28 of the Biggest Product Launch Disasters Ever

Biggest Product Launch Disasters


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Failure to Launch

When companies bring a new product to market, there are countless things that can go wrong in development or promotion. Whether it's a flawed concept, an inflated price tag, or just a something no one needs, here are some of the most memorable product launch failures in U.S. history — including one new network's streaming service that's already being scrapped after only a month. 

Related: Companies' Most Cringe-Worthy PR Fails

CNN Plus
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Cable news giant CNN coughed up $100 million to create CNN+, a streaming service that launched on March 29. At the time, the channel was owned by AT&T, but only a week after launch, it had a new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. They immediately made it known that CNN+ was ill-conceived from the start, despite luring stars like Chris Wallace from Fox News. Only 10,000 subscribers were using the service on a daily basis, despite 500 employees dedicated to its production — most of whom will be out of a job when it's shut down at the end of April, a month after it launched. Ouch.

Related: Celebrity Businesses That Completely Flopped

Crystal Pepsi
Crystal Pepsi by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Crystal Pepsi

1992 (and 2022)

Much to Pepsi's chagrin, Crystal Pepsi remains one of the most notable food-and-drink flops of the past 50 years. Pepsi knew customers were clamoring for healthier, caffeine-free soda, but the food scientists creating Crystal Pepsi weren't even privy to Pepsi's recipe, according to Thrillist. Unsurprisingly, customers weren't sold on the taste, and even worse, it spoiled when bottles were exposed to too much sunlight. Pepsi yanked it from shelves after not quite a year — but like seemingly all things '90s, it's coming back. In honor of its 30th birthday, Crystal Pepsi will be up for grabs as part of a Twitter contest, and 300 winners will get six bottles each, the first made available in years. 

Related: Which Iconic Food Was Launched the Year You Were Born?

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Do you want to watch short-form video content on your living room TV? Probably not, which is what short-lived streaming service Quibi found out in 2020. With $1.75 billion in investments, it launched in April 2020, but was shut down in December because of dismal subscriber numbers, growing competition from premium streaming services, and lack of interest in 10-minute-or-less content. 

Related: These Are the Best (and Worst) Free Streaming Services for TV and Movies

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Though MoviePass had a slow start, once new owners came on board in 2017, things really got rolling. The price of the unlimited movie ticket subscription dropped to $10 per month, while still reimbursing the theaters for the full ticket price. The company was hedging on big partnerships in the industry to keep it afloat, but those never materialized. MoviePass hemorrhaged money, and started putting all kinds of shady restrictions and limits in place that subscribers were not aware of and did not agree to. Everyone could see that bankruptcy was inevitable, but film buffs had great fun while it lasted. 

Related: 23 Times Companies Promised More Than They Could Deliver

Juicero Juicer
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Google Plus

Google tried to make its social network seem successful by touting its early growth, but after its release, even one of the company's senior engineers criticized the platform publicly as a complete failure. The site was redesigned in 2015, the same year an independent study found that 90% of people with Google Plus profiles had never posted on the platform.

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Mobile ESPN

ESPN tried to create a mobile experience for fans — who would have to buy a special cellular device for $300 and then spend at least $65 a month on content. The company invested $150 million and reached only 6% of its sales target, then replaced Mobile ESPN in 2007 with ESPN MVP, which operated until 2013.

Cocaine Energy Drink


Redux Beverages made a bold choice to market an energy drink containing more than three times the caffeine of Red Bull under the name Cocaine, not-so-subtly advertising it as an alternative to the illegal drug. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took issue, Redux renamed the drink — first as Censored, then as Insert Name Here.

Four Loko
Four Loko

Four Loko

Combining malt liquor, caffeine, and fruity flavoring, Four Loko gained popularity among 20-something drinkers, but the company landed in hot water for allegedly targeting underage consumers and for potentially dangerous effects. Multiple states banned it in 2010 after injuries at universities, and the company released a caffeine-free version following an FDA warning.

Coca Cola C2
Coca Cola C2 by Howcheng (CC BY-SA)

Coca-Cola C2

Coca-Cola courted male consumers with a $50 million advertising campaign for C2, which had half the calories but supposedly the same taste as Coke. But C2 sales were low, and seemed to cannibalize sales of other Coke products. The company had far more success with Coke Zero, introduced the following year.

Febreze Scentstories

Febreze Scentstories

Febreze's CD-player-like device was designed to emit scents, instead of music, in half-hour cycles. Sales were hobbled by a confusing marketing campaign that focused on the endorsement of Shania Twain — a musician. The players and scent discs can still be hunted down online.

Dasani Drinking Water


Coca-Cola first advertised Dasani water as bottled "spunk" in the United Kingdom, oblivious that the term is local slang for semen. Matters worsened when consumers found out the water was purified from a London-area tap, not natural springs, and again when authorities discovered high levels of a carcinogen in it. Coke withdrew the product there and shelved plans to sell in mainland Europe.

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Renowned inventor Dean Kamen's secret product was described as a life-changing alternative to the automobile, so it didn't quite live up to expectations when consumers saw it was a high-tech motorized scooter costing $5,000. Only 24,000 sold in the first five years, far less than the forecast 10,000 a week.

Cosmo Magazine

Cosmopolitan Yogurt

Women's magazine Cosmopolitan decided to launch a line of yogurt in the late '90s. The unusual brand extension, with steeper prices than traditional yogurts, was discontinued after only 18 months.

Wow! Chips
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Wow Chips

These fat-free potato chips from Frito-Lay sold well in their first year, but sales plummeted by 2000, when it was discovered that they caused abdominal cramping and diarrhea due to the presence of the ingredient olestra. An FDA requirement for a warning label was lifted and the brand name was changed to "Light" chips — with the stool-loosening olestra still in the ingredients.

Ortbiz Soft Drink
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Not to be confused with the online travel service, this Canadian soft drink was made with floating chunks of gelatin that, combined with the bottle's shape, invited comparisons to a lava lamp. Consumers didn't care for the artificial taste or understand the marketing campaign about the drink's sci-fi origins, and it was pulled from shelves within a year.

Nintendo Virtual Boy
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Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo's shortest-lived game system — lasting only six months — was marketed for its VR-like stereoscopic 3D graphics, but the garish headset made it impossible to see while playing the games, only 14 of which were ever produced.

Apple Newton MP100
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Apple Newton

Apple invented the phrase "personal digital assistant" to describe the handheld Newton, once poised to dominate a massive new mobile market. Instead, the device's most advertised feature — handwriting recognition — was lampooned for being ineffective. The software improved in later versions, but sales never recovered, and Steve Jobs canceled the platform.

McDonald's Arch Deluxe

McDonald's Arch Deluxe

McDonald's spent $150 million advertising this burger designed to capture a higher-end market of urban elites who wouldn't settle for the standard Big Mac. But the intended audience didn't buy that McDonald's could be truly high-end — and didn't buy the new burger.

Related: The Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Earring_Ken by d7ana (None)

Earring Magic Ken

Mattel's goal was to update Barbie's companion in line with current styles, but the resulting purple vest, blond highlights, and single earring resembled a gay caricature. The community embraced "Gay Ken" and bought him in huge numbers, but the doll was recalled by year's end due to the controversial public perception.

Zima Beverage


Aside from limited-time summer relaunches in 2017 and 2018, MillerCoors' alcoholic beverage Zima has been off shelves for more than a decade. The clear-colored beer alternative was once marketed toward young men but embraced more by women — and teenagers, who found the taste more palatable and the smell harder to detect than beer. Bad PR resulted in plummeting sales and repeated lampooning by David Letterman.

Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water
Molson Coors Brewing Company

Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water

Seeking to cash in on demand for bottled water, Coors introduced its own brand of flavored sparkling water in a sleek silver bottle. The design and prominent Coors logo understandably confused consumers. Had Coors distanced the water from its well-known brand, the product might have lasted more than two years.

Macintosh Portable
Macintosh Portable by Grant Hutchinson (CC BY-NC-ND)

Macintosh Portable

Apple's first mobile computer was highly anticipated, but the company neglected two crucial consumer considerations: price and weight. The Macintosh Portable cost $7,300 and required lead acid batteries, resulting in a 16-pound weight. It was replaced by the far more portable, and far more successful, Powerbook 100.

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Fresh off the success of its IBM PC business computer, IBM sought to enter the home computer market. The IBM PCjr drew criticism for its "chiclet" keyboard, $1,269 price tag, and software compatibility issues. An expensive keyboard replacement wasn't enough to save it.

Colgate Kitchen Entrees

Colgate Kitchen Entrees

Colgate found out the hard way that no one wants to associate dinner with the taste of toothpaste when it released its own line of frozen, ready-made meals to eat before brushing your teeth with the same brand. The frozen dinners were withdrawn within months.

Peach colored pump bottle

Touch of Yogurt Shampoo

Yogurt-based shampoo and other natural hair products have gained popularity in the past few decades, and this hair care product made good use of yogurt's cosmetic benefits. But Clairol confused consumers by making "yogurt" the largest word on the bottle. Touch of Yogurt disappeared from shelves after some buyers fell ill from trying to eat it.

Frost 8/80 Dry Whiskey

Frost 8/80

Brown-Forman, parent company of Jack Daniels, hoped to tap into increased demand for clear liquors with Frost 8/80, billed as the world's first dry, white whiskey and advertised as an all-purpose spirit for cocktails. Consumers just saw it as whiskey with no flavor. Slow sales led to discontinuation after less than two years.

Ford Edsel
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Ford Edsel

Ford promoted the release of the Edsel with vague but bold claims that it was the car of the future, but the hype couldn't overcome a widely criticized design, innovative but unexplained features, and shoddy workmanship, attributed to a decision not to create a manufacturing facility solely for the new division.

Related: 25 Cars No One Wanted to Buy