones and stop using them immediately. While Samsung gave up on this particular model, they’re still in the phone game, though consumers might be wise to sit their next few phones out, just in case.