Failure is something we all have to face at one point or another, and big brands are no exception to this rule. In this write-up, you’ll learn about the world’s biggest brand failures of all time.
Rovio produced 51 flop games, before hitting gold with Angry Birds. Probably, failure, or rather multiple failures are indeed stepping stones to success!
The preferences of the public are hard to predict. Though big corporations and businesses shell out millions on market research, there is still no guarantee that the results obtained through them will be accurate. So, in the end, manufacturers are left with not much choice but to go with the ‘best bet’ while deciding to launch a new product.
Unfortunately, many times, these new products don’t fare well in the market, which results in heavy losses to the companies. There are even cases when good products become a victim to bad advertisement or wrong business decisions. In the followings sections, we shall look at 10 of the biggest product flops of all time.
In 1996, McDonald’s released its new quarter pound burger – the Arch Deluxe, which the company marketed as ‘decidedly adult’. This new jumbo burger comprised lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, and mayonnaise-dijon mustard sauce on a potato bread roll. McDonald’s spent nearly $100 million on advertisement and marketing for this new burger, which was a significantly greater amount compared to that spent on other items. Unfortunately however, the Arch Deluxe was a major flop.
There were mainly two reasons for its failure – the first was that, this burger was priced at $2.29, which was considerably higher than the Big Mac which was available at just $1.90. The second reason was the advertisement campaign that McDonald’s used. The TV ads, billboards, etc., all showed children making grossed-out faces at the burger, instead of showing satisfied adults. Clearly, the adults decided that it wasn’t worth opting for the burger simply because the kids hated it.
After the Arch Deluxe failed miserably, McDonald’s incurred heavy losses, and decided to completely reverse its original strategy, and began marketing cheaper burgers instead. One example of this approach was the 50 cent Big Mac, released in 1997.
Since 1873, Coors has sold beer, proclaiming in advertisements that it is ‘cold brewed with pure rocky mountain spring water’. Then, in 1990, the company argued that since its beer was so refreshing, why shouldn’t it sell packaged spring water as well.
This decision must have seemed quite right at the time. After all, back then, there was a growing trend towards alcohol moderation, accompanied by a growth in the bottled water segment. Coors even had the bottling infrastructure and distribution logistics in place. Coors’ venture into the market of nonalcoholic beverages―Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water―however turned out to be a big disaster!
The most probable reason for this was that, Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water had used a similar name and label as that on the Coors beer. As such, many consumers would often confuse the water for beer, which would discourage the non-alcoholics from laying their hands on it, and the sale of the bottled water remained minimal. As the final straw, the maker of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch, began publicly criticizing Coors for falsely accrediting its mountain spring water with higher quality. He even accused Coors of cutting its ‘spring water’ with water from Virginia.
As a result of its dismal sales and this added negative publicity, Coors finally canceled its water trademark in 1997.
Though colas and sodas have dominated the soft drink market for many decades, towards the end of the ’80s and ’90s, a new market trend began to emerge. People became more health conscious, and began increasingly opting for healthier and purer ‘diet’ beverages. In 1992, PepsiCo decided to enter the ‘new-age’ beverages market with its clear, caffeine-free drink – Crystal Pepsi.
PepsiCo marketed Crystal as a health beverage, and spent more than $40 million towards the cause. They even obtained permission to include Van Helen’s hit number ‘Right Now’ in their TV advertisements. Even the market tests of the time gave Crystal Pepsi a thumbs up, which prompted Coca-Cola to release Tab Clear to compete with it. With everything seeming so darn good for it, obviously, Crystal had to fail eventually!
During the first year of its release, the new Pepsi recorded very good sales figures ($470 million). However, most of these were not due to the attributes of the new beverage, but instead due to public curiosity over it. Very soon, consumers began disliking the clear color of the drink, and stopped buying into Pepsi’s health angle. Also, the fact that Crystal Pepsi tasted exactly like the original, took away the novelty element of this beverage, and Pepsi ultimately had no other choice but to discontinue it in 1993.
Natural items such as avocado juice, eggs, sour cream, yogurt, etc., may actually benefit your hair by nourishing it. But there is no bypassing the fact that, most often, the result of applying them on your hair is, well, messy! This was what the women in the ’70s were finding out the hard way!
Back then, yogurt had emerged as a new trendy food item, and the health-conscious community was all praises about it. Shampoos, back then, contained various natural ingredients, such as beer, lemon, honey, fruits, etc. So, Procter & Gamble reasoned – why not use the now popular yogurt in a shampoo?
However, few women opted for the new Clairol Touch of Yogurt Shampoo. This was mainly because they already had a preconceived notion that, yogurt application to the hair would be messy, sticky, and most of all smelly.
This product sold very poorly, and today it is no longer available in the U.S.
The failure of HP’s TouchPad is a lesson at how much damage a failed product can do. In July 2011, HP introduced its TouchPad into the market, which was its attempt at competing with Apple’s popular iPad. The TouchPad was designed with strong features, and was touted as being the sure-shot giant-killer which would slay the iPad.
