25 of the Biggest Product Launch Disasters Ever
This internet-connected device was designed to make healthy beverages from single-serving fruit and veggie packets and initially cost $700. Upon release, it was discovered that the packets could be squeezed by hand, without the bulky, costly Juicero.
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 percent of people with Google+ profiles had never posted on the platform.
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 percent of its sales target, then replaced Mobile ESPN in 2007 with ESPN MVP, which operated until 2013.
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.
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 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.
Instead of music, Febreze's CD-player-like device was designed to emit scents in half-hour cycles, but 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.
Coca-Cola first advertised Dasani water as bottled "spunk" in the U.K., 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.
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.
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.
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. The FDA slapped a warning label on the chips, but it was eventually removed and the brand name changed to "Light" chips — with the stool-loosening olestra still in the ingredients.
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's shortest-lived game system — lasting only six months — was marketed for its VR-esque stereoscopic 3D graphics, but the garish headset made it impossible to see while playing the games, only 14 of which were ever produced.
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 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.
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 record numbers, but the doll was recalled by year's end due to the controversial public perception.
MillerCoors is actually relaunching the alcoholic beverage Zima for a limited time this summer. 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.
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.
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.
In the late '80s, R.J. Reynolds sought to make a smokeless cigarette that would be more socially acceptable and appeal to health-conscious consumers. It spent more than $300 million developing Premier cigarettes, which were indeed smokeless but nearly impossible to light. Worse, smokers hated the taste. Premiers were discontinued less than a year after launch.
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 found out the hard way that no one wants to associate dinner with the taste of toothpaste, by releasing 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.
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.
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 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.
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