HP organized several big promotional events, and spared no expense in the promotion of the TouchPad. However, consumers showed hardly any interest in the TouchPad, and most regarded it as being only a secondary option to the iPad.
HP announced that it would discontinue the TouchPad barely 49 days following its launch. They were forced to liquefy assets amounting to nearly $885 million, and another spend another $755 million towards closing down all the operations pertaining to the TouchPad’s OS.
All of this took a grave toll on HP, and the once dominant computer company has since struggled to maintain its position in the PC market. Even till date, investors are extremely cautious while investing in HP.
Edsel was named after Edsel B. Ford, Henry Ford’s only son, who passed away in 1943. This car was targeted towards consumers looking to upgrade to a higher-end mid-sized vehicle.
Ford spent a lot in the development and production of the Edsel. They ran an aggressive and highly expensive promotional campaign, which perhaps went a bit too far in raising the hopes of their customers.
Soon after the Edsel was launched, many users found out, to their dismay, that the ‘revolutionary’ Teletouch push-button transmission and electronic controls on it were unreliable. This, coupled with the high pricing of this car ($2,500 for the 4-door sedan, the Edsel Pacer, and $3,766 for the 2-door convertible) dug the grave for Edsel.
The economic slowdown in 1957 had plummeted the sales of most other car manufacturers, such as Buick, Dodge, Mercury, Pontiac, etc. In the November of 1959, after sustaining a loss of $350 million, Ford announced the end of the Edsel program.
Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, brought to the market the product Wow! Chips, which was promoted as a healthier junk food option. This was due to the use of the FDA approved fat-substitute ‘olestra’, designed by Procter & Gamble.
WOW Chips! contained significantly less calories and fats as compared to normal chips, and as such, following its release in 1998, it reached $347 million in terms of sales, making it the bestselling chips brand of the year. However, its success was short-lived.
It turned out that, olestra consumption led to diarrhea, incontinence, stomach cramping, and in some cases even hospitalization. Word of its negative effects began to spread, and Pepsi Co poured in $35 million in attempts at counteracting the issue. Yet, sales continued to decline rapidly in 1999 and 2000.
Frito-Lay renamed ‘WOW! Chips’ to ‘Light’ in 2004, and tried hard to cover up its continued use of olestra. This led to a number of lawsuits being filed against them for not including warning labels on their products. Ultimately, even the ‘Light’ chips were discontinued.
Among the numerous revolutionary products that Apple brought into the market, was the Newton MessagePad, released in 1993. It was one of the world’s first handheld devices, that offered basic computing features on-the-go. Newton garnered a number of favorable reviews owing to its advanced features, processing power, and futuristic design. Yet, it couldn’t make its mark in the market.
Apple’s Head of Product Development of the time – Steve Capps, stated that, it was Newton’s handwriting recognition feature which was to be its main selling point, that turned out to be faulty, and killed the product. Further, the device also became a victim of negative publicity, when it was observed in the news that purchasing it was essentially spending $700 on something that a simple inexpensive paper notebook could achieve. Newton was discontinued in 1998.
Coca-Cola had always held the edge in the soda market. But in the 1980s, when their shares began slipping, they decided to try something new. To bring back the public’s enthusiasm for the cola, they changed their original recipe – something which they had never done since they first entered the market nearly 99 years back.
At that time, this seemed like a wise decision. After all Pepsi had changed its flavor several times and managed to gain a significant amount of market share through it. Coca-cola spent over $30 million developing and perfecting the new formula, and more than $4 million on tasting tests. All seemed to be positive and promising.
However, when the New Coke came out, something quite unexpected happened – there was a widespread public outcry! Customers complained not so much about the new flavor, but over the fact that the original Coke was not available any more. Protest groups were formed around the country which finally forced the company to bring back the original Coke, a mere 77 days after the new one was released.
The New Coke was a big flop, but its failure proved to be a boon in disguise. The protests and public outcry upped the brand recognition quotient, with the result that Coca-Cola consequently dominated the carbonated beverage segment.
In the world of gadgets, Apple’s iPod had always been the king of music players. Only a brand as big as Microsoft could ever hope to dethrone it. With this sentiment, Microsoft developed its Zune music player in 2006 as a direct competitor to the iPod. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed!
The problem with Zune was that, it had numerous performance issues. In 2009, there were reports of thousands of Zunes freezing due to bugs in the firmware. Also, there was a belief among the consumers that the Zune, and for that matter any other music player, could never be as cool as the iPod.
Microsoft advertised its Zune ferociously, but even after spending $9 million, was able to acquire only 10.8% market share as opposed to Apple’s mammoth 86.1%. After disappointing initial sales, Microsoft doubled the advertisement investment, but the Zune still didn’t appeal to the consumers.
The Entertainment and Devices division of Microsoft lost $1.3 billion in 2006, and another $1.9 billion in 2007. With sales continuing to be low, in June 2012, Microsoft finally decided to discontinue the Zune project